We constantly face situations where a tough but positive conversation can change the entire course of a relationship — both in our organisations and our personal lives.
Sometimes we need to hold crucial conversations with people we hope will be more respectful to us. Other times, we need to work through eroding personal relationships.
But, most people choose to do nothing.
Here’s the sad reality: a failure to take action makes us complicit in the outcomes.
The success of a crucial conversation depends on connecting awareness of the circumstances AND the decision to do something about it. We make our mistake when we observe what’s happening around us and think action is optional.
The Power of Taking Action
On April 15, 2013, the world watched the Boston Marathon bombings in horror. Immediately after the attack, the authorities assembled a joint task force with local law enforcement to find the culprits.
To identify the terrorists, agents watched film footage from every camera near ground zero they could find. They watched ATM cameras, people’s cell phone videos, building security cameras — anything that would give a clue to who set off the bombs. Eventually, the thousands of hours of footage led them to the men responsible.
In an interview with FBI Executive Assistant Director Stephanie Douglas about these 13,000 videos and 120,000 photos, the interviewer asked, “Of all the footage you watched, what stands out to you the most?”
Douglas recounted one video that impacted everyone who saw it:
As the bomb goes off, smoke fills the screen. But as the smoke begins to dissipate, you see a man on fire rolling on the ground. Without hesitation, a nearby police officer dives to the ground and begins patting out the fire with his bare hands with no regard for his own safety.
This is the power of moving to action.
With his actions, the officer says, “I will not be complicit. I’ll change the situation I see in front of me.”
As we begin to move to action, we need to take the same approach. We must decide to be an agent of change, even if it costs us — even if we have to sacrifice our own good to drive the change.
Margaret Heffernan, author and international business leader, says, “Openness is not the end; it’s the beginning.” I want to expand that quote a little. Openness is not the end; it’s the beginning of our responsibility to act.