Courageous conversations: Wherever you find yourself

By Tim LeBouthillier

Courage. Ernest Hemingway called it grace under pressure. John Wayne remarked it’s being scared to death, but saddling up anyway. And, according to one Cowardly Lion from Oz, it makes the dawn come up like thunder.

He had it all along…

Courage is a concept people define very differently, and it comes in many forms and degrees. We all have it. Just reading this issue about the amazing hobbies and pastimes of Hartford HealthCare employees — like skydiving! — it’s easy to see there is a lot of collective courage among us.

Courage is also helpful when it comes to conversations.

As one of Hartford HealthCare’s 10 leadership behaviors, having courageous conversations to give and receive honest feedback helps create a culture that encourages and values dissenting points of view. This applies beyond our workplace relationships to all aspects of our lives — even our hobbies. When we are truly open and honest with ourselves and one another, all things are possible.

Climb every mountain…Or at least try!

I have tested the limits of my comfort zone and learned a lot about the value of courage and courageous conversations through my favorite pastime, hiking and mountaineering with my friends from college. Years ago, after a fun but grueling hike up New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, we decided to attempt to climb the highest peaks of all 50 states. Over the past 25 years, we have summited 47 peaks and our adventures have taken us to many amazing places and heights, inspired us to travel the world, and, most of all, keep in touch. To be clear, we are not expert mountain climbers, breaking records or attempting to summit Mount Everest anytime soon. We just love the outdoors, challenging ourselves and experiencing the thrill of adventure.

For me, climbing more challenging peaks over the years has required courageous conversations with my friends, guides and, most importantly, myself. They are needed when you feel you may have reached the limit of your own strength or fears. Will this mind-blowing high-altitude headache ever go away or should I descend now? I can’t feel my feet anymore, is that frostbite? Will I be able to cross the ladder over that crevasse in the dark? How will the decisions I make affect the success of the other climbers in my party?

Despite the occasional fear of falling (I actually have a fear of heights!), it’s really a great privilege and blessing to experience the world in this way. I’ve had successes reaching the top of what I thought were insurmountable peaks for my physical and mental ability. I’ve also had tough setbacks and, yes, failures along the way where I overestimated my skills and capabilities no matter how excited or determined I was to succeed. But, I firmly believe that having to face uncomfortable and sometimes frightening situations has given me a stronger overall confidence in my own abilities and limitations. Even if you fail, the simple act of trying is a great way to know if you’ve got what it takes. And, it’s OK if you don’t make it to the top. It’s worth trying because, in the end, it’s not just reaching the summit. It’s the journey.

Tim LeBouthillier is the manager of marketing at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital.

Many of you have probably taken a chance or a risk on something that had a wonderful reward or unexpected payoff. We would love to hear your story.

Email Susan McDonald