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From Fear To Faith

(posted: December 29th, 2012)

This is the fifth and final in our series of blog posts in which we talk about various facets of fear, how it impacts the workplace, and how (and why) we as leaders can change fear into trust.

Webster's definition of faith: "noun, 1) Belief in the truth, value or trustworthiness of someone or something. 2) Loyalty or allegiance." From the Latin, "fides", meaning faith, trust and loyalty.

If you are experiencing...

  • a disengaged work staff,
  • unmotivated employees,
  • a high turnover rate among your people and,
  • employee competition and mean-spirited, vindictive behavior

...then it's likely that you are allowing fear to rule your workplace, and you may not even realize it.

Stepping Out Of Fear And Into A Corporate Culture Of Trust

Over the past several months, in the Fear Series, I have talked about fear and its effect on the workplace in general, and specifically, how it impacts teams, leaders, and the bottom line.

Fear, Redux

The series started with an The Ugly Four-Letter Word: Fear in general, and how it has an insidious effect on the workplace.

Fear has always been seen as a weakness in the corporate world, but when we shed light on this taboo subject, and consciously choose to cultivate trust over fear, we inspire growth and set the stage for greater success.

In Fear of Conflict I proposed that conflict does not have to be feared if it is healthy.

By healthy conflict, of course, I mean open and unfettered discussion, where people are free to disagree with each other's ideas without worry of anger or repercussions. This is only possible when all participants trust and care about each other and where everyone knows, to their very core, that there is no malice present.

It also requires that everyone have a voice, and feel that their views and concerns have been heard and considered. Reaching the point where your team has this kind of openness and trust requires patience, and sensitivity to the different communication styles of your people, but it is well worth the work.

Teams that exhibit this ability to argue constructively are more innovative and successful than those without.

The Fear of Commitment topic sounded like it belonged in an advice to the lovelorn column, but in fact, this fear is a real issue in the workplace.

We are all good at the tangible commitments - projects, meetings, deadlines. However, we often lack the ability to truly commit to people. After all, they have the ability to let us down and reject us, while deadlines, paperwork, and routines do not.

Committing to your people at an emotional level takes courage - True emotion-based commitment involves authentic concern for the hearts, passions, and ideas of coworkers, and requires you to be vulnerable. The end results, however, are completely worth it, as you end up with a team of connected, engaged people who care enough to drive your business to success.

This fourth topic in the series is a biggie, especially for managers and leaders. Fear of Failure haunts every single leader I know, me included.

Leaders tend to be achievers with a high commitment to success. Unfortunately, with this often comes the notion that perfection can, and should, be achievable. But what we miss in this relentless pursuit of perfection is that failure is an integral part of the path to success. Without failure we don't truly know what success looks like.

The most wildly successful people out there embrace failure as part of the process. And when we allow the people around us, such as our teams, to fail, they relax into that process and become much more productive, creative and innovative. Instead of fearing failure, we need to learn the lesson presented and move forward.

"Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation."

Dr. David Elton Trueblood, author

Trust Conquers Fear

The one element that has the capability to overcome all of these fears is trust.

As simple as the idea of trust may seem, more often than not we fail to exercise it on a day-to-day basis within the workplace. It's hard work. It requires taking the time to truly invest in people long enough, and with as much effort as is necessary, to create vulnerability in our working relationships. Authentic trust creates an open, vulnerable environment in which conflict, commitment, and failure are all embraced.

It is especially critical for leaders to have the trust of their people. Teams and employees must be able to feel comfortable, supported, and understood when working with their leaders.

When trust is present, people:

  • do not fear they will be rejected as a result of speaking their minds
  • are willing to take more risks
  • are willing to be open and honest with coworkers and leaders
  • push themselves further, knowing they have the support of their coworkers and leaders
  • have greater commitment to the work at hand and the company as a whole
  • are loyal to coworkers and to the company itself

Further, this trust creates greater team cohesion, leading to:

  • greater productivity
  • greater efficiency
  • greater concern for the company
  • less detrimental arguments
  • greater appreciation for new ideas and creative thinking

Moving Forward: Trust Becomes Growth

Once a company begins to embody and embrace the value of trust, growth occurs. Relationships begin to develop and people are more engaged. Higher levels of efficiency are reached and teams begin to thrive. All employees are committed to their work, their leaders, and their companies.

Leaders and companies who understand this trust equation go farther, faster, and have more fun doing it.

As we close the chapter on fear, I leave you with this thought:

The culture of your company cannot be transformed unless you are committed to not only change, but to growth itself. Ask yourself, "Do I truly value growth enough to do the work to make it happen?", while keeping in mind that growth can only occur when trust is a priority.

"It takes a deep commitment to change and an even greater commitment to grow."

Ralph Ellison, author

From me, to you, this is a call to action - Leaders: Boldly create a culture of trust within your company. You have an incredible opportunity to take your business from good to great, great to excellent, and excellent to thriving.

Challenge Yourself
  • What are steps you can take today to begin changing the culture of your company?
  • How can trust be embraced on a moment-by-moment basis within your teams?
  • Do you have stories to share of how trust changed your corporate culture?

Read the entire Fear series:

Part I - The Ugly Four-Letter Word: Fear

Part II - Fear of Conflict

Part III - Fear of Commitment

Part IV - Fear of Failure

Part V - From Fear To Faith


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