I have never been a big fan of snowstorms. I don’t mind the white fluffy stuff but driving in it is another story. Since my college days when I went to school in Buffalo, NY, I learned to brave the icy roads by just getting in my car, turning on the ignition and moving. Slipping and sliding was par for the course and eventually I got use to enduring imperfect road conditions and insane drivers. When I moved back to the NY metropolitan area, I didn’t quite leave my complicated, irrational fears about the snow behind and as a result, I still dread the weather alerts that scream: “Snowstorm to arrive in your area. Take precautions.” What does it even mean to “take precautions”?
A precaution can be defined as an action taken in advance to protect against possible danger, failure or injury. It is a forethought or circumspection.
What that sounds like to me is there may be a way to face those snowy highways and byways by doing some thinking and planning. Maybe my random approach all these years has caused me to be “a sitting duck” ready for the next slip on the ice. Maybe I can switch my irrational fears of the snow to rational actions with a clear purpose and direction. And maybe we can do the same in our leadership journeys.
Do you ever feel like you need to identify some guidelines or precautions when you are working on a never-ending project or dealing with a difficult team member? Are you sometimes stuck in an approach-avoidance model of working? Let’s look at some ways to protect ourselves from a fear of leading:
Acknowledge there is a fear
It’s always a good idea to be honest about our fears because then we can make some adjustments. So how do we do this and tap into the challenges we fear but can’t admit? Ask yourself:
- What is causing me so much discomfort about this experience or relationship?
- What is the real roadblock that is preventing me from getting from here to there?
- What doesn’t feel right or manageable?
- Why can’t I perform at my highest levels or showcase my strengths?
Reframe the fear to make it feel more familiar
To understand a fear more effectively, think of what it may remind you of in your life experiences. When I drive in the snow it reminds me of staying alone when I was little and had no one to turn to but myself. Look at other obstacles you face and try to see a pattern.
Does working on this collaborative project remind you of a past failed collaboration? In what way?
Explore possible alternatives
There is always a way out of any box, we just need to brainstorm where the exit is. Sometimes we need to turn to other people we trust to help us see the possibilities.
- Talk to a co-worker, boss or friend about how to best approach the obstacle without compromising your values and style.
- Think crazy and challenge yourself to a perspective you never tried before.
- Listen and listen some more for different ideas and suggestions. Take time to process.
Test drive the alternatives
Here’s where your bravery and courage comes into play. Choose one of the alternatives and just run with it. To drive in the snow I needed to trust my years of driving experience and my quick reflexes. And Breathe…
What do you need to do to try out your possible choices to overcome your fear?
Face your fear
Just do it! Look at that fear and knock it over!
How have you faced your fears? What leadership strategies have been most successful for you?