We all have fear in business and life. I’m not attacking you here and saying you’re a coward or afraid to take risks, but it’s a natural part of life. From the smallest plankton up to the killer whale, every creature on Earth fears something, and we do, too.
Denying the fear you have around your business is just as dangerous as giving in to the fear and running away. I know this from personal experience in running companies myself and coaching hundreds and thousands of others in their own business. We all have fear in our business. It may not look the same from person to person or business to business, but it’s there in some form or another. And how we deal with it is critical to our team’s success.
I’ve spent a lot of years working with others and learning for myself how to handle fear when it shows up, and there are three simple steps I encourage everyone to follow when it happens. It’s critical you get this down because your team will have fear, too. They’ll worry about what’s coming next. They’ll worry about the business, too. You need to model and help guide everyone on your team with these three steps to get your business through fear and into success.
No. 1: Clarity
I always encourage everyone to start with clarity. It may seem unrelated at first, but knowing your primary purpose and the goals of your business is essential to handling fear.
Let’s say you have fear around another new company pushing into your area. There’s nothing wrong with that fear, but take a step back and first get some clarity around your business and yourself. Ask yourself:
- What is the purpose of myself and my business?
- Are we working toward that purpose?
- How can we adapt to work better toward that purpose? and
- What really needs to change around this new company (where the fear comes from) to help us stay true in our purpose?
Don’t make decisions from the place of fear. Step back and seek out the clarity you need. Make a plan, write it down and let it sit. Then come back later and review it again. Call in your board or top-tier decision-making team and bounce ideas off them.
It’s shocking how something that feels so scary and insurmountable becomes much smaller when you plan and reflect on it. Align your plan with your business’s purpose, and you’ll know you’re ready.
No. 2: Transparency
The fear will start to dissipate when you have a plan and clarity — at first. But then, it’ll start to creep back, and your team members will start to feel it more and more, too.
This is where transparency and honesty come into play. Most people have seen scary movies of some kind, at least at one point. I have a friend who hated them as a kid, and was absolutely terrified. That was until my friend saw a TV special on the behind-the-scenes where they showed the monster half in his makeup eating a turkey sandwich. It totally took away the fear of the monster.
Fear in business is the same way. Be transparent about yourself as a leader. Show your team what you got clarity on in the last step. Be honest and open, and the fear will lessen. It may not go away completely, but it will be a lot less.
Here are some specific ways to be more transparent with your team:
- Tell them about your feelings around this issue; show you’re concerned, too (but you have a plan);
- Develop a clear action plan and share it with team members;
- Give updates consistently; and
- Articulate your primary purpose and the purpose of the business as the guide for your team.
Whatever format you prefer is up to you. Use emails, memos or just talk in person. A mix would be good depending on what you’re communicating and the stakes of the information, but whatever it is, get out there and show the work that’s going on.
No. 3: Consistency
The final point is consistency. The root of all fear is uncertainty. It’s a part of all life. The mouse is afraid because he’s uncertain if he’ll get eaten. The wolf is afraid because he’s uncertain if he’ll have enough food or if another male will come to challenge his dominance.
Our fear comes from uncertainty as well. We don’t know if that new business will take all of our customers (probably not unless you’re providing bad service). We don’t know if the economy will take a dive and affect our business. The uncertainty is there in some shape or form all the time.
We can’t remove the uncertainty, but we don’t need to add to it. Take the clarity you gained in your first reflection steps, which you’ve been communicating through transparency, and be consistent.
When things go wrong, don’t flail and panic. Get clarity and communicate with transparency. Every. Single. Time.
Your team and company will thank you for it as you remove one of the uncertain factors from this fear-sparking change. This may be really tough to do sometimes. We, as leaders, feel the fear even stronger than our team members do. How can we show our clarity consistently when we also have to deal with fear?
The consistency piece goes two ways, friends. We need to be consistent with our team and consistent with ourselves. When the fear crops up, give yourself space and start with the first step. Get clarity around the issue and align it with your primary purpose and the primary purpose of your business.
Accept that fear will be a part of your life and business and keep going through this cycle of steps to handle fear and overcome it in your business. This isn’t always easy (Hey, no one said leadership was), but it is worthwhile to start working on this for yourself and your team as soon as possible. It’s a skill you’ll need for the long haul.