"Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts". - Winston Churchill
Determination is absolutely necessary to help you to overcome obstacles in your change journey. No matter how focused and disciplined you are, you may get sick, have an unexpected work emergency or experience pushback from others that interferes with your progress. Knowing that your efforts may not be fully recognised or rewarded by those around you in the early stages helps you to manage your own expectations and stay on track. An essential ingredient of determination is resilience; the ability to recover quickly from change, or misfortune. It is about accepting the reality, learning from it and moving on from the setback while keeping the end goal in mind.
Steve Jenner is a Corporate Educator at QUT Graduate School of Business, Australia, a former senior civil servant in the British justice system, and a global expert and author on benefits management. His experience illustrates how determination sees people through the experience of making unpopular but necessary decisions in order to make needed change strategies work.
Jenner told us, “I worked on a major cross-government IT portfolio where difficult decisions needed to be made to address significant cost escalation and uncertain business benefit. The CEO came to my desk one day and said, ‘Steve, we’ve just had the Prime Minister’s advisors visit us. They told me, “People may not like what we’re doing, but they respect us.” I replied, “Respect us? They hate us.” And my CEO replied, “I’m quite relaxed about it, they don’t hate us, they hate you!”
But he was right; it wasn’t a popularity contest. We continued to receive funding at a time when most areas of government were facing severe cuts, and two years later, the most senior program directors who had opposed us at the time, publically gave their support to our approach.”
Steve said, “Determination, resilience, not giving up and staying the course is crucial in embedding change – whether organizational or personal. Some might call it bloody-mindedness, but I prefer to see it as the single-minded pursuit of a desired end state.”
Staying focused on your goals is crucial to your change success. Change takes determination. It requires that you live in the moment, being fully present and committed to whatever you are doing. And, based on all the actions you are taking, it is about having the belief that things will work out for you in the future. We recommend this mantra for individual and organizational change, “Pride in the Past, Passion for the Present, Focus on the Future.”
People are wired to become defensive when faced with failure as it is viewed as a threat, and any threat can be perceived, at a base level, as a challenge to our survival. When we get defensive, we can revert to denial and blame, be it on ourselves, others, the situation or even life itself.
Catching yourself consciously in the moment, allows you to refocus and reframe the situation. When setbacks occur, ask yourself two questions: How can I get back on track and what can I learn about the conditions or situations that led to the setback?
Determination is less about the one grand gesture and more about the small, daily, quiet steps of courage over time that lead to a larger, more visible result.
About the Authors
Walter McFarland is the founder of Windmill Human Performance and the 2013 Board Chair of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD). He was previously a Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton leading the global business in HR, Learning, and Change.
Walter’s clients include Global Fortune 500 companies, not-for-profit organizations and government agencies. His work in organizational change has earned: the Hammer Award, the IRS Commissioner’s Award, the Smithsonian Institution’s Innovation Award, and Booz Allen’s Professional Excellence Award.
Walter has taught in the Summer Leadership Institute of Columbia University, is a Senior Lecturer at HEC Paris, and Chairs an Academic Advisory Board at Georgetown University. He served on President Obama’s 2012 and 2013 Rank Award Council.
Walter is co-author (with Susan Goldsworthy) of Choosing Change. He also co-wrote “The Neuroscience of Motivation” in the Handbook of Neuroleadership and “The Neuroscience of Learning” in the ASTD Handbook.
Susan Goldsworthy is founder & CEO of Goldswolf & Associates, a company specialising in leadership development, change communications and executive coaching. She is an associate with Genesis Advisers, known for their transition work on The First 90 Days, and has been a faculty member on OD & Change at Webster University. A former Olympic finalist, Susan combines experience from the fields of sports, business and neuroscience. She is passionate about helping people and organizations in turning knowledge into behaviour & creating the conditions for healthy high performance.
A curious learner, Susan holds a Masters degree (MSc) in Consulting and Coaching for Change with HEC and Oxford University, an Executive Masters in the Neuroscience of Leadership, and certification in Coaching for Leadership & Professional Development with The Tavistock Institute. Susan also has a BA (distinction) in Journalism (with double major in Public Relations/Industrial Psychology), and post-graduate Diplomas in Marketing, Direct Marketing (distinction), and Change Management (distinction). Memberships include Fellow of The Institute of Direct Marketing, and member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the Change Leaders and the NeuroLeadership