November 2012

courageSeveral years ago organizational effectiveness consultant Bernie Saunders presented his change model at a class I was attending. What I remember all these years later (at least 15) is that structure, support and creativity were the three key elements of Bernie’s optimal problem solving model. I have thought often about this model and have shared it with many clients and audiences over the years. It works well as is, but I have come to realize that one more element is needed to make it an even more complete formula for change: courage.

Faced with the necessity and/or opportunity for change, we each need to start with a structure, a process that makes sense to us and will work over time to move us ahead. We also benefit from the support of others to help us move forward and not get too discouraged or lost along the way. Structure and support by themselves are not necessarily enough to get us past all the challenges, however, and we often need to be creative as well. A less obvious, more clever solution is often what we need. The ability to color outside the lines and creatively reset the strategy can pay big dividends when our path is blocked.

Now add to all this one more catalytic ingredient: courage. All the structure, support and creativity will not get us where we want to go if we don’t have the courage to act. We need to take that step, that leap of faith, to get to the other side. Can you picture the trapeze artist getting so close to letting go of the bar, but she just can’t do it? How close that other bar comes, but it is too difficult to let go of the secure, familiar bar even when she knows she needs to do so to succeed, to get to the other side. Courage is the critical element that enables us to let go of the familiar and safe, and reach out for the other side. To hold on only gets us to the edge of change, not to the other side of change. Back we slide if we don’t let go.

I recently reconnected with Bernie Saunders. In his latest broadcast message, Bernie offered the following observations and suggestions about transition:

“During the past few months I’ve had more then the usual number of conversations with friends, colleagues, and clients about transitions they are going through. What has surfaced is the desire to know what could be, if they would dare to let themselves find out.

A flower blooms by letting go of holding itself tightly in a bud. The transition times of our lives are an adventure of crossing into the unknown. It’s the unexpected calling on our pioneer spirit to shine. An invitation to trust, and believe in ourselves”

I want to thank Bernie Saunders for his change model and for offering his thoughts on courage in this November entry.

Happy trails to you all.