The title of a recent article in HBR, “How One Person Can Change the Conscience of an Organization” captured my attention as I often work with leaders who feel they can’t bring meaningful change to their organizations as they aren’t the CEO or they have a “difficult” board,

Here’s a quote from the article:

“The lesson is not to underestimate any chance you have, even if small, to hone your skills of challenging the status quo for the greater good. Train your ‘courage for challenging convention’ muscle consistently, so that it’s ready when needed.”

Challenging the status quo can range from tactical (i.e. working from home, flexible schedules) to strategic and global (i.e. what organizations does your company pension fund invest in – how does your organization dispose of its waste – reduce its carbon footprint).

The article refers to the “courage for challenging convention” as a muscle that must be exercised. In my leadership programs and private coaching, we practice having courageous conversations a lot. And while the words we use are important, having the correct mindset is more important. I advise my clients to hold the following thought when they’re deciding how, when and where to challenge the status quo: “What outcome am I trying to create?” That keeps the focus off of ourselves and onto the greater good. The interaction may still be uncomfortable but by focusing on the greater good, we’re more likely to garner the courage to act.