To look at something as though we had never seen it before requires great courage.
Why is it important to uncover the courage scripts you bring to work? This joke will flush out your initial receptivity: How do you know when you’re getting old? The answer: Whether you respond with “why not” or “why bother.” Mindsets about this virtue impede courage leadership.
The success meter of the chief learning officer hinges on education, good judgment, business and leadership skills along with technical proficiency. To stay focused and ahead of the learning curve, CLOs may also read the latest organizational development books and attend seminars or conferences offered by renowned leadership or learning gurus. That’s great, but in the continual learning process there’s a hidden element: your courage—the linchpin to advancing learning. The conundrum requires you to find your courage and live it. So, do you want to be a courageous CLO?
The first step requires that you uncover your scripts about learning, teaching and “being” courageous. Chief learning officers are given ample opportunities to test their courage. Take a moment to review the power of your scripts. They reveal a set of beliefs that you have about this virtue. Examples include:
- “No fear, no courage.”
- Who has courage, and how does one exhibit courage leadership?
- What is my worldview about how courage works?
Stress will reveal versions of these scripts. For example, your script may say, “I can’t offer this new training program, because I am only 40 percent knowledgeable,” or “I have a passion for the topic, and I can find the experts to help me disseminate this new program. It’s worth the growth risk—why not?” Scripts are “a part of normal living: the background static of perpetual discontent,” as Eckhart Tolle writes in “The Power of NOW.” Learning advances when there’s a shift in scripts.
Do you have courage? Do you want it? Courage is certainly recognized in “famous” leaders, such as Martin Luther King, Christopher Reeve or Veronica Guerin. Mind patterns about being a courageous chief learning officer are a backdrop that is felt subliminally by employees. Answer this: When was the last time you used the word “courage”?
People rarely seem to have the courage to use the word at work (or home)—much less claim it as a way they engage in their work. Like all virtues, courage is abstract. This makes it difficult to measure, and it’s ephemeral even for the few who equate their actions as courageous. When courageous learning happens, there’s an energy (virtue in Latin means “energy”) like no other.
Additionally, there’s no complex courage matrix and no convoluted case study to dissect. Integrating courage is deceptively simple. If Stephen Covey’s “8th-habit” leadership calls you to “help others find their own voice,” then making that a habit happen requires declaring your courage. (Speaking up is one of the 12 behaviors of courage.) Leadership qualities are defined by courage. So what can the CLO do?
To uncover the linchpin, chief learning officers must embrace the etymology of the word courage, meaning “heart and spirit.” Why? Courage means different things to people based on their scripts and their level of courage development. The best tool for increasing your courage learning viewpoints requires a mirror. Most people do not want to know what they know. It’s easier to sell your soul and live in complacency—one of the four opposites of courage. Gallup research shows that 74 percent of American workers are disengaged clock-watchers who cannot wait to go home. A survey from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 38 percent of workers are no longer motivated by their work. Work consumes the majority of our time, so why do employees feel so dis-couraged and dispirited? Their courage is caged—why bother?
The courage to confront those inner leadership beliefs sanctions a different thinking pattern. If the CLO is to link with and unite the staff to ensure training success, then exploring how to observe and change scripts calls for reserves of courage (and probably a dose of vulnerability). We become courageous by being courageous—it’s that simple. During your next learning session or staff meeting ask this question: “What courageous conversation are we not having?” This question will flush out the hidden scripts.
Sandra Ford Walston is a leadership and management consultant, speaker, corporate trainer and Courage Coach, specializing in organizational behavior to advance results. Her second book, “Courage Goes to Work,” is due out next year. Sandra can be reached at email@example.com.
4 Steps to Becoming a Courageous CLO
Decision points compose a person’s life. They expose how you shift your scripts and step up the next rung of the ladder. An Ancient Chinese Proverb says, “He who hesitates before each step spends his life on one leg.”
Try these exercises to flush out your scripts:
- Think of a situation where you were proud of yourself. (That was your courage at work!)
- Recall a situation that reveals lost courage. What script kept you from stepping up?
- What’s the one issue (script) you’re facing right now that keeps you from taking action?
- What script about the word hinders you from claiming your courage?