Alan Webber sat at the end of the boardroom table. After a lot of hard work, he had landed an interview with former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt for Harvard Business Review.
“I’ve got my questions written,” he thought running through his mental checklist. “Recorder is set, last thing I need is a technical glitch and miss this whole thing. Man, this jet lag is killing me – what was I thinking…?”
And with that fear began its subtle assault.
His mind fully cooperated, “What will the editor think if I screw up this interview? What would happen to my job? What if Helmut Schmidt thinks my questions are stupid? What if…?”
Fear is the defeater of many initiatives: make the phone call. Launch the project. Re-engage the strained relationship. Speak up in the meeting. Fear challenges forward progress in ordinary work of life on a daily basis.
Here are three steps to support your victory over fear:
- Gratitude – What is the unique opportunity before you? How is the problem, challenge or assignment an opportunity? What are you grateful for in this situation?
- Smile – Bring smile power to your aid. As Leo Widrich points out, “Smiling reduces stress that your body and mind feel … (it) helps to generate more positive emotions within you.” Smile fear in the face.
- Let go – What happens when you try to control something or someone who is out of your control? You lose control, self-control. Lack of self-control leads to unproductive behavior. The need to control produces frustration, which fertilizes your fear.
What if it doesn’t go as you expected? What if it does?
First you, then the others
Victory over fear resides within you. Gratitude re-sets perspective, smiling generates positive emotion, and releasing control liberates you to expand your influence. Your victory over fear builds a positive environment for your team.
In his book, Out of the Crisis, W. Edwards Deming offered fourteen key principles for transforming business effectiveness. One of his management principles states:
Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.
Fear not only gets in your way but also creates a fear-based workplace. Fear of failure destroys freedom and innovation. The fear of doing it wrong disengages a team and hinders productivity. Fear limits progress.
Alan took his note pad and wrote across the top of the page:
Relax! Smile! This is a blessing, a treat, and an honor. It’s not a punishment to be endured.
Just then, the door opened and Helmut Schmidt walked in for the interview.
We shook hands. I introduced myself and briefly explained the project. I got ready to ask my first question. But first I smiled. He smiled back. (Rules of Thumb, p. 4)
Where is fear having its way with you and holding you back? Think of the situation.
What are you grateful for? Make your list of 3 – 5 things.
Ready to let go? How will you exert influence instead of trying to control?
Here’s to your victory!
PS: Addressing fear and overcoming is just one of the skills we practice in Next Generation Leaders team-based coaching. If you’d like to see more details of how we unite employees into teams of self-managed leaders, see the team-based coaching page.