We seem to want change. We say we do, but it is obvious that many of us, fear DOING IT. So we talk. We complain. We give excuses. We want all risks to be removed. We want no sacrifices. We want guarantees. I learned in an early leadership class, "UNLESS THINGS CHANGE, they stay the same...or get worse."
What can we learn from others who have CHANGED against all odds?
In my book, Putting Our Differences to Work, there are many stories demonstrate this idea in action. However, in recent days, there is one story of a leader that touched my life that keeps coming into my mind. I don’t know where he is now or even recall his last name, but he has had profound influence on many over the years, when I’ve shared his discovery of his personal GREATNESS. It serves as a compelling invitation to all of us at this time in history.
He was twenty-four years old with a promising future. Then, unexpectedly, life changed. Bob was in a motorcycle accident that left him a paraplegic. We met when he had been in his wheelchair only about eighteen months. He was nominated for a computer programming training program at the Resource Center for the Handicapped (RCH) in Seattle. At the time, I worked for IBM, one of the sponsoring companies, and I was actively involved in this program. Bob was one of our brightest students, but his growing anguish over his new reality was turning him into an embittered, belligerent, disrespectful non-contributor in the program. The whole class was impacted by his acting out. After exhaustive counseling and coaching efforts, I was given the duty to inform him of his impending expulsion from the program. The moment—and his face—remain vivid in my memory. “You have until Monday, Bob,” I told him. “You have until Monday to decide if changing and staying here is worth it to you.” He left in a screaming fury.
None of us knew what Monday would bring. I hoped. About five minutes before class started, I looked up and there he was. No words were spoken. We just looked at each other. We both heard in the silence, “Please give me a chance.”
Bob went on to graduate number two in his class. He went to work for a major company as a programmer. He was promoted several times the first two years. More importantly, he volunteered his time, going back into the hospitals to become a role model for others. He brought hope to those searching to make sense of the new rules brought about with one of life’s paradigm shifts. Soon he was named Washington State Volunteer of the Year.
That year, there was a picture of Bob on the back of the RCH Annual Report. It remains imprinted on my mind. He was climbing the University of Washington Climbing Rock (I understand he was the first paraplegic to have this achievement). The sweat was pouring down his face, showing the might, passion, and grit that had taken over, reflecting the strength of all he had become. His hands clutched around the rope, pulling energy from within. The caption read...
“The biggest engineering feat is that of human will.”
This is the challenge we all have as leaders—to harness our own human will to change ourselves, so we can lead the way for others, so we can put our differences to work to really get things done.
How would you rate HUMAN WILL?
Does it need re-engineering?
I leave you self-assessing my own.
founder, Global Dialogue Center
and Leadership Solutions Companies
author, Putting Our Differences to Work
The Fastest Way to Innovation, Leadership,
and High Performance
** 2010 Axiom Business Book Award Winnter **
Bronze for HR/Employee Training | Berrett-Koehler
YouTube Book Overview by futurist Joel A. Barker
Twitter @onlinedialogues and @debbekennedy