Mark was in a quandary. It had become obvious that Janet just wasn’t cut out for her current job. She had other skills that would serve the team better, but he was afraid that whatever role he put her in, the perception would be that she had been “demoted”. There could be long-term consequences for revising her responsibilities. He worried about how to address and make the change, help Janet feel supported, and help the team realize this was a great move.
Mark had a justified fear, but in order to lead the change effectively, he needed to acknowledge and overcome that fear. Mark was suffering from one of the five fears that often face leaders.
Fear of making the wrong decision. Leaders are constantly charged with making decisions – big and small. Decision-making is critical for business leadership and the process can become a stumbling block. When money, time, or resources are limited, it adds an additional stress to get things “right”. This can create paralysis by analysis. Give yourself permission to expect that there will be occasional mistakes, and that these mistakes are learning opportunities. Find a trusted mentor, or hire a coach, who can help you analyze your options and think through your decisions.
Fear of criticism. Mom used to say, “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” Not true! Words, especially negative ones, not only hurt, but can stay with us for years. Criticism can lower our self confidence and cause us to retreat, lash out, or shut down. It can stop us in our tracks. But, as leaders, we can’t allow others to limit our creative outlet or keep us from leading our team forward. Just like a snowflake, no two leaders are alike. There are multiple ways to lead, and with each style comes criticism. Expect it. Face the fear head on by requesting anonymous feedback from your team. Use 360 degree reviews or surveys. Ask specific questions about how effective you are in various aspects of your role. Embrace the feedback and show your team you listened and heard.
Fear of inadequacy. Have you ever compared yourself to someone else? Someone else has all the answers. Someone else is loved by everyone. Someone else looks better, thinks better, acts better. When we continuously compare ourselves to others, we start seeing our abilities as less than they really are. There will always be people who APPEAR to do things better. Cue in to YOUR strengths and skills. Take a page from Stuart Smalley’s handbook, “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like you.” And they’ll like you even more as you build your confidence!
Fear of success. This fear keeps us from taking risks. We fear the new problems, expectations, and unknowns that come with success. There is pressure to perform more tasks and perform them better. Fear keeps us from seeing the possibilities and we hesitate rather than moving forward. All leaders will experience successes and failures. Measure your success in terms of motivations for actions rather than consequences.
Fear of failure. No one likes to fail. But, to become a successful leader you must experience failure. It’s how we gain wisdom. When leading a team, failure can come in many forms. Bringing in the wrong people. Over-promising. Under delivering. Inconsistency. Inefficient communication of the vision and everyone’s role in it. The list goes on and on. When you make mistakes, own them and let the team know what you are going to do to right the ship. Be as prepared as you possibly can and make adjustments along the way. To keep a positive mindset, focus on what could happen if you succeed. After all, failure is the first step to an important journey toward a different kind of success.
Fear of being rejected. Most people want to be seen in a favorable light. They want people to like and respect them. So as leaders, we fear that people will reject us for the decisions we make. The fear of rejection is a powerful and overwhelming fear! It can have a far-reaching impact into our lives and can become crippling. But, rejection does not have to be a negative experience. Sylvester Stallone once said, “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.” Be confident in your decisions and reactions. The more confident you are in you, the more confident others will be in you too.
Mastering any skill usually requires some element of fear-conquering. Leadership is no different.
So, how did Mark address and handle his concern about Janet? He invited her to share what she loved about her current job, what she thought could make the organization better, and what would be her ideal role in the company. They discussed barriers and challenges to her current duties with Janet giving the majority of the input. Together they brainstormed available options.
At the end of the meeting, Janet had a clear vision of what was required, what changes would be made and why, and what talking points she and Mark would use when questions arose about her job change. Janet felt empowered, and Mark discovered changes that needed to be made throughout the organization. A new hiring process and comprehensive job descriptions were developed to prevent situations like Janet’s from happening again.
Have you experienced one or more of these fears? Are you ready to kick that fear to the curb and lead with confidence? I can help!