Displaying courage takes guts.
Bear with me. I know that sounds redundant but think about it. Displaying courage takes guts. Putting your courage on stage takes nerve. Talking courageously to your boss takes absolute fortitude.
In school they don’t teach “nerve”. There is no “Courage 101” class. Yet, in my opinion, it is one of three elements that makes for a successful Learning and Development professional. Oh sure, college teaches you about such things as; cognitive load, pedagogy/andragogy, neuropsychology, and adult learning principles and that’s all well and good. Although in my opinion, key to modern day Learning and Development, are three areas and two of which we have already discussed – curiosity and challenging. Now, let’s meet the Wizard and get ourselves some courage.
What is the difference between challenging and courage? You can challenge “under the radar”, those of you active on twitter or Facebook know this to be true. You can hide behind social media by signing in as anonymous and protest all day long. Challenging the universe in this way is not always bad thing, someone has to do it…but challenging face to face or putting your name behind your words? Now, that takes courage and most Learning and Development people don’t start out as courageous. When I talk with other L&D people there is a familiar trend they fall into the courageous role by “begging forgiveness”. More on this in a bit…
Admittedly, displaying courage is the toughest part. No one likes telling the Emperor he isn’t wearing any clothes. Educating leadership on learning is difficult, especially if there are preconceived notions out there. I worked with a person (who worked for a sister division) who was dead-set on learning styles being fact and a member of my senior leadership absolutely hard set on the “fact” that generational differences were at the core of cultural issues. There was no changing the minds of these intelligent people. This doesn’t change the need to speak up. I emailed research, displayed case studies, and pointed to blogs and other reference articles to support the case. Did learning styles stay in her Train the Trainer class? Yes. Did I end up having to create a plan for a learning initiative based on generational differences? Yes.
What does this mean? Acts of courage don’t always lead to the results we crave, but courageous acts are remembered.
Within my business, I was not known as the person who goes with the flow. I was the person who was known to ask tough questions regardless of my audience. Does that work against me? Certainly. Not everyone wants tough questions asked of them, they want people who will agree and move on. So it can become a difficult working relationship if you don’t handle the situation correctly. It takes courage to stand your ground but…and this is a very important but… it needs to be coupled with the wisdom to know when to step back and pick your battles. Courage sometimes means taking baby steps. Courage means adding a “twist” to commonly held beliefs. That generational learning initiative I mentioned earlier? I was sure to include widely held generational misconceptions as well as an understanding of generational values, a fair compromise.
Courage means extra work and it means going undercover. Sending out a covert survey about social media and technology could have gotten me into a bit of hot water, but the boss couldn’t argue with the results of data coming from his own people. You have to be prepared to accept the beating you may get if things go off-track but if you are well prepared and you have your supporting data, you are ahead of the game. That is unless you work for a tyrant, in that case you need the courage to start fresh somewhere else. Healthy companies encourage debate and accept differences of opinion. Understand, this is not to be confused with acceptance. You may lose, but at least have the courage to begin the debate.
She stands her ground with the wisdom to accept she may not win this time. She has the courage to ask the boss if he really thinks the corporate university he is so fond of, gives the results he is looking for – and if so, how? She has the courage to ask the boss why the learning strategy does not align with the business goals. Courage is accepting that it may be you who is wrong and then doing something about it. Courage is looking people in the eye and asking why (or why not).
I’ll leave you with this last thought. It’s okay to be scared, to have the – “Oh crap, I’m about to tell the boss I believe they are mistaken” pit in your stomach. Courage is the ability to face those fears and move forward anyway. You have to start somewhere and now is as good of time as any.