Courage: The 5th of seven ways to be more effective as a change manager

The brave fifth of the seven deadly virtues of a change manager is another one that may sit uneasily with the stereotypical view of the profession. We may think of change managers as focused on helping people to feel happy about the change at hand. It’s more likely that the virtuous change manager is exercising courage. Courage to have hard conversations - to positively challenge, rather than to placate.

Perception | Judgement | Honesty | Ambition | Courage | Resilience | Invisibility


Courage has a few facets to it. It starts with standing up for what is right. This can sometimes be difficult. Particularly if a good measurement regime isn’t in place and hard data doesn’t form a shield. Or if others involved in the change don’t understand how to help people deal with it. It can be hard yards to debate whether a project schedule is more or less important than people’s readiness for the implementation. It can be difficult to make the case for key resources to be released from their operational roles to devote time to being an effective change champion. And it can be particularly confronting for organisational leaders to hear that they aren’t being as effective as they could be in their change sponsor role. 

Facing into the emotion and very natural resistance of people - indeed whole organisations - requires courage and conviction. Putting time and effort into marshalling data, articulating risks, and outlining a plan all help turn courage into action. Nothing dispels the myth of the ‘warm and fuzzy’ change manager more than well prepared courageous arguments and plans. The myth is further dismissed by having courageous conversations. Talking about challenges, difficulties and loss. Recognising, openly acknowledging, and doing something about the pain that is often involved in changes big and seemingly small is also be courageous.

Too much courage and the change manager can become the sole warrior. Forgetting the essential lesson about who owns the change is a key error. There can be no doubt that organisational leaders must lead the change because they are the ones who will sustain it. Courage from the change manager alone is not enough. 

Too little courage and the change manager can become the martyr. Run over roughshod by the more historically understood disciplines of cost, schedule and scope. Unfortunately this can mean that the solution is created and installed, but not implemented or used as designed. With the change manager only comforted by their beliefs, and not their results.

The key question – what is standing in the way of the change and how do we overcome it?

I hope you have the Resilience, even before the next article, to keep focusing on your experience with the deadly virtue of Courage. Is it as effective without the other virtues discussed so far? What happens if a change manager is Courageous without Perception, Judgement, Honesty and Ambition? Your stories and comments are always welcome.

This blog was originally published by Camille on LinkedIn here.

Camille Clerc
About: Camille Clerc

An experienced and passionate change manager, Camille has led significant change projects to deliver cultural and organisational change through IT transformations, business process improvement and technology projects. Guiding and advising senior leadership teams including C-suite, Camille has delivered astute, commercial, pragmatic change management strategies that have steered organisations through significant IT and cultural transformations.