When you hear the word “fear,” what comes to mind? Picturing a monster or something that you believe will cause you harm … even death?
For me, fear typically has a negative connotation. However, I can think of positive things that can result from having a healthy fear of something. After all, it’s probably the emotion that drives that survival instinct and helps us stay alive!
Here are some common fears as it relates to the business world:
- Fear of looking bad
- Fear of feeling inferior
- Fear of failure
- Fear of disappointing others
- Fear of being left out/not belonging
Fear is clearly an emotion that drives behavior. The question to consider is this: Is fear driving results that are helpful or harmful to you?
Besides that drive to stay alive, there are a few examples of other positive results that may be driven by fear. For example, meeting or exceeding your sales/performance goals. That fear of looking bad compared to your peers can be the fuel you need to go the extra mile and be a top performer.
If you have a fear of being left out/not belonging to a group, it may boost your efforts in communication and building relationships.
A fear of looking bad can drive someone to dig in to a complex project or invest extra time to do high quality work so that their competence stands out.
Of course, there is a dark side to fear driving behavior. That same fear of looking bad could result in you NOT admitting mistakes, blaming someone else or even trying to cover up the mistake made.
If you’re afraid of feeling inferior to others, you may justify unfavorable feedback or pretend not to see how you could learn from someone else.
Should you be fearful of disappointing others, you may have a hard time saying “no” or simply be a doormat, allowing people to take advantage of you.
So let’s break this down and make it actionable. (This requires a serious look in the mirror, minus the “pretending” everything is A-OK.)
STEP 1: What are your fears as it relates to your business life? Write them down.
STEP 2: Assess how you are currently responding to those fears. What behaviors are you demonstrating?
STEP 3: Pause and reflect. What positive results have you experienced? What negative results have you experienced?
STEP 4: Get real with yourself. Are the positive results contributing to your career goals? Are you happy? Are the negative results derailing you? Do you want to do something different?
STEP 5: Acknowledge what you are doing to achieve the positive results and recognize what you should continue to do. For the negative results, think about what replacement behaviors you could begin to demonstrate, to build trust, (e.g. seek feedback from your critics, admit mistakes, give others credit for their good work).
By acknowledging your fears, you become vulnerable. Being vulnerable is often misunderstood in the business environment. The reality is that it is the key in building deep, lasting relationships.
When you are vulnerable, you connect with others who often feel the same about themselves. This is critical in building trust. And when you have trusting relationships in place, those people will support you in overcoming those fears that are driving the negative behaviors.
“It’s OKAY to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave.”
― Mandy Hale
Martha Duesterhoft if a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.