A decade or more ago, a peer gave me some difficult feedback about one of the members of my team. Observation and some discreet questioning validated his thoughts. My next steps took me down the halls of some new—and very difficult—experiences as a manager. The actions I took needed to happen. However, my response did NOT need to impact me physically and emotionally the way it did.
I struggled to sleep, I felt isolated at times and scenarios were constantly swimming through my subconscious mind, which probably impacted my leadership overall. At one point, the situation brought me to tears.
Living in fear is a dangerous investment for your limited energy. Facing fear is a far more mature response as a leader—something your team is expecting from you. Whether you fear that you might fail OR fear that you might succeed, these thoughts are impacting your success.
Here are some of the types of fear I experienced:
Primal fear – This is that physical reaction that you feel viscerally. Pay attention to it, because it might be telling you something you haven’t figured out otherwise. Those butterflies or the knot in the pit of your stomach might be a sign to assess your fears and perhaps react to them.
Unrealized fear – This is a fear of something that reasonably could happen but has not happened yet. Some people call this a “risk.” Consider taking a preliminary action about this type of fear, based on how likely you project it could occur (contingency plan, insurance, escape plan, etc.) Don’t let these fears paralyze you. Founder and CEO of Enventys Louis Foreman suggests, “Eighty-percent of the working population is risk averse. Life gets in the way. We don’t have the time or resources to do it. But rather than just sitting on our great ideas, why not see if there’s value?”
Irrational fear – This is an unreasonable fear that is sabotaging your head. There is no discernible reason that this issue could occur. Perhaps it’s coming from your brain’s overactive Devil’s Advocate. Maybe the thought was spawned by an episode of CSI. Regardless, the act of labeling something as a fear gives you the chance to assess its importance and potentially mark it off of the list of things to fear.
Rational fear – This refers to the problems that require attention now. In risk management, they’re often called “issues.” Use your body’s adrenaline to spur you to thoughtful action on these.
And this is what I am learning about fear:
Value your fears. Countless businesses have gone down in flames because they didn’t fear when they should have. Your goal should never be to have “no fear”—fear is a built-in, learned healthy response. Rather, leverage your fears to spur thoughtful, wise decisions.
Write down your fears. In business, this holistic process is known as risk management. Frankly, it works just as well in personal lives, too. The very act of capturing fears on paper takes a tiny bit of the sting out of them. Visualizing them renders them more manageable. You don’t have to be a list-maker to get something out of this exercise, especially when you’re working with others, who perhaps have different fears or can validate your fears with factors of which you were unaware. Don’t forget to ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen?” The answer might not be quite as bad as you think.
Talk through your fears with your mentor, coach or significant other. Having a sounding board can be a valuable. And who knows, it’s always possible that you’ve mislabeled a fear—your brain is telling you that something is inevitable, when in all actuality, there are factors that would prevent it from ever happening.
Pray about your fears. Claim these verses from II Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV). “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
When all is said and done, your employees are watching how you respond to fear. Model it ‘til you make it.
Reference: Rogers, Kate. Turning Average Joes into the Next Big Thing. 15 May, 2012. FOXBusiness.com. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/entrepreneurs/2012/05/15/everyday-edisons-inventors-feature/?intcmp=obinsite
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