Just a Little More Courage
As I prepared to enter a new year, I began a journey of inquiry with this question, “What am I committed to?”
One word … COURAGE, demonstrated through courage in work, courage in choices and courage in relationships.
Courage at work. I went to an international conference to deliver a paper and to speak on a panel. While at the conference, I sat in on a talk by a Harvard professor. He suggested that people who manage change in organizations should align more closely with the needs of senior leaders and deliver skinnied-down versions of the change process.
My body had an immediate response to his suggestion. I felt a twist in my stomach and my hand shot up in the air. “Are you suggesting we collude with these folks (participate in their illusion), knowing full well that what we deliver won’t get them the results they want?”
Just after that session at the conference, I had lunch next to the VP HR for a global Fortune 50 company. He was in the same session with the Harvard professor. I asked him what he thought, and his reply was, “Wendy, I have a family to support.”
My interpretation, “Wendy, if I tell the truth and do the right thing, I will lose my job.” Certainly, many external consultants believe we won’t get the work if we don’t dance to the beat of the client drummer. I wonder? Is this fear based in reality or a belief we hold based on … experience?
When my clients hire me, I believe they choose me and pay me to give them my best advice, do great work and deliver exceptional results. If I tell them what I think they want to hear instead, I’m not doing my job and I am doing a disservice to my client and client system. I have to have the courage to tell the truth, give them my best advice and risk that they won’t like what I propose and therefore won’t hire me.
Courage in Choices. A colleague relayed an illustrative story to point to the kind of things she regularly faces in her work with clients. Candice is a very effective and successful executive coach. Currently, she is coaching one of her clients, Alexa —director level — to negotiate with her boss to be able turn off her mobile phone between 6:30-8:00 pm, so Alexa can spend time with her three young children. Alexa is struggling to make this request of her boss.
Candice continued , “while the economy has picked up, during the crisis people were asked to do more with less and it’s become the new normal.” I’ve checked this out with other colleagues to see if it matches their experience. I heard a resounding, “Yes.”
Does this sound familiar to you? Do you find this at all disturbing? I do.
Has anyone seen the research that shows more hours worked, less private / family time, being “on call” at home, yields better results, increases productivity, innovation … ? I haven’t.
But I have seen research that points to the opposite.
… neuroscience is now showing us that the cumulative consequences of stress can be a dire thorn in the side of business innovation,” Rick Hanson PhD, a California based neuropsychologist. (quote from Forbes article: Employee Brain on Stress Can Quash Creativity and Competitive Edge. 9/05/2012)
What is the cost to society when parents are distracted while working while at home, less time is spent with their children and no boundaries exist between work and home? What is the cost to the individual, to the organization as stress becomes the norm? The science tells us it’s not good.
Courage in Relationships. When we embark on love relationships, we set the tone and patterns of interaction right at the beginning–and these patterns are hard to change once established.
The longer we are in relationship, we let things slide, we are often less willing to have the difficult conversations and speak the truth. It feels riskier, yet it is another paradox. Playing it safe, rather than playing to win, is what dulls, wounds, or kills relationships–at work and in our private sphere.
We begin to collude (co-illusion) because we fear the risk of what might happen if we say or do something the other person doesn’t like or doesn’t want to hear. Will we be rejected, abandoned, fired … ?
Rather than say and do what needs to be said and done. We stop telling the truth about “what’s so.” We do a disservice to ourselves, our clients, colleagues, friends and family.
Looking to 2013
What are you committed to as you look forward to 2013 and beyond? What do you want to create in your organization, in your community and society?
Can each of us muster the commitment and courage to examine our guiding beliefs and see if they are really true? Can we practice telling the truth without blame or judgment; give voice to what we see and know in our hearts? (Angeles Arrien, The Four-Fold Way)
“Real courage is risking something that might force you to rethink your thoughts and suffer change and stretch consciousness. Real courage is risking one’s clichés.” ― Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction
The world needs each of our voices… and I think you’ll like the results.
Make it a wonderful new year!