Is there something that keeps you awake at night?
Do you know what it is?
If you don’t know what your primary fears are, there’s really little that you can do about them.
Take the power of your fears away. You’re not some ragdoll those fears can throw around like a toy.
Turn and face your fears. Shine the spotlight on them. Get clear about what they are.
Some fears, after all, have merit.
They can be valuable warning signs and powerful incentives to take positive, problem-preventing action.
They may be nothing more than bad or out-of-date habits.
Now, if you’re the leader of your company or team, you may be asking, “Isn’t all this fear-facing work a waste of time for me? I’m supposed to be the fearless leader – or at least appear to be.”
If you’re a leader, it’s even more essential that you face and move beyond your fears.
That’s because – whether consciously or not – your fears and what you do about them affects the people you’re trying to lead.
Your followers are watching your actions and attitude closely. They’re picking up cues of fearlessness or fearfulness from you.
They’re noticing whether you’re courageous and action-oriented when dealing with those fears…or not.
And the impact, organizationally? Here’s how it often plays out:
People who have been confident in the past may, when fear-driven or fear-led, began to question their every move.
Their natural strengths, fear-restricted, start to shrink. They begin to freeze or make mistakes that are uncharacteristic of them.
Gradually, perhaps without realizing what or how it happened, a talented team can find that it’s creating failure that only un-faced or unfounded fears could have led them to create.
Don’t lead your company or team into this type of fate.
Catch and use the valuable information that your fears may be providing you and your team.
Here’s just one example of how this can work in a significant way:
It involved the CEO and co-founder of a company with which I was working on several major process improvements.
The CEO wasn’t sure how to do it, but wanted ways to monitor the key signs of change that he feared might happen and then hurt his rapidly growing company.
He also wanted a decision-making framework to help his leadership team choose the best course of action, and make the changes they’d need to have in place if the worst-case scenarios started to occur.
At his core, the CEO was afraid that the stellar customer relationships and results that had led to the company’s success so far could not be reliably maintained as they continued to grow.
He was worried that poor results, if they somehow occurred, would lead to the company’s ruin.
He asked me to do what we eventually called the “edge of cliff analysis.”
1. First, we identified his greatest fears for the company.
2. I did some research to reality test those fears, along with possible impacts to the company if each one occurred.
3. Next, I identified measurements and other indicators they could track as an early warning system that risk scenarios might be starting to happen.
4. I recommended prioritized process improvements they would need to have in place if the worst case scenarios he was worried about did, in fact, occur.
5. Finally, I turned this analysis into tools they could use easily. We presented the work to the company and discussed what the results meant for employees and how they could most easily use the information and tools.
That “edge of cliff analysis” became an important leadership and decision-making tool for the company for the next few years, I later learned.
It was a unifying factor that made their shared priorities and decision framework very clear, among other things.
Whether you do an “edge of cliff” analysis for your company or not, knowing what your fears really are will be useful to you.
1. What are the things you worry about now? What keeps you up at night?
2. What are the promises you’ve made or implied to customers through your marketing, advertising, websites and other ways of communicating with them? Do you have processes in place to make sure you can meet those promises?
3. What are the things you don’t even want to think about that you fear could happen and greatly affect your company and job or career?
Bring your worries to the surface.
Take a good look at them. For the fears that appear to be truly valid concerns, plan and take action to move beyond them.
It may take some time, but the freedom you’ll feel will have you far better prepared for the future than will continuing to worry.
Use your fears to help you create a better future instead of just worrying and watching it slip away.
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