Fear wordle

The Fear Cycle at Work

When is the last time you experienced, or witnessed, the outward manifestations of fear at work? Last year? Last month? Last week? Yesterday? How well did you deal with it? If you have room for improvement, read on. One of the most common issues I see as an executive coach is the failure to act. In the extreme, people give it a name: procrastination. It comes in many different flavors, but at its root there is a reluctance to proactively make change for the betterment of self, team and/or organization. Early on in my coaching career I attributed this phenomenon to either a lack of commitment to a goal or a lack of skill within the individual/team/organization. In reality, the failure to act can be founded in a much more fundamental primordial response – fear. Not so you say? Fear is supposed to generate either a fight or flight response? It does sometimes, but not always. Here are some observable fight responses to fear in the workplace. When afraid, some individuals decide not to flee – so driven by fear, they respond by:

  • Failure to delegate
  • Take credit for everything "good"
  • Pass the blame for everything "bad"
  • Don’t mentor
  • Retain all decision making authority
  • Have no succession plan
  • Avoid risk
  • Over control
  • Micromanage

All of these behaviors are polar opposites of what we think of when we think of effective leadership. If you, or your boss, exhibit these behaviors its time for change! We may fear many things: our work environment, our subordinates, or ourselves (fear of failure or success). When fear manifests itself in observable behavior we tend to address it, organizations build "solutions" to visible signs of management dysfunction. But what about procrastination? Procrastination is to leadership what heart disease is to health – a silent, deadly killer! You can try to avoid fear (choosing "safe" work environments), accept it (surrender), or adapt to it (experience, learn, process) and move forward. To learn to successfully convert fear into positive behavior can be difficult on ones’ own. Use your coach to help you build the process that works for you.

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