Courage is the last step in a change process not the first.
My college fraternity president and I were reviewing the activities of our national convention and in particular the slogan, “The Courage to Lead.” He related to me how the General Fraternity had passed a very restrictive policy on the chapters. The leaders of the General fraternity expected him to come back to the chapter, take charge and put the policy into effect. The slogan was to encourage this effort. All of chapter presidents were charged to do the same.
I said, “Alex, courage is the last step in the change process. I related how courage works.
During the First World War the soldiers were very courageous. They charged the machine guns and were mowed down. In 1916, Major Walter Wilson and Sir William Tritton developed the tank. The men followed the tanks. Then, the men had a chance of survival.
Courage is the last step in a change process not the first. The general fraternity has it backwards. If they don’t want their presidents to get mowed down by the members there are steps they should have taken. When almost half of the chapters voted against the proposal, I doubt they considered these steps. Instead they transferred the cultural change to you; it is your problem. So what could they have done to make the change more effective?
The first concept is caring. I bet most of you did not want or care to lead this change. But caring alone will not get you to act. Millions of people care about issues and never get out of their recliner. The commanders cared that their soldiers were being killed; but, that is how they have always fought wars, charge with fixed bayonets. You must care to proceed with the change process.
The second concept is Commitment. This is the first action step in the change process. It proceeds out of caring. Commitment starts a process of discovery without which all change is headed to failure. It sounds like this, “Damn it, I am going to do something about this!” This was the start of the tank development, the slaughter had to stop. Just because someone gives you a change plan, it does not mean that change will happen. You have to care and be committed to the plan.
The third concept is capacity. It is so important. You have to begin an in depth study of how to implement the change plan. This change plan involves many people. It requires much thinking and study. The change has to be doable; humans have to be able to do it. Seeable, you have to sustain the change long enough for people to see that it works. Feelable, only if the change becomes feelable and people like the results is the change sustainable. Sustainability, means you are out of the change process and the change lives in the changed people.
In his book, “Public Relations”, Edward Bernays made this comment about public relations. It deals with change.
“A good public relations man should have a knowledge of the art of persuasion. In persuading the public, he must know how to use facts, his own reason, his persuasive powers, and appeals to tradition and emotion…. A man who can think creatively and imaginatively, who knows what is going on in the world and in the profession, who has character and integrity and an active desire to help people.”
To implement fundamental change you must use the tools of your profession. Bernays stated that you must be a thinker that can communicate your thoughts to others. So, you must development that capacity through research and study. Then, and only then, do you have a chance for successful change.
The least effective change is change that is demanded. Change without the why explained and the need expressed leads to failure. Because most times this demand for change does not take individuals motivations in to account. At the heart of effective change is the art of persuasion.
Capacity gathering is where courage is formed. When, you have convinced yourself that the change is necessary, that you have the knowledge it will work, and you are willing to challenge tradition and the status quo; then, courage becomes innate. You will have the courage to make change happen.
So, courage is not actually a concept to itself, it is the result of your creating the capacity for change.
The soldiers in the trenches were trained to follow their leaders and when the leader said charge, they moved forward. As for leaders in another field, the troops are not trained to blindly follow their commands. The leader must have the capacity to lead them. Capacity creates a leader’s courage and the followers trust in the leader.
I like this definition of courage, “Courage comes from a strong heart.” This innate courage creates trust in your followers. You become their leader.
I discussed a tenant of change management with my employees. The tenant was “change is not an option; it is mandatory.” Was it? Was it necessary? Since we worked inside a very bureaucratic organization; change came to us, it was our quest to handle it. I, from time to time, challenged change that did not fit the criteria for effective change. I challenged change with a questioning attitude. It was my duty to explain and determine how we could best accomplish change. It required my use of caring, commitment, capacity and courage to make the change work for my department. I needed these questions answered to increase my capacity for the change.
One attitude that is absolutely necessary for effective change is a leader’s attitude toward the traditional way of doing things and the status quo. The mantra must be, “Just because we have done it that way does not mean it cannot be changed.” If a leader instills this in his followers changed is encouraged.
I believe the saying, “A person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.” This is why the change mission hung around the chapter presidents is destined to fail. The general fraternity is forcing change against their members will. Did the leaders of our fraternity go through the change process? Did they lead their members or subject them? Did they set up our fraternity for successful change or failure?
This is no different than what happens in other organizations that fail to follow the change process. The change is not sustainable because people will not adhere to it or follow their leaders.
One more thought, “Individuals do things for their reasons not yours.” Leaders transform that reason.