Dealing with fear in the workplace
Is fear always bad? How can we safely approach and examine our fears? Can fear be useful in the workplace? How should leaders deal with fear?
Good leaders can’t eliminate fear, either in themselves or their teams. But when fears are countered with actionable information? They can be a catalyst for positive change.
This week on “Aim Higher,” my panel of business and leadership experts cover a tricky subject: fear in the workplace. I say that it’s tricky, because we quickly concluded that while leading with fear is not a good idea, and fear is often a very uncomfortable feeling… it’s also often necessary. As Chip Nilges said, “It’s important to acknowledge that you can’t avoid fear. It’s about how you deal with the reality of it.”
So how do you, as a leader, deal with the reality of fear? It’s no use just telling your team, “Don’t be afraid! Everything will be OK!” They won’t buy it, because you probably don’t, either, if that’s the extent of your contribution. After our robust discussion, I concluded that, in many ways, the best treatments for fear can be summed up in one word: information.
- As a leader, you may have access to information that your team does not. If they tell you they’re afraid of something that you know isn’t a possibility? Tell them, please!
- Use a business tool, like a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to organize fears within a broader, actionable business context.
- Be transparent about mistakes and their consequences (or lack thereof). If your people are afraid that not being perfect all the time will get them fired? Provide real, detailed examples of how mistakes in the past led to important victories.
- Don’t ever be afraid of measurement. If you don’t measure something and you succeed? It might as well have been luck. If you don’t measure and you fail? You learn nothing and can’t decrease your fears next time.
And I’ll close with one more, that’s especially important for leaders. Ask questions. Say to your team members, “Tell me more.” When you have information about what they’re afraid of, you can help either direct that into a catalyst for positive change, or at least give them more information.
Lots of great ideas this week from my guests. It’s a topic we don’t cover often enough—possibly because of the “fear of fear”—and I think you’ll come away with some helpful tactics.
Listen to this episode here.
Image Credit: Etienne Girardet
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