Articles written about Sandra
The theme of CHAHRM’s Annual Conference held in Breckenridge, Colorado on June 6-8, 2012 was “Being Courageous in HR”. The keynote speaker for the Conference, Sandra Ford Walston, The Courage Expert, is an internationally recognized speaker on courageous leadership. Sandra opened the conference with an engaging presentation entitled, “Courageous Leadership—the Ethical Behaviors”. In her presentation Ms. Walston addressed the following:
What is Courageous Leadership?
• Courageous leadership is confronting an uncomfortable truth/issue such as admitting you made a bad hire.
• Courageous leadership is not being afraid to take negative action when necessary.
• Courageous leadership is seeing you as a leader, no matter what your role or position.
• Courageous leadership is releasing the attachment to an outcome, knowing you can handle whatever comes next.
Recognize When You Have Lost Your Courage
• Notice how long you stay stuck on the step of the ladder and observe your justifications (old scripts).
• How often do you sell your soul, such as staying on a job too long?
• What obstacles keep you stuck such as apathy, intimidation or manipulation?
• When do you swallow your voice? Swallowing your voice allows elements of deceit to penetrate your spirit.
Barriers to Courageous Leadership in an Organization
• New ideas are overlooked (reactive)
• Wrong person in wrong job
• Leadership by control
• Stagnant business model (“band aide syndrome”)
• Breakdowns are covered up (stakes are too high)
Ways to Become More Courageous
• Start using the word! Say, “Yes!”
• Stop for 3 minutes before a meeting to reflect – it gets you out of “automatic”.
• Be honest about where you’re stuck
• At your next meeting or in a personal relationship, have a “courageous conversation” (put the elephant in the room).
Go back to work and ask: “What would we/I do differently if we/I had unlimited courage?”
• Become a model of courage—demonstrate your courage and use the word.
• Take time to celebrate those small step accomplishments
Ms. Walston is the author of three books, Courage, Stuck, and Face It!. To learn more about her work, go to www.SandraWalston.com.
Author: Mark S. Kennedy MA, Human Resources Consultant, Poudre Valley Health Systems
Courage Expert Sandra Ford Walston shared her insights and expertise at Agrium Place, Canada, May 2012.
Here are some highlights:
“Courage will never become an app.”
That’s one of many pithy nuggets of wisdom that more than 100 Agrium employees in Calgary, Alberta were treated to earlier this month, courtesy of The Courage Expert, Sandra Ford Walston.
Most people say, ‘I don’t want to work that hard. I don’t want to be self-disciplined, I don’t want to sacrifice, I want a courage pill,” she said. “The fact is, you cannot learn courage by doing something you already know.”
The Agrium Women’s Leadership Group (AWLG) hosted the 90-minute presentation called Courageous Leadership. In her paradigm-torpedoing talk, Sandra provided a range of insights on courage, based on her 16 years of research on the subject. She’s the author of numerous articles in high-profile management periodicals, plus three books – Courage: The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman, STUCK 12 Steps Up the Leadership Ladder and Face It! 12 Obstacles That Hold You Back On the Job.
Early in the presentation, she asked the audience to name some virtues. Integrity and honesty topped the list, which she said is typical. Courage was not mentioned – which, sadly, is also typical.
“Aristotle said that courage is the first of the virtues, making all of the others possible,” she noted. “But how many of you naturally, growing up, heard the word ‘courage’?” Sandra asked the mostly female audience. No hands went up. “Only one time in my 16 years has somebody raised their hand when I asked that question, and I said, ‘Liar liar pants on fire,’ because it was so hard to believe and so rare.”
Sandra said courage is a much-neglected virtue – particularly at work, and particularly among women. “My research shows that only 11 percent of women perceive themselves as being courageous. That led to my first book. I need a little help here. I need you to start recognizing this critical virtue and claim it,” she said.
While North Americans tend to favour physical courage – rescuing a stranger from a burning building or tackling a purse snatcher – Sandra emphasized the importance of the faceets of courage such as moral courage, emotional courage, individual courage, spiritual courage and leadership courage.
Courage, Cousins and Killers
“Courageous leadership is a state of mind. It’s confronting an uncomfortable truth or issue, such as admitting you made a bad hire,” she said. “Courageous leadership is not letting a worn-out script define you. Courageous leadership is letting go of a relationship or client that is familiar but not healthy.”
Courageous leadership means knowing that you have all the answers you need in order to take action. Don’t be deterred by the fact that you only know 40 percent of what you think you need to know, to take the lead on a tough project at work, she said.
“We say, ’I really should know 100,’ right? So you don’t come forward. And yet, it’ll be a man who says, ‘Yes I’ll take it on.’ And he only knows 40 percent too, but he gets me and Connie and Linda and Leslie on his team and we make it work.”
Courageous leadership also means choosing to pitch an idea that just might be creative – or not. “When I’m going to say something that’s a little bit out there, I say, ‘You know, this takes courage for me to say this: blah blah blah.’ When I do that, a different kind of listening happens.”
Confession is a cousin of courage, she said later in the presentation. “I choose to have the courage to say, ‘I have to confess to you that I don’t know anything about that.’ And that confession keeps our spirit and our integrity clean.”
Clearly a big fan of alliteration, Sandra identified complacency and conformity as courage killers.
Wrong Rung of the Ladder
For too many of us, our courage is caged at the workplace – and as a result, we’re stuck. Stuck too long in a job that we’ve outgrown, or worse: a job that wasn’t right for us in the first place.
“What do we do to keep stepping up the ladder? We all get stuck. The issue is, do you know when you’re stuck?” she said. “I always think about the ancient Chinese proverb that says, ‘He who hesitates before each step spends his life on one leg.’ In courage, it’s about taking action.”
Not that courage is an excuse to make foolish decisions, she noted. Nor does courage in the workplace always look the same for every woman.
“One size of courage does not fit all. We’re all on different steps of the ladder, and on different levels of courage consciousness. But what can you do to keep stepping up? It’s about recognizing the 12 behaviours of courage found on the Source Wheel diagram such as strength and determination. Are you willing to give yourself permission to claim your courage?”
She closed her presentation with a clever quip that emphasizes the importance of knowing who you are – and who you want to be.
“Lily Tomlin, who is one of my favorite comedians said, ‘All my life I always wanted to be somebody. But, I realize now that I should have been more specific.’ With courage, you can be more specific! Thank you!”
No, Sandra. Thank you!
About the AWLG
The Agrium Women’s Leadership Group embraces a broad, inclusive vision to “Recognize, Develop and Enable Women’s Potential at Agrium”. The AWLG is open to any employee of the company and not only provides programs, mentoring and networking opportunities for women, it also helps participants define career paths, as well as encouraging flexible and creative solutions to business challenges. There are four chapters: Colorado, Calgary/Carseland, Calgary Administrative Professionals and a Virtual Chapter.
Author: Rob Petkau May 2012
Posted by Nicole Konkoly on December 14, 2011
Christian athlete Tim Tebow, the current starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos, continues to make headlines, not only for his contribution to the team’s recent “miraculous victories”, but for his exceptional leadership qualities.
Tebow, recently named one of the Best Leaders of 2011 by a panel of leadership experts, is often recognized for his display of the following leadership qualities:
Tebow’s leadership example translates beyond the athletic field and into the business world, where many believe that the qualities he exhibits are needed today more than ever before.
In the Chief Learning Officer article “Courage in the Workplace”, author Sandra Ford Walston writes about the importance of overcoming employees’ tendencies to lower ethical standards and suffer from mental paralysis in a difficult economy. Walston emphasizes the importance of courage-based leadership, in which leaders tap into everyday courage to self-reflect, live and work from the heart, and promote courageous action and personal accountability.
Pursuing a Masters degree in Organizational Leadership at a Christian university can be an excellent path to gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to become courageous leaders of effective organizations.
This fast growing area of study enables students to develop a solid knowledge base in accounting, economics, finance, management, and statistics, in addition to change oriented management and leadership development. Organizational Leadership graduates can expect a bright career outlook, with the opportunity to guide organizations with faith, courage, and integrity in a virtually limitless array of business sectors.
In addition to an Organizational Leadership Masters degree, a Christian-focused Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can help prepare students to serve as responsible business leaders and effect positive change in their organizations.
By Jill H. Lawrence
Courage coach, Sandra Ford Walston, totally understands why the Cowardly Lion in the 1939 classic film, “The Wizard of Oz,” was so desperately searching for courage. “We all dream of Oz. Courage is a valuable commodity,” Walston points out. “Those who own courage and recognize it in themselves operate at the next level. This makes life infinitely easier.”
Of course, the Lion in question actually had a tremendous reservoir of courage but was unable to see that truth about himself. Walston, in addition to being a courage coach, is also a popular keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and author of COURAGE: The Heart and Spirit of EveryWoman/Reclaiming the Forgotten Virtue. “That’s often the case, especially for women,” she explains. Holding onto our courage takes hard work. Walston delicately wove Dorothy’s journey to find her own truth throughout her book.
Every human must call upon inner courage many times throughout a typical lifetime. Walston points out that some well recognized people are known for their courage—people who have made sweeping contributions to societies and cultures, such as George Washington, Martin Luther King, and His Holiness the Dali Lama. Some, like Christopher Reeves and Lance Armstrong, are hailed for personal courage in confronting great odds.
Men are often courageous, but what about women?
“My personal research has revealed that most famous heroes are men, not women. Why? Probably because women have been socialized to believe that courage, like power, is simply not meant to be part of the feminine nature,” Walston explains.
Think of the courage that Dorothy exhibited throughout her trip to Oz. “She never gave up, even when she fell asleep in the poppy field. Continuing on the road of uncertainty, she forged ahead,” Walston muses. For that matter, think of the tremendous heart the Scarecrow revealed and the superior “brainy” thinking the Tin man contributed. Each had the very trait they thought they were searching for; the problem was they just didn’t own it.
When Frank L. Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz, it was unthinkable to ascribe courage and power to a woman. Dorothy happily discovered at the end of her journey the power was within her all along. But think of the trials and tribulations Dorothy could have avoided if she hadn’t believed that the power lay outside herself in some mythical Wizard! Thankfully, she eventually “saw the light” and reclaimed her courage and her power.
Like Dorothy, Walston says it’s been commonplace for women to overlook courage, to fail to see their need for it, or their personal demonstration of it. “Not unexpectedly, my research and personal experience revealed that women who do own courage are much better equipped to deal with everyday life than those who do not,” she emphasizes.
Real women claim real courage
Walston instituted a survey of 700 women to assess their courage quotient. Time after time she was inspired by many of the women who demonstrated a firm grasp of courage in their daily lives. Early in Walston’s life she recognized how she verified her own personal courage. It was often required as she sometimes skipped, sometimes slogged down the yellow brick road of life.
In the late sixties, Walston discovered she was pregnant and not in love with the baby’s father. She mustered tremendous courage to get through the pregnancy. “I was a Catholic, unmarried, and pregnant at age twenty,” she remembers. Like many women of that time, she suffered the pregnancy alone and in humiliating silence. Often she vomited into gutters on her way to college classes and entered the lecture room in a nauseated haze.
It likewise took tremendous courage for Walston to put the welfare of her baby ahead of her own. Her decision to find a “good Catholic family” for him to be raised in was the right thing to do, but torturous to her soul. The experience left an indelible mark. Not surprisingly, Walston’s book is dedicated to her son: “Dedicated to David. Always loved, never forgotten.”
Courage became a common thread in Walston’s life. She confidently transitioned careers from education, real estate, private banking, consulting and training, and finally speaking, writing, and publishing. She demonstrated courage in her personal life as well. She left her family, friends, career, and the home she loved to move to Colorado with her fiancé, only to be unceremoniously “dumped” five months later. “I had no friends, no family and only knew the area in a mile-and-a-half radius around where I was living. I didn’t know what I was going to do. One thing I did know how to do was to make lemonade out of water.”
It was from this experience that a defining moment arose and a crystallization of an insight surfaced to her: she was to write a book about women and courage. “I had to reinvent myself one more time and draw upon my ever-growing reservoir of courage!” During that sad and lonely period, a voice told me that if I could weather the melancholy and loneliness, a revelation would come to me,” Walston exults.
The voice said, “Something good will come…”
Walston’s connection with Spirit has been an ever-present part of her life, so when the voice came to her, it came as an old friend. “The voice said ‘something good will come out of this horrible situation’,” she remembers. “The insight shed light on my purpose by revealing how I use courage as a feminine energy.”
Walston knew she was going to experience a spiritual transformation, but she didn’t quite know what that was going to look like. Earlier in her life, she experienced some great spiritual teachers. She was living in West Los Angeles when Louise Hay moved there from New York and began holding lectures long before she wrote her first book. And none other than Marianne Williamson taught A Course in Miracles to a small group in a rented church on Sunday evenings. “They were wonderful. You could feel they were coming from a place of true authenticity. They were clearly living their purpose and their passion. They both contributed so much to my spiritual growth. It was a wonderful blessing for me to be one of the many participants in their journey.”
She had the courage to face her greatest fears
Walston says the two things in her life that required ultimate courage were the giving up of her son for adoption and embarking on a writing career. She had a lot of fear around being a writer. She preferred to express herself through her public speaking. Yet, her courage enabled her to face that fear and get on with a writing career. “I’m very intuitive and a lot of insights come to me in my sleep or when I’m driving in my car. Many times I was guided in my approach to the structure of the content. This helped me hurdle the arduous task of narrowing my message,” she admits. Help comes from above. “I get messages—whether it’s my guardian angel, God, goddesses—whatever name, Spirit comes to me and I receive the direction. It is the green light that keeps me going. I know when these insights come in I have to write them down right away; otherwise, even though I tell myself I’ll remember, I know new flashes of inspiration will overload my memory banks and I’ll forget!”
Walston reports she’s been guided along the way, not only to write and design the book’s layout, but also to become transformed from her own lessons and destiny. “I stay very open and receptive to receiving insights and place enormous value on them. I do not pooh-pooh them in any way. It’s an ongoing process for me, not just for writing a book, but for how I live my life.”
Just as Dorothy has inspired countless folks with her journey along the Yellow Brick Road, Walston also ignites inspiration in women wherever she goes. It’s because she’s the real deal—the personification of courage. You can hear it in her voice, see it in her eyes, and receive the courage of her heart. She’s lived it and breathed it. Walston inspires other women to reclaim their own courage as well. You can just hear the Cowardly Lion roar with approval!
By Jill H. Lawrence
Sandra Ford Walston is the personification of courage. You can hear courage in the fervor of her voice, you can see the courageous determination in her eyes, and most of all, you can feel the courage of her heart. She’s the real deal.
Does this mean that she’s some kind of mythic heroine who has slain dragons, conquered mountains, and saved villages from plague? She would be the first to say, “Absolutely not! I am truly ‘everywoman,’ not the exceptional woman!” Which is her point exactly.
Whether she is inspiring audiences with a keynote speech, teaching a business seminar at a stellar university, authoring one of her many articles, conducting one of her fifty plus interpersonal-skills training programs, or autographing her book: COURAGE-The Heart and Spirit of EveryWoman/Reclaiming the Forgotten Virtue, her authenticity and passionate message come through loud and clear.
Her message has welled up from within her since she was a little girl and her mission has long been clear: she’s come to the planet to unearth and cultivate her own courage and to help other women develop and own theirs as well.
Few women are celebrated for their courage
Sandra is well aware that every human must call on courage many times throughout a typical lifetime. She points out that some historically well-known people are known for their courage—people who have made public contributions such as George Washington, Martin Luther King and other leaders and military heroes. Some, like Christopher Reeves, are hailed for personal courage. “My personal research has revealed that most of these famous ‘heroes’ are men, not women. Why? Probably because women have been socialized to believe that courage is simply not meant to be part of the feminine nature,” Walston explains.
Walston says it’s been commonplace for women not to own courage, not to see their own need for it nor their own demonstration of it. “Not surprisingly, my research and personal experience revealed that women who do own courage are much better equipped to deal with everyday life than those who do not,” she emphasizes.
Walston was indignant early on regarding gender inequities
“In junior high and high school, I’d just get mad about how women were viewed,” she recalls. “I declared someday I am going to write a book about this! I was indignant about how women were treated and the double standard that thrived. I always defied the current ‘beliefs’ and said to myself that they were a bunch of garbage!”
Women and courage were words that rarely occurred in the same sentence when Walston was growing up. Instead, women were considered to be the “weaker sex,” the inferior gender. Only men were labeled courageous and yet a deep conviction inside Walston told her the truth was different.
But before she was to share this revelation of courage with everyday women in the world, she had to live it. This, of course, is why her eyes flash so passionately and her words are so inspired-she’s been there, done that in spades!
Unmarried and pregnant, a woman’s eternal crisis
Contempt for illegitimate births has been around since ancient times. In more contemporary times, as recently as the 1920s, pregnant women were forced to marry their rapist; so unthinkable was it to be an unwed mother. Thinking progressed in some small degree over the following decades, but the social stigma to be an unmarried pregnant woman still prevailed in the late sixties.
Nonetheless, this is precisely the state in which Walston found herself—in college and pregnant by a boyfriend she knew she could not marry. “I was a Catholic, unmarried and pregnant at age twenty,” she remembers. She suffered the pregnancy in silence—often stumbling to class in a nauseated haze as she vomited into gutters on her way. She hid in shame from her hometown friends and tried in vain to become invisible.
Not only was she pregnant, alone and subject to societal vilification, like other women, she was treated to movie dramas that, showed childbirth as truly torturous, often resulting in death. “I went to confession thinking that when I delivered my baby, I might very well die. The priest heard me crying in the confessional and declared, ‘God has forgiven you, but you have not forgiven yourself.’ It was a very profound moment,” Walston assures.
This nonjudgmental priest helped Walston tap into her courageous nature and go forward. In the aftermath of this intense experience, Walston composed herself and chose to give her son to a family that she authorized. She felt very strongly that he would have a much better life if Catholic parents (who had already adopted one other child prior to her son) raised him. “I felt that otherwise we would be two kids leaving the hospital,” Walston remarks.
Not surprisingly, Walston’s book is dedicated to her son: “Dedicated to David. Always loved, never forgotten.” And she talks about her experience now publicly, using it as an example of courage—courage that is present in every woman.
Using courage as an ally
Over the course of Walston’s life, courage has been brought front and center time and time again, “just as it does for all women,” she reminds. She has demonstrated tremendous resilience and the ability to courageously reinvent herself a number of times. She taught gifted students she lovingly referred to as “Walston’s Weirdoes.” “We were known as such because we did so many innovative, creative things,” remembers the educational maverick.
Later she moved to Los Angeles with very limited funds and began a career in real estate. “Why not Beverly Hills?” she said more as a statement than a question. Courageously, she entered a new career in a new city and did remarkably well. But when the prime rate hit twenty-three percent, she opted not to weather the economic cycle. Instead she made another radical change and went into banking.
Courage was the catalyst
As Walston applied her courage and savvy to a new industry, she quickly worked her way up to Vice President of Private Banking. Her success in this third arena triggered people to ask, “How do you do that?” These quandaries, typically posed by women, triggered the advent of her fourth career as a speaker and seminar leader.
“Their questions were the catalyst for some self-examination. I began to see how the key ingredient in my life has always been my courage. In this case, it was the courage to reinvent myself,” Walston notes.
Along the way, Walston’s courage was harvested to keep her going in the face of both career challenges and more personal challenges as well. She moved to Colorado with her fiancé, leaving friends, career and family behind, and the condominium she loved, only to find herself unceremoniously dumped five months later. “I had no friends, no family and only knew my way within a tiny radius from where I was. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I can usually make lemonade out of water.” It was from this experience that a defining moment arose: an insight came to her that she was to write a book about women and courage. “I had to reinvent myself one more time and pull from my reservoir of courage!” Walston emphasizes. She faced her fear and asked for help, almost holding her breath to see what would happen. “People helped me. People want to help people. People are good. I asked and it was given,” she happily reports.
The French “corage” says it all—heart and spirit
Walston has surveyed over 700 women for the purpose of learning their courageous stories. As a result, she is a cornucopia of true stories, including her own, that stand as testament to the fact that women are courageous.
Walston is most inspired by the French version of the word courage, corage. In her opinion, the French have said it best by defining corage as “heart and spirit.” She herself is brimming over with heart and spirit and so are the women with whom she comes in contact. Her passion is to help other everyday women see themselves as courage personified.
So, if you see more and more women with dazzling eyes, courageous hearts, and passionate spirits, you’ll know that women everywhere are getting the courage message and using it to be Queen of their own lives, thanks to Sandra Ford Walston.
By Cate Terwillinger, The Denver Post, May 14, 2000
Count Sandra Ford Walston out when it comes to joining the fan legions of “Xena:Warrior Princess.” It’s not that Walston doesn’t appreciate the kick-butt-and-takenames-later approach of television’s most visible warrior woman. It’s more that she views Xena as an essentially male notion of female courage in drag—of the bustier and buskin variety.
“Rather than seeing strength and courage as part of the gentle fabric and soul of any woman, such images depict courage as unusual and atypical, and usually with masculine bravado,” write the Denver author in “Courage: The Heart and Spirit of Every woman” (Bona Dea Publishing, $18.95).
Walston is interested in a kinder, gentler version of courage—one that better jibes with the feminine nature. “I wrote this book to help women understand what courage really is, why society rarely recognizes women as courageous, and why such recognition if vital to knowing ourselves,” she writes.
The theme has struck a chord. Since arriving on local bookstore shelves six weeks ago, her book has been a strong seller; the two Tattered Cover Book Stores have moved more than 200 copies.
Walston, a consultant and executive coach who designs and delivers interpersonal skill programs, has more than a passion acquaintance with courage. A devout Catholic who found herself pregnant and unwed at 20, she elected to carry the pregnancy to term and give up her baby for adoption. Years later, she was left in a strange city without friends, family, or job after a painful breakup with the man she’d followed to Colorado as a preamble to marriage.
“It takes courage to have faith when hope seems gone, and that was my situation.” Walston recalls. “How was I going to remain strong and determined to face this horrible setback in my life?”
It was a bleak time, but one that reminded Walston how she had repeatedly tapped her own courage to re-invent herself during difficult passages. “I recognized the power of that and proceeded on,” she recalls. “The outcome of that was the book. If I die tomorrow, I’ve done what I was supposed to do.”
Walston’s research included surveying nearly 700 women who attended her training seminars and women’s business meetings; only 71 selected “courageous” from a list of 36 adjectives they were offered to describe themselves. Over a period of three years, the author interviewed 50 of them, hoping their stories would help other women discover or reclaim their own courage. She also identified 12 behaviors that embody courage and a three-step process to help women integrate courage into their own lives.
Common to women
“All women have had debilitating experiences that compel self-examination and re-invention,” she explains. “Many emotional, physical and psychological crises are common to women cross-culturally: fear, loss, illness, abuse, betrayal, and low self-esteem.”
Women often respond courageously to such difficulties, she says, but their bravery is rarely recognized by a culture that defines courage as facing down danger—typically the province of men.
“Society and women themselves underappreciate courage in women,” she says. “My book…is a celebration of the unsung courage in the everyday woman.” Walston explains the word’s roots: the French corage, which means heart and spirit. That earlier definition is broader than the contemporary, encompassing mental and moral strength to take risks and to preserve through emotional difficulty or simply a dark night of the soul. Seen from this perspective, women’s bravery often forms the heart and spirit of relationships, though it’s rarely viewed that way.
“Men are socilized in a way that, for them, courage is something to do with keeping autonomy and being strong and in charge, expressing one’s position clearly,” says Myra Bookman, a professor of language and psychology at the University of Colorado—Denver. Bookman studies under Harvard professor Carol Gilligan, whose pioneering research illuminated how men and women frame and resolve moral problems differently.
“Because women’s idea of courage is sometimes not the same, they may be construed as less forthright, autonomous, independent,” Bookman says.
Women may not feel good a bout the often mundane responsibilities that occupy their day-to-day lives, says Denver therapist Jane Bilett, though they’re hugely important. “The stay-at-home moms who do homework with the kids, gets them places—they tend to undervalue what they do,” she says. “But using Sandra’s definition, it’s easy to see this as courage.
“She is coming up with ways that women behave with heart and spirit, and has defined them as courageous.”
“Courage is the forgotten virtue because women do not recognize their everyday actions as significant,” Walston writes. “If EveryWoman identified the acts she performs every day as courageous, she would be able to use that same courage to transform her life and accomplish her heart’s desire.”
Revising the narrative
Clinical psychologists call that “restorying”: revising the narrative you tell about the truth of your life. “If you start to tell the stories a little differently…it may allow you to see them in a more positive way,” Bookman says. And that can lead to a better future.
“There’s a Chinese fortune that says if you want to change your life, change what you think,” Bilett says. “Language is extremely important.”
Courage is an empowering concept, she says. “From both a therapeutic and a woman’s consciousness perspective, one of the serendipitous effects of Walston’s interpretation is that maybe women will think, ‘Hey, I am courageous.’ ” “It’s important for women to expand their definition of courage to include all acts that require inner strength,” Walston says. “What I found is that women reveal those circumstances in their life and rename them as courage, we begin to build a reservoir, an energy we can draw upon and use.”
Denver Business Journal, April 21, 2000 edition, “Small Business Insights”
by: Lyn Berry
A local entrepreneur who has steered herself successfully through multiple and varied careers is opening a new chapter in her life to explore the publishing business.
Sandra Ford Walston, a nationally known speaker, trainer and executive coach, has written and published a book that explores the characteristic that sustained her through it all: courage.
The book, titled, “Courage: The Heart and Spirit of EveryWoman,” combines real-life stories from courageous women with exercises on using that courage to change obstacles into opportunities.
Recognizing that courage is a trait rarely associated with women, Walston draws on the word’s original definition, which in medieval Old French is “corage,” meaning heart and spirit, to demonstrate how women can and must claim their courageous will in order to lead successful and fulfilling lives.
“When you define yourself as having courageous will, then you’re unwilling to do things the way they’ve always been done or the way society tells you they should be done,” she said. “In essence, the book is a celebration and a salute to unsung courage in women.”
Stepping into the world of book publishing heralds the start of a fifth career for the entrepreneur, who has demonstrated her own brand of courage in the arenas of education, real estate, banking and corporate training.
“Courage, for me, is an intangible sense of energy,” she said. “There has always been this ingredient in me that propelled me to face things in a different way, this propelling energy.”
Armed with a bachelor’s in social science and a minor in English from California State University, Walston began her first job as a teacher of gifted fifth and sixth graders, in her small hometown of Bakersville, California.
At that time, Walston’s courageous entrepreneurial spirit had already begun to emerge. “My classroom was called ‘Walston’s Weirdoes,’ because I was always designing new, creative things,” she said. “I’d be featured in the paper for some new creative idea that I came up with and it was just fun. I got to be wild.”
After a few years, Walston became restless and moved to Beverly Hills to pursue a career in real estate.
“I wanted the freedom to be my own entrepreneur,” she said. “With a few thousand dollars that I had saved I started my own business and built it up.”
However, Walston admits the business was not without its setbacks.
“One of the biggest challenges I met was being the only woman,” she said. “I really wanted to sell commercial property. I wanted the business side of real estate. I went into Coldwell Banker downtown and interviewed with this man and I didn’t get the job. And I knew why — I was a woman.”
After nearly eight successful years in residential real estate, Walston decided to tackle a new challenge. “I like change. I’m enterprising,” she said. “So I got out of real estate and got into banking, where I was still working with people, providing a service, making a difference in their lives.”
Walston landed her first banking job with First Professional Bank in West L.A., despite a resume that listed no banking experience. “They were astute enough to see that I knew how to develop a business. They saw my marketing skills and my ability to generate business. They knew they weren’t going to have to hold my hand.”
Walston enjoyed another eight years of success in banking, working her way up to vice president and a six-figure salary, while doing some corporate training on the side. The bank eventually hit hard times, and Walston decided to pack up and move to Colorado with the man she was planning to marry. “It was a good time to transition into being an entrepreneur again,” she said.
However, soon after arriving in Colorado, Walston found herself suffering through a painful break up.
“I got dumped,” she said. “And here I was, with no friends, no family, no support system. That’s when I harnessed the courage to reinvent myself again. You know, like Madonna.”
She set to work, designing seven corporate training programs. “I just literally worked seven days a week, designing the programs and going out and marketing. I always followed up on a referral or a lead, even if I didn’t think it would go anywhere. I always turn over every rock to follow up on something.”
“Her follow-through is incredible,” said Sue Eaton, director of human resources for the City of Englewood. Eaton has known Walston since 1996, when she asked Walston to provide training for a director’s retreat. “I envy her ability to never let things drop. She has been able to bring herself back from ups and downs in her personal life, as well as her professional life, that would have stopped others in their tracks.”
Walston’s tenacity paid off, creating a well-established private consulting practice. She is a professional speaker and trainer, executive coach, retreat facilitator and courage coach for individuals, where she specializes in courage for women.
She has designed almost 50 programs to date, for a list of clients that includes U S West, Great-West Life Assurance, DIA, Colorado Credit Union and Lucent Technologies.
“I’ve seen her develop her company from something small into a successful consulting business,” said LeRoy Romero, director of external affairs for the Auraria Higher Education Center, where Walston has given customer service and goal-setting workshops.
“This is a woman who can set priorities and get things done. As a small-business owner, you need to have the courage to go out there and meet people and say this is what I can do, and how I can do it and then demonstrate that you can do it. Sandra follows through.”
Walston’s latest endeavor as writer and publisher of “Courage” has taught her a new lesson about the courage it takes to follow through. This form of courage requires vulnerability.
“Writing a book is a full-time job. When I made the commitment to finish writing my book, I made a conscious choice that I would let my income and my lifestyle diminish, a lot.
“I’ve rolled the dice,” she said. “I’ve had the courage to put everything at risk. Now that I’ve released it to the universe, the timing will be right and the universe will perceive value — or it won’t.”
Comforted by endorsements for the book by Jack Canfield, Marianne Williamson and Alexandra Stoddard, Walston has made it her goal to spend as many weeks as possible on the Tattered Cover’s local paperback bestseller list, where she currently occupies the No. 5 slot.
“Of course, it depends on whether or not the community supports my book. Either way, I’ve been very blessed to have these endorsements,” she said.
Margaret Maupin, the front list buyer for the Tattered Cover, said she believes the book will be well-received. “I think it fills a need on the book shelf, encouraging women to pursue their goals and to have faith in themselves,” she said. “Sandra’s own story is very inspirational for people who do start a business or pursue an entrepreneurial path. She had a goal and put all her energies into that. I think it’s a real courageous thing she has done.”
“Writing a book is like being on a runway, going beyond commitment speed,” Walston said. “No matter what, you have to take off.”
“Courage” is scheduled to hit national bookstores in late May or early June. For more information, contact Sandra Ford Walston at email@example.com.
Denver Business Journal staff reporter Lyn Berry writes this monthly column about issues related to women- and minority-owned businesses. She can be reached at 303-866-9678 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2000 American City Business Journals Inc.
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