Many people don’t like to admit when they’re scared, especially when they are broaching a new skill, an uncomfortable conversation, or unknown waters in general. In business, this is even more amplified. Fear can signal weakness, or ineptitude, or a lack of preparation, among other unsavory impressions. Fear causes leaders to be horribly ineffective, followers to be unable to move forward, and outsiders to wonder about the strength of the business and its people. But it doesn’t have to work that way. Fear is NECESSARY. If you and your team are not moving outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis, you are likely to stagnate or become complacent, even bored, with your work. Fear can fuel true development. Here’s how:
- Get comfortable with fear. Few people go through life accomplishing great things without a little fear to push them forward. See it as a motivator. Let your team know fear is normal and you want them to try things they aren’t yet comfortable doing. Provide opportunities for your team members to grow that are safe. For example, if they fear public speaking, give them an assignment to speak in front of your own team on a subject they are well versed in before you spring them on a client or in a more public forum. Make fear and change a regular part of your work and the work of your team.
- Learn which fears are affecting your leadership. Are you avoiding situations, conversations, or tasks that are preventing growth and movement? Fear is likely the culprit. Try to identify the why of your fear. Then, push through. Plan the task, chart out the conversation, imagine how the situation will play out. Visualize the outcome in your favor and also not in your favor. For example, if you are avoiding having a tough conversation, play out how it might go badly, and come up with ways to mitigate any damage and handle it well. Schedule the call or the meeting so you are forced to manage the script and move forward. Once the task is over, consciously evaluate how it went and how you successfully overcame your fears about it.
- Acknowledge what you will learn or accomplish by facing your fear. This is similar to framing. If you see your fear in a positive light, you will be more motivated to go for it and abolish the fear. For example, if you are anxious about going in to your boss and reporting some bad news, imagine how doing so makes you someone who can manage through tough times and handle a negative situation successfully. Great leaders are not born of ease but of hardship.
- Get support. Talk to people you trust about your fears in a given task or situation. Ask them to tell you about times they faced their own fears and pushed through. Bouncing ideas off of a trusted peer or mentor will help you clarify the course of action. Living in a vacuum with your fears typically doesn’t help matters at ALL.
I can assure you of two things: nobody lives with no fear and nobody who accomplished anything great didn’t have to overcome some fear. Fear is simply a lesson in growth. That’s all. There is no need to give it more power than it has. So, to borrow a line from Nike: Just do it.