This is one of my favorite questions to ask in my workshops to get everybody thinking and reflecting. When leaders are confronted with a challenging problem, team member or process, the way they react says a lot about their leadership style and strategy. Some of the responses I have gotten include:
“I would stay calm and think about my next move.”
“I would do an about face and leave.”
“I would look him in the eye.”
“I would scream!”
“I would freeze and hold my breath.”
All of these reactions describe how each of us deals with fear. Will you stay focused and calmly work through the roadblock or will you avoid it at all costs? Would you feel powerless and just become paralyzed or would you verbally vent your anger? How we typically respond to frightening situations is similar whether we experience them, professionally or personally. Additionally, if we lack the confidence or the belief that we can overcome the obstacle we face, we probably will be less successful in tackling it. So how can you more effectively deal with fear?
Define it: The first step in overcoming a fearful situation is to describe it clearly. What is the real challenge and what is just conjured up in our mind? Write it down in specific terms. Sometimes just getting the roadblock down on paper, takes away from its intimidation. By listing the different pieces, we get to separate out what to do first and what is the priority.
Own it: Once we have the details of the challenge, the next step is to admit it exists and is something worth pursuing. Take a deep breath and ask yourself- what is the best way to approach this issue? Say out loud what needs to be addressed, why it is a problem and how you will go about resolving it. By doing this, you are taking ownership of the fear and making a commitment to fully evaluate it.
Pulverize it: The final step is to calmly destroy the fear factor by dealing directly with the obstacle. If the concern involves another person, speak with them frankly and honestly, while still being respectful. Use specifics and share with them how they are coming across. Help them to find more successful ways to interact and still get their needs met. By making them aware, you are empowering them to recognize new ways to communicate and connect with others.
Now I am going to switch the question around: What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, asked this question to graduates at a recent commencement ceremony. What a great way to understand your fears by thinking of what you would do if you weren’t afraid. What path or journey would you pursue if you were not fearful? What challenge or roadblock would you tackle to achieve something important to you? What is your dream if you could do anything? Just three steps to overcoming your fear to accomplishing your passion:
- Define it
- Own it
- Pulverize it
Lead without being afraid. Reach for what is important to you. Don’t let the BIG BEAR stop you!