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(posted: September 9th, 2012)
This is the first in a series of blog posts in which we will talk about various facets of fear, how it impacts the workplace, and how (and why) we as leaders can change fear into trust.
What is fear?
We all have different ideas of what fear looks like.
Some people fear taking risks, others fear conflict or confrontation, and still others fear rejection by peers, just to name a few.
I struggle with fear of failure.
I am a perfectionist by nature, as are many of us in the corporate world.
As children we are often taught that making mistakes equates to failing, and that accumulated failure makes it impossible to become successful. Further, failing can sometimes feel like a direct reflection on who I am as a person - When I fail, I'm not good enough, I'm not smart enough, I'm not driven enough.
It has taken me many years to unlearn the lies I was fed as a child, and still this fear can hold me captive from time to time.
"Everybody has their own Mt. Everest they were put on this earth to climb."
The point is, we all have fear in our lives. If we all face fear, though, why isn't it more readily discussed in the workplace?
Because "fear" is often viewed as an unmentionable four-letter word.
Talk of fear is received with feelings of discomfort and disdain. To admit fear is to accept defeat. Society at large views fear as a sign of weakness. We are expected to be big, bad, courageous trailblazers.
Overlooking the presence of fear, though, gives it power. Inability to face our fears allows them to grow and multiply until they paralyze us.
Thus, the first step to ridding ourselves of fear is admitting that it exists. From there, we can begin to understand the fear that holds us hostage and create a plan of action to confront and overcome that fear.
"The key to release, rest, and inner freedom is not the elimination of all external difficulties. It is letting go of our pattern of reactions to those difficulties."
Freedom from fear does not involve changing or avoiding our circumstances. Rather, freedom is found when we face fear-evoking circumstances head on. This confrontation helps to release us from our bondage to fear.
"The circumstances of our lives have as much power as we choose to give them."
So, then, once fear is acknowledged and identified, you have a choice:
"Which emotion will [you] allow to be stronger?"
John C. Maxwell, "Maximum Leadership"
Choosing faith over fear is a moment-by-moment decision.
The answers to these questions, and others, are what define who we are as leaders and team members. When we understand and manage our own fear, we are better equipped to understand fear in our teams and workplaces. From that understanding we can create environments that help to free our employees from fear, and in the process, create high-performance, healthy organizations.
Learning to trust
In Daniel Oestreich and Kathleen Ryan's book, "Driving Fear Out Of The Workplace", the authors discuss the benefits of creating a high-trust workplace environment.
The authors interviewed 260 people at 22 organizations about fear and how individual workplaces handle the fear with which they are faced. In the book, one of the fears addressed is "the belief that speaking up about on-the-job concerns may result in adverse repercussions." An overwhelming 70% of those interviewed labeled this situation as one that provokes anxiety.
Why does this matter?
Anxiety and fear in the workplace create:
Trust has the power to eliminate fear. Trust creates an environment that fosters positive vulnerability among coworkers.
When trust is present, people:
Anxiety inhibits, trust relaxes and releases. When your teams trust you to support them, they can let go of fear, get the job done, and even create and innovate to make your entire organization healthier and more profitable.
In creating a trusting environment, we work toward the creation of a more cohesive group of people in the workplace. Greater cohesion makes for:
My hope is these tools for overcoming fear will help you create more cohesive teams and more effective leadership within your company.
Over the course of the next four months we will be discussing different types of fears that inhibit growth for leaders and teams, as well as the steps necessary to overcome these fears.
We will also be discussing Patrick Lencioni's "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" as it relates to overcoming fear in the workplace.
I hope you will join me in reading the upcoming blog focused on exploring the fear of conflict.
"Striving to create a functional, cohesive team is one of the few remaining competitive advantages available to any organization looking for a powerful point of differentiation."