ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - June 2002


Issue Highlight — When the Business of Business is School
In April 2002, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Commission on Education decided to privatize a group of public schools in the city of Philadelphia. This is simply a recent example of the movement to transfer the work of the public sector into the world of profit. This memo from a 12-year-old student might be a sign of things to come.

The Courage to Face Your Fears
Applying The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to The Seven Acts of Courage

The lion from the Wizard of Oz isn’t the only one who struggles to be courageous in life. After the September 11 tragedy many of us were faced with reaching deep down and finding the courage to confront our fears.

Dusty Staub, author of
The Heart of Leadership: 12 Practices of Courageous Leaders and The Seven Acts of Courage: Bold Leadership for a Wholehearted Life, addresses issues like these in the following interview to help us grasp these fears while putting our hearts into all that we do.

NFC: Are there any changes or additional material in the paperback version [of The Seven Acts of Courage] that is coming out?

Staub: There is one major change, which is some commentary and thoughts in a preference that I’ve added based on the events of September 11 and tying in or reflecting on this. I’ve always thought courage was so critical and unfortunately in all too short supply. After September 11, I think that more and more people are beginning to understand and resonate with that message.

NFC: One of my major questions is that there still seems to be a tremendous lack of courage in the way that you write about it in the book. The courage to... let me put it this way. There’s a minister here in Cincinnati who I’m working with. He’s been in the center of a maelstrom for the last year or so. You may recall there was a riot in Cincinnati on April 7, 2001. He was thrust into leadership whether he wanted to be or not in our “Ground Zero,” a community called Over the Rhine. I wanted to work with someone who had the courage to step forward and help in any way he could. I asked him if he was willing to die for his beliefs. And like a good Baptist minister he said “Of course.” Then I asked him, are you willing to live for them? And he got it. He said, “Yes I am willing to live for my beliefs.” More people are willing to die for their beliefs, and quite easily it seems. But ask them to live for their beliefs and risk ridicule or failure, not too many step up.

Staub: In fact, I think there’s a truism there. My experience has been that more people are afraid of being embarrassed or humiliated or ashamed than they are of dying.

NFC: Would you agree that it’s like a psychic death?

Staub: Yes. And it is fear of that psychic death that drives us. Remember what Shakespeare said in Julius Caesar, “The coward dies many deaths, the valiant dies but once.” The fact is that we can die to our possibility, we can die to our creativity, we can die to our potential, we can die to what’s most vital and important.

NFC: It appears that a lot of people seem to be satisfied with a virtual, or more second- or third-hand version of courage than as you write about it. Let’s say someone wants to do good works. And they almost feel as though they have when they read your book or watched the Patch Adams movie, or something like that rather than actually doing something. Does that fit in with your experience?

Staub: I would agree. I think it’s very hard. That’s where the fact is that fear is not in short supply. There’s no danger of running out of fear. The issue is how you then respond to that fear. I think if people [ignore] issues of eating themselves to death, or working themselves to death, or not checking up and getting the proper medical coverage, or ruining their marriages or alienating their kids, or even just not doing anything, [then] there is something running them. And usually if you scratch deep enough, my experience would say that there is a fear that has not been dealt with or faced. And that fear is running them.

NFC: In all your different roles do you think a lot of people are perhaps not even aware of what the fear is?

Staub: Yes, I don’t think they’re aware of it. It takes courage to do the examination. To say, “What are the shaping forces in my life? What am I living out that maybe isn’t even part of who I am?” There are people who live out... there was a guy named Claude Steiner who wrote a little book called Scripts People Live. In it he says, “There are scripts that we learn from our parents, there are scripts that are handed down by great-great-grandparents, there are social scripts, there are organizational scripts, and if we aren’t conscious and aware of who we are and what we are about, then we are very likely to be running and living our life as if it were a scripted play, written and developed by somebody else. To stop and look and say, which life am I living—my father’s life or my life, my grandfather’s life or my life—takes courage.”

NFC: The Seven Acts of Courage was well received I presume—the hardback? It has to be if the softback is coming out. Do you get much feedback from folks who have just read the book?

Staub: Yeah, to get promoted in the Illinois State Police it is now required that you read The Seven Acts of Courage and actually take a little test on it. That was kind of neat.

NFC: That’s a big change for a police department.

Staub: I’ve gotten four different e-mails from officers who said, “I had to read this book and thought it was just another thing, but when I read it I liked it. In fact I took it home to my wife. And I wanted to tell you how much it meant to me.” Which is really neat. I’ve gotten e-mails from all over the country from different people, and phone calls from CEOs all the way to householders telling me what it has meant to them and their families.

The Seven Acts of Courage
(now available in paperback):

To Dream and Put Forth That Dream

To See Current Reality

To Confront

To Be Confronted

To Learn and Grow

To Be Vulnerable/to Love

To Take Action

NFC: You are doing a workshop today, right? Let’s say you have 20 people in that session—be generous and say three-quarters of them will act on it in some way in their work life. But there must be some portion who come back from the workshop for their business life and say, “Gee I figured out I am using this in all different parts of my life.”

Staub: We’ve probably received, over the past 12 years, several hundred letters, e-mails, or phone calls from people telling us how much it meant for their family or how much it had improved their family life as much as it did their business.

NFC: It appears that many people live divided lives. They are one way at work and another way at home. Sometimes it’s just absolutely amazing to me when I get into volunteer or activist kinds of things that people who are very successful or organized at work or maybe at home are all of a sudden disorganized when they’re in a new situation. Or they just can’t apply what they know in another area.

Staub: Yes, we do. In fact what I believe is that life is too short to not be your authentic self everywhere you go. I think that’s been one of the myths—that you have to be one way at work and one way at home. It creates a lot of problems.

NFC: What you were saying about the whole person reminds me of what Steven Covey teaches. What you’re doing is not unique, it’s another doorway and it takes many different approaches. Would you agree?

Staub: What I think Steven Covey did for the nation in a very big way was to bring the issue of character back into discussion. And he kind of did away with the faddishness around leadership style and really started focusing on substantive issues and principles. I think what I’m doing is giving people even more practical skills on focusing on personal mastery. He does an amazing job, but he doesn’t really address the issue of courage and how to cultivate it and how to identify it and how to develop it on a day-to-day basis. And I think that’s what my book does. So it complements and adds to what he does. What he does complements and adds to what I do.

NFC: You use the Native American Seven Directions in the book. How did you happen upon that?

Staub: My great-grandfather was Cherokee. My grandfather was half Cherokee. My mother is a quarter Cherokee. So, some of the principles and spiritual awareness and culture of the Cherokee was something I grew up with.

NFC: Was that in Tennessee or Oklahoma?

Staub: This was Arkansas.

NFC: I was wondering if you’re familiar with the Seven Teachings of the Ojibwa?

Staub: No, I’m not.

NFC: It’s interesting because the way they talk about it, the seven directions are just seven ways of understanding something... mystical about north, southeast, or west. It’s just a vehicle. I interviewed a gentlemen known as the keeper of the sacred fire. He referred first to the seven teachings, then the seven grandfathers, then to seven fires. They use three different ways to talk about the same thing. Courage is just one of the significant ones of the seven teachings. It could be a brand new book.

Staub: I would love to see it. Thank you.

NFC: I’ll send that along. He’s playing this game or test with a lot of people. Bruce says that he knows there is an eighth fire, an eighth grandfather, an eighth teaching. I thought about that and thought about that and it finally came to me. I called him up at midnight and said, “Bruce, I got it!” He says, “You got what?” I said, “The eighth fire, it’s already taken place.” He says, “Where is it?” I said, “It’s inside. It’s when you incorporate the seven teachings and return to your natural self.”

I’ll send those to you. Has the [Seven Acts] paperback hit yet?

Staub: It’s about to hit. It will be out in the bookstores in April. We have books available. People can get them from us.

NFC: I’m just curious as to the timing of the book and September 11. The impact has been much greater than any of us expected. And it’s not just here in the United States.

Staub: For a long time the call has been going out for more courageous leadership and to live more courageously and wholeheartedly. I think September 11 upped the ante in a very, very big way.

NFC: In talking with people around the world there’s just a huge impact. I have a close friend in Ireland and he reports they’ve been sort of shocked and dismayed over what the last 15 years has done for Ireland. People have more money than they ever have. The younger generation just sort of walked into it and in maybe five short years is starting to resemble the crowd that we would associate with Wall Street—me, me, me, money, money, money. And within just a few short weeks, a month or so after September 11, he says a lot of people in their 20s and 30s are taking stock and saying maybe I have made some wrong choices. Maybe some things are more important than the shiniest newest car, or whatever. So in a year or two from now you might write a brand new preface.

Staub: I’m very passionate about the idea of wholehearted leading and the fact that where your courage fails is where your leadership fails. Where your courage fails is where your life falters.

NFC: I think a whole generation of corporate and political leadership is very, very short of the mark.

Staub: I agree. I said that in my very first book.

NFC: The Enron case is sort of a capstone. I guess it’s not unusual that it happened within a year of September 11, it’s like a last little flash. If people haven’t got it by then, they’re going to get caught up short I suppose.

Staub: There’s that Ojibwa saying that I love: “I go around complaining about my long life while all day long my soul is being blown across the sky by great winds.” The sixth act of courage I talk about is the courage to be vulnerable. And my prayer is that one of the things we’ve learned from September 11 that we’ll take to heart is that we open ourselves to the vulnerability and the humility of learning from other cultures and the vulnerability of looking at the world and saying, yes, we are mutually responsible for each other and if we ignore one pocket or if we abuse one pocket of the world it comes back.

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June 2002 News for a Change Homepage

 In This Issue...
High Impact Consulting— Getting Real Results

The Courage to Face Your Fears

The Secret to Profitable Customer Relations

The Art of Communication

Got an Attitude?

Peter Block Column


What’s Up?


  Return to NFC Index

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