Management Courage

An effective manager acts courageously. This activity explore management courage by brainstorming guidelines for brave behaviors on the part of the manager. Teams of participants follow a structured procedure to filter the list of behaviors and to arrange them in order of their usefulness.


To generate and prioritize guidelines for courageous management behavior.


Minimum: 2

Maximum: Any number

Best: 15 to 30


30 minutes to an hour


  • Flip chart

  • Stopwatch

  • Whistle


Brief the players. Announce that you will be brainstorming on the topic of management courage. Specifically, you will brainstorm practical guidelines for how to demonstrate courage in the behavior of a manager. Invite for a sample brainstormed guideline from the participants.


Here is a guideline offered by Mary, one of the participants: Apologize immediately whenever you make a mistake.

Begin with individual brainstorming. Ask the participants to spend a couple of minutes reflecting on the topic and composing individual lists of guidelines. Pause for an appropriate period of time.


Here are five guidelines in Mary’s list:

  1. Work on the most unpleasant task on your to-do list.

  2. Volunteer to take a pay cut.

  3. If an employee asks for advice, say, “I don’t know”.

  4. Give appropriate negative feedback to achieve positive employee growth.

  5. Share everything. Don’t withhold any information.

Form teams. Ask the players to organize themselves into three or more teams, each with three to seven members.

Specify teamwork. Ask the teams to spend the next 5 minutes brainstorming and recording a list of ideas related to the same topic. Encourage the team members to use ideas from their earlier individual lists. Pause for 5 minutes.

Ask the teams to narrow down their lists. Ask each team to examine their list and to select the five guidelines that they believe will appeal to most participants in the room.

Prepare a common list. Ask the teams to take turns calling out one of their best guidelines. Paraphrase these guidelines on a flip chart. Ask the teams to avoid calling out duplicate or similar ideas. Continue this process until the common list on the flip chart has 10 to 12 guidelines.


Here are the guidelines from the common list:

  1. Confront conflicts directly.

  2. Ask for help from your colleagues and subordinates.

  3. Abort questionable projects as soon as possible. Don’t throw good money after bad.

  4. You are not participating in a popularity contest. Don’t give too much positive feedback.

  5. Don’t be aggressive with your employees. Be appropriately assertive.

  6. Explain tough situations without softening up the reality.

  7. Talk back to your bosses when appropriate.

  8. Give appropriate negative feedback to achieve positive employee growth.

  9. Apologize immediately whenever you make a mistake.

  10. Say “No” to unreasonable requests even if they come from people above you.

  11. Ignore unnecessary rules and regulations.

  12. Challenge popular but invalid assumptions.

Ask the teams to select the best guideline. Ask the players to review the common list of guidelines on the flip chart and to select, with the other members of their team, the most useful guideline.

Explain the scoring system. The teams will receive a score equal to the total number of teams that selected the same guideline. For example, if there are five teams and all of them select the same guideline, then each team will receive 5 points. On the other hand, if four of the teams select guidelines 3 and one team selects idea 9, then the four teams will receive 4 points each and the team that selected guideline 9 will receive 1 point.

Conduct the first round. Ask the teams to select the most useful guideline from the common. Ask them to remember the scoring system when making this choice. Circulate among the teams, and gently speed up the slower ones. Note each team’s choice on another sheet of flip chart paper..

Award points. Announce each team’s selection. Help the teams compute their scores for the first round. Ask the teams to record their scores on a piece of paper.

Rank the top guideline. Draw a line through the guideline that was selected by most teams during this round. Place the Roman numeral “I” in front of it to identify it as the top-ranked guideline.


This guideline was ranked first in the common list:

Give appropriate negative feedback to achieve positive employee growth.

Continue the game. Now ask the teams to review the list and to identify the next-best useful guideline. Teams may select any guideline, including a guideline they selected before, as long as it does not have a line through it. After collecting the choices from each team, repeat the scoring and ranking procedure. Continuethe same procedure  until the teams have identified the five most useful guidelies.

Break ties. If there is a tie for the guideline receiving the most choices during a round, award scores as before, but do not draw a line through any of the guidelines in the common list. Give the teams 1 minute to prepare a presentation designed to persuade the other teams to select their guideline. Then give each team 30 seconds to make its presentation. After the presentations, ask the teams to select a guideline. They may stay with the guideline they previously selected, shift to another team’s selection, or select any other available guideline from the list. Award scores and rank the guideline receiving the most choices. If there is a tie again, draw lines through all guidelines in the tie and give them the same rank.

Conclude the game. Continue with the game until the top five guidelines are identified. Then announce the conclusion of the game and ask the teams to add up their scores. Identify and congratulate the winning team.