Change: Quiet acts of courage

Quick read summary:

  • Change involves acts of courage
  • Sometimes having courage is about persistence, our ability to keep going
  • If you reflect on your own moments of courage:
    • What allowed you to make a stand?
    • What made it difficult?
    • What would have made it easier?
  • If we take into account the acts of courage required of people during periods of change there may be things we could do differently in terms of how we make our plans, run our meetings, or listen to the views of others
  • Courage helps us move into action

Ask yourself – What are the courageous conversations I am not having with myself right now about my work [life, relationships etc..]?


 

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’

Mary Anne Radmacher

I subscribe to one of those quote apps. Every day a new one arrives, often they seem a bit corny and frankly irritate me but sometimes they serve as a useful prompt for my journaling. When the above quote appeared it really caught my attention. There is something very beautiful in being able to recognise that sometimes there is a smallness to courage – courage is not just about those big, singular acts that catch attention. Sometimes having courage is about persistence, our ability to keep going.

This need for courage may not always be recognised, but it is there –

  • The courage to give the clear briefing to your team members where their lives will be changed by what you have to say
  • The courage to give difficult feedback to someone who seems to be struggling to deliver what is expected of them
  • The courage to step into the new project or put your ideas forward
  • The courage to admit you are wrong sometimes
  • The courage to say ‘I don’t know but let’s find out’
  • The courage to say No

Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it by use.

Ruth Gordon

I am fortunate to work with lots of courageous people. A colleague on a nonprofit board who voiced a different opinion when the rest of the group all agreed. A friend who gave up an established career to move in a completely different direction and has now built a successful business. The trainee who felt able to say I don’t understand why I have to do it like this. The manager who told me he was going to turn his work mobile off at 6pm and not look at it again until the morning. Perhaps we sometimes underestimate these quiet moments of courage in others. Could we support each other better if we recognised the times that the actions we perhaps take for granted might take a great deal of courage for others? Maybe we could manage our meetings differently, improve the way we give feedback, ensure all perspectives have a voice.

Nancy Adler (2012) poses an interesting question of academic practice that I think might be useful for us all to consider:

What are the courageous conversations I am not having with myself right now about my own work [life, scholarship – replace as appropriate]?

If you reflect on your own moments of courage:
What allowed you to make a stand?
What made it difficult?
What would have made it easier?

It seems to me the importance of thinking about courage in relation to change is that it is directly related to action.

…the journey begins right here
in the middle of the road
right beneath your feet
this is the place
there is no other place
there is no other time

David Whyte (1994: 27)

References:

Adler, N. J., & Hansen, H. (2012). Daring to Care: Scholarship that Supports the Courage of Our Convictions. Journal of Management Inquiry, 21(2), 128-139.
Whyte, D. (1994). The Heart Aroused. New York: Currency Doubleday.