Leadership Procrastinationitis

by Dr. Bärbel Bohr

Procrastination.jpg

Is there a prescription treatment for procrastinationitis? This is the “disease” that seemingly permeates people so that every action needs to be delayed until…. well, ….. uh,…. later, I guess?

Some Things Never Change…

I knew it would happen this way. When I sat together with my colleague Linda to prepare the quality feedback survey for our courses, I handed her over questions #1-5 to cross-check on them.

Backgrounder: [Linda was supposed to have prepared questions #6-10.]

Looking at me innocently, Linda shrugged her shoulders and showed me her most charmful smile and said:

Well, you know,” she answered while her eyes avoided to look at me: “My daughter got sick and I had to run so many chores yesterday that I couldn’t prepare the questions.”

I suggested a break and decided to get some tea from the cafeteria to cool down.

Yesterday!” she had said.

We got the assignment one week before Christmas and were at the beginning of February now! I couldn’t believe it. She could have prepared everything well in advance. Instead, we would have to do everything together now in order to keep our deadline. I felt cheated.

On my way to the cafeteria, I remembered that last year she had put up a big post-it on her desk visible to all of her colleagues and her boss:

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. (Walt Disney)

When we saw the post-it, we all looked at each other sighing and thinking:

Well, she is giving it another try.”

Linda, a charming, witty and very creative colleague who we all cherish, is a chronic procrastinator: our cinderella of “last-minute”-stands. Two months into the new year the post-it disappeared without any further mentioning it.

“Procrastinators Anonymous”

I assume most of us, including myself, have some procrastination attacks from time to time, yet around 20% of the population suffer from the chronic form of procrastination.

My students call it “procrastinationitis.”

There is tons of material out there in form of books, blogs, self-help courses that try to help and don’t need to be repeated here. On Wikibooks you can find a comprehensive overview of available resources on procrastination.

It is a wide-spread disease, no doubt.

What Linda tried in the past, some of us may have to get inspired to do now; overcome procrastination.

  • What would you say?
  • Have you made progress?
  • Or have you already reached the slump so that you feel like giving up?
  • Is it that you, um, perhaps, are reading this blog article in order to avoid doing something else that you should do right now?
  • And now feel tempted to switch to your email because you start to feel guilty?
  • Or do you perhaps happen to know some employee of yours who has taken this resolution?

According to studies on the subject, many therapies fail because the patients are supposed to change in a way that does not suit their personality. Authors of self-help books on the topic tend to be well-structured and organized. It must be very frustrating for procrastinators to see all the plans, control patterns they are supposed to learn.

Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, sums this up nicely:

Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up.

Procrastination and Corporate Culture

Even though it is always one’s own decision to stop procrastination, I started to think on my way back from the cafeteria in how far we as leaders and colleagues in companies and corporations can foster the tedious process of behavioral change and make it easier for the individual to adapt to it.

After all, procrastination may cause loss of productivity because most people are not happy that they delay their activities.

I came across some suggestions for team leaders and managers in Kevin Burns’ blog that I would like to share with you.

His Top 3 list of advice contains the following items:

  1. Break down projects into digestable pieces: The shorter the deadline, the less possibility for the procrastinator to delay the work
  2. Always ask the procrastinator for the status when you see him or her and do it in public. This will help to develop reliability.
  3. If a procrastinator does not deliver on time, show consequences and pass on work to a good worker

These pieces of advice sound convincing, but I am sure they would not work in all types of corporate culture. “Forced control” mechanisms like these might lead to more sophisticated ways to achieve procrastination in the long-term and might even develop mistrust between leader and employees.

I would, hence, rather favor measures, which help the employee remain accountable for putting off the work, and avoid patterns, which require permanent interventions by the manager. Measures that I prefer see the manager or leader in the role of a temporary coach so that the employee can really find out the reasons why the work is getting delayed so very often.

A coaching relationship would be the first step to a real cure, not just fighting the symptoms. This, of course, would only work if the manager is not a messy procrastinator him- or herself. As we all know, overworked managers have a tendency to procrastinate, too.

What do you think about these suggestions? Which ones would work for you? How can you as a leader help your employees heal procrastination?

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——————–
Dr. Bärbel Bohr owns “Bärbel Bohr – Projekte mit System”
Lecturer at HSR Hochschule für Technik / Rapperswil (Switzerland)
She inspires success in leaders & students on communication & culture awareness

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Mentoring in the Workplace: Spreading the Knowledge

Sharing Knowledge

We often hear about the need for gaining and sharing organizational knowledge to further our careers, reach our goals (and create new ones), and make connections in various industries.

One of the best ways to share knowledge is also a vital part of the leadership toolkit – mentoring.

Mentoring in the Workplace

Mentoring is an essential leadership skill, and encompasses the professional development of others. Mentors show others the ropes, answer questions, and guide mentees in the direction they need to go.

When a new employee first meets with a mentor, the first question often is this:

What can you tell me about your experience at this organization?

Mentees must get oriented to their working environment and learn how to handle the challenges it poses. The mentor serves as a guide through those challenges with advice and constructive criticism, while paving the way to the mentee’s next goal or challenge.

Throughout the process, mentors build on their acumen as leaders and information sharers.

Sharing Knowledge

Sharing organizational knowledge is an invaluable part of mentoring, as much as it is a way to keep an organization’s business practices. Mentoring to share knowledge is different from traditional mentoring, in that there is more emphasis on practical applications than on organizational culture or building networks.

The key is to combine both types of mentoring.

Sharing information about an organization and teaching about its culture, mentors offer mentees a richer experience and a more complete picture of the organization and its needs.

Types of Knowledge

Knowledge management (KM) is the process of capturing, distributing, and using knowledge, and considers an integrated approach to sharing the information assets of a given organization. These assets include policies, databases, documents, procedures, and the expertise and experiences of individual employees.

KM looks primarily at two types of knowledge, explicit and tacit, which are the primary types of knowledge imparted to employees, especially via mentoring; a third type, embedded knowledge, can be found in processes, organizational culture, and ethics.

  • Explicit knowledge is codified, and can be found in documents and databases.
  • Tacit knowledge is more intuitive and is rooted in experience, context, and practices.

Learning How to Teach

One way to look at mentoring is to imagine teaching someone how to ride a bike. The act of learning to ride the bike is the tacit knowledge, while a set of precise instructions on how to ride the bike is the explicit knowledge. And embedded knowledge is the “rules of the road” to keep in mind while riding the bike.

Establishing mentoring relationships are crucial to fostering leadership skills and professional development, both for mentors and mentees. Mentors ensure the transfer of organizational knowledge and offer guidance to those who may one day become leaders themselves; mentees benefit from learning about their roles and the organization.

So how are you doing at creating an atmosphere and workplace that actively relies upon sharing knowledge, experiences, and expertise? If you are not doing this, what steps can you take now to implement a process of systematic mentoring to help people learn, grow, and develop? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Linda R. Ranieri

Linda R. Ranieri is a Graduate Student in Communication
She works in the Medical Testing and Assessment Industry
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On Leadership and Overcoming a Crisis

By Jack Davis

Lemonade

Make no mistake about it, there will be moments when a crisis strikes. Life has a way of making sure that plenty of lemons come our way.

And it seem that none of us can escape this truth.

Leaders often have to manage through crisis. This can only be done with good information. Because of a crisis, you may feel like your life has been a waste. But don’t worry… there are plenty of chances to turn those lemons into something good.

Mistakes are Inevitable

In my experience, no one is always happy, excited, or hopeful. We may not always see progress. At times we see things slipping backwards. Sometimes through no fault of our own, yet often through our own mistakes as well. Everyone makes mistakes, the mistake is not the important part, the lesson is.

Here is a key truth to overcoming our mistakes:

Admitting your mistake quickly positions you to extract wisdom from it

That’s right. You learn when you admit your mistakes openly and transparently.

Laugh them off, brush them off, learn the lesson, and move on to your next (even greater) accomplishment!

You see, pain births a willingness to change. No matter what has to change around you, the first thing to change is YOU. Renew your mind to what a crisis is to you.

These steps may help:

Understand that your feelings are created by your focus

What you are focusing on determines how you feel. Here are a few ways to change your feelings:

  • Through focus
  • Through music
  • Through the people around you
  • Through praise

And if you are so inclined…

  • Through worship

Understand that your feelings can change as quickly as they arrived

Did you suddenly get upset at something? Then you are able to suddenly get happy again! It’s all a matter of what you decide to focus on. That will get your joy back.

Nothing is ever as bad as it first appears

What you see as a loss is actually an investment – if you perceive it through new eyes. Bad times can activate great relationships. Think about it, when the bad time hit, your fair weather friends left, didn’t they? But your true friends stuck with you. Your relationship with them is now cemented even better than before. What a wonderful gift to receive! Absolutely priceless in my book.

Quitting does not improve your life

WOW, WOW, WOW! This one hit me strongly the first time I read it. It just never occurred to me that QUITTING HAS NO REWARD. What does quitting give you? Regret, guilt, shame, more fear, less faith. Nope, I don’t want any of those, I’ve had enough of feeling those things. So I have decided today that I’m not quitting. How about you?

Endurance is a bridge

Everyone walks through a wilderness experience. Everyone walks through the rough places. Everyone experiences crisis, even those who seem to “have it all together.” Get real. They don’t. If you could see deeper into their lives, you would see that they don’t have it all together.

Instead, see that your endurance will increase access to someone – a friend, someone to help you, someone to encourage you, someone to help you solve the problem.

Your endurance is a testimony of encouragement to others

Someone is watching your life. Someone is learning from what you are doing. Someone is secretly rooting for you to win. People love to see the underdog win. So if you are feeling like that underdog today, take courage in knowing that when you do win, it will be a heroic and inspirational story! You will encourage others with it! So today, allow encouragement to sink in. You will win if you do not give up.

Always know that I am here to help put things in perspective and to be your friend and encourager!

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——————-
Jack Davis

Jack Davis is a John Maxwell Certified Success Coach and Speaker
He serves as Coach, YouthMax Speaker & Board Member Team Xtreme Ministries
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Send Them to a Movie, Don’t Train Them!

by A.D. Roberts

Movie

People love training when it’s entertaining and they enjoy themselves.

They like it when the training gives them information that provides hope. Hope that their life will get easier, that the organization will be more successful, that their job security is enhanced, etc.

It’s good when you leave a training session fired up and ready to go use the techniques that you’ve learned. It’s good when you feel you’ve learned all the information you need to solve your workplace problems.

What’s bad is—thinking the training session alone will change anything!

Do What You’re Told!

People do not learn from being told or exposed to the information one time. Research shows we need an average of six exposures to the information with reinforcement (using the information you were exposed to) between the exposures to retain the information.

Of course the complexity of the task and each individual’s previous life experiences are just a couple of the factors that will determine how many exposures to the information being trained the individual will need.

Do the Math

I’ve done training programs costing hundreds of thousands of dollars with multiple sessions of in-depth information. I always advise management that in order for a training session to have a positive effect, the participants must have multiple exposures to the information.

Since I am only paid to deliver the information once, the organization (with my help) must use other methods to ensure that everyone gets their multiple exposures. It can be structured and timed e-mails that require a response to all participants. Or it can be a strategically placed sign with key elements of the training. Or even supporting audio materials playing in the break room, etc.

I offer clients a number of different ways to give their participants multiple exposures at no additional cost. Even when it’s easy and inexpensive, many clients do not provide follow-up activities and methods for multiple exposures.

The truth is, if you are not going to provide the necessary multiple exposures then, “SEND THEM TO A MOVIE, DON’T TRAIN THEM!” It will only be an entertaining waste of money that way.

Square Peg, Square Hole

Square PegAnother critical aspect of training retention is adjusting organizational policy and procedures to fit the new requested methods of behavior. Once individuals are trained to perform through new and different procedures and techniques, their evaluation and performance procedures and policies must be altered to support the new behaviors, If they are not, then they are forced to return to the old behaviors.

People cannot do something differently if they are forced down an opposing path.

One of the reasons I have observed to explain this phenomena is a lack of participation from the decision-makers (management) in the training. If management does not fully understand the information being delivered, they cannot adjust the policies and procedures to fit the requested behaviors and procedures.

If you aren’t going to change the policies and procedures to support the purchased training, “SEND THEM TO A MOVIE, DON’T TRAIN THEM!”

Big Picture

As a professional trainer, coach, and consultant, my mission is to share information that makes my clients more profitable, gives them a better work environment, increases customer satisfaction, and builds individual and organization success.

Entertaining people is fun; however, educating them so they can achieve their goals and aspirations in life is much better! Make training count! Give your team the information but also the supporting elements that ensure their retention of that information and organizational success.

So please take this REAL advice:

DON’T TAKE THEM TO A MOVIE, TRAIN THEM RIGHT!

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——————–
Tony Roberts
A. D. Roberts is President/CEO of A. D. Roberts Consulting, Inc. in North Augusta, SC
He helps with Leadership & Interpersonal Communication Consulting & Training

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The Essence of Life and Leadership

Learn Lead

“Emotions transform energy; energy creates movement; movement is change; and change is the essence of life.”  ~Darren Weissman 

Did you know?

  • Only 20-50% of re-engineering efforts succeed [1]
  • Only 28% of information technology projects are successful [2]
  • Only 33% of corporate mergers are successful [3]
  • 50% of firms that downsize experience a decrease (not increase) in productivity. [4]
  • 75% of all change efforts fail to make any dramatic improvements. [5]
  • An astonishingly high percentage of failed projects had excellent technical plans. [6]
  • Failure to change is the primary source of organizational failure.5

Empowering Interface

These dismal revelations about change management success and failure come right out of the research of real organizations, real projects, real managers, and real leaders.  If we were grading leaders and managers on their change management report card, they would get a ‘C,’ at best.

And wouldn’t you agree that, like life, change is arguably also the essence of leadership?

While there are many change management models, if there is one thing that would help your organization dramatically improve the quality of outcomes, it is empowering interface.  That’s what researchers from the University of Bath and George Washington University called it.5

Empowering interface occurs when executive leadership empowers middle management to interface comfortably between executives and frontline employees breaking down silos and enabling both macro and micro variables to change and cascading empowerment across the firm.

This process requires executive transparency and a “change sponsor” or “change champion.”

Change Champion

What does it mean?

It means that executives need to change the way they look at change.  In order to be successful at change leadership and management, you must break down the silos between executive and frontline levels using middle management, create a safe climate, and generate empowerment and trust through transparency and responsiveness.

If there is not open two-way communication and action, change efforts could be doomed.

Empowering middle management, especially with increasing discourse between executives and frontline, greatly increases the odds of success.

Exactly How to Fail

Macro initiatives designed solely by executives (no middle management or frontline input) creates a “closed system” or silos and spreads disempowerment (through rumors, false assumptions, and miscommunication) and that cultivates strong resistance.  Put another way, when change initiatives are rammed down people’s throats and without involvement, expect contempt, defiance, subversion, and eventually failure.

Successful change leadership and management are all about communication, relationships, empowerment, respect, and responsiveness.

This sounds a lot like love, if you ask me.

Work-Out and CAP

Jack Welch and Steve Kerr of GE developed one of the most well-known and successful change models in the late 80’s and early 90’s and used it successfully at GE.6  They called it “Work-Out.”  Similar to a “time out,” those on a change project take a “work-out” from typical bureaucratic practices and behaviors and instead rely on continuous focus, efficient decision-making, and accelerated implementation.

The Change Acceleration Process (CAP) part of Work-Out became popular because of its effectiveness and has since been marketed to many other institutions and industries.

It is no coincidence that a significant portion of CAP – the first four (of seven) steps – are exactly what the researchers describe as empowering interface above.

They call them:

1.  Leading change
2.  Creating a shared need
3.  Shaping a vision
4.  Mobilizing commitment

The last steps in CAP are:

5.  Making change last
6.  Monitoring progress
7.  Changing systems and structures

Change is at the very essence of life and leadership and “resistance to change” doesn’t have to be a given – at least not strong resistance.

Both the research and successful organizational change models like CAP are telling us that when people are involved in the change process, not only does cooperation increase, but the quality of the outcome dramatically improves, as well.

So how do you effect change with those you lead and your extended team?  What is the change management and leadership model and philosophy were you work or lead?  Do you or your organization even have it defined?  What steps can you take today to improve it?  What other models or techniques have helped you and your organization arrive at successful outcomes?

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Alan Mikolaj

Alan Mikolaj is a Professional and Inspirational Trainer, Keynote Speaker & Author
He is the author of three books and holds his Master of Arts  in Clinical Psychology
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[1] Strebel, P. (1996, May/June). Why do employees resist change? Reprinted in Harvard Business Review on change in 1998. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing, pp. 139–157.
[2]
Farias, G., & Johnson, H. (2000). Organizational development and change management: Setting the record straight. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 36, 376–379.
[3] Dinkin, D. (2000). Unlocking the value of M & A. The Banker, 150(895), 118.
[4] Appelbaum, S.H., Everard, A., & Hung, L.T.S. (1999). Strategic downsizing: Critical success factors. Management Decision, 37(7), 535–552.
[5] Raelin, J.D. & Cataldo, C.G. (2011). Whither middle management? Empowering interface and the failure of organizational change. Journal of Change Management, 11(4), pp.481-507.
[6] Von Der Linn, B. (2009). Overview of GE’s Change Acceleration Process (CAP). Retrieved August 24, 2013, from Bob Von Der Linn’s HPT Blog: http://bvonderlinn.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/overview-of-ges-change-acceleration-process-cap/

 

Leaders: You Do Not Need to Be Nice to Be Kind

Kindness is not softness, it is not weakness, and it doesn’t always have to be nice.

In fact, sometimes kindness requires you to be tough and direct. I have seen the misinterpretation of this word negatively impact many organizations.

Leadership Mistakes

Leaders, in an attempt to be kind, move under-performing employees from position to position in the hopes that they will finally succeed or at least survive. Others allow deadlines to pass without repercussion or avoid having that fierce conversation that is needed in order to drive improvement and productivity.

Many of these leaders have adopted this style of kindness out of a reaction from working with or for a tyrannical ruler. They have witnessed how ineffective fear is in motivating people and driving an organization forward.

However, in an effort to be the antithesis of what they witnessed, they too have become ineffective.

Some are just new to their leadership role and worry about being liked. They lack the self-confidence needed and therefore, spend much of their time trying to please who that work for them.

But, neither of these is true kindness.

Leadership Wisdom

People need to understand where they stand, how they need to improve and what is at risk if they don’t.

Kindness requires empathy, honesty and trust. It means that at times you must be a mirror, reflecting back to a person the impact of their habits and behaviors.

Feedback, constructive criticism and accountability are all forms of kindness. People need to understand where they stand, how they need to improve and what is at risk if they don’t.

Leadership Looking Glass

It means that at times you must be a mirror, reflecting back to a person the impact of their habits and behaviors.

It may be counterintuitive, but letting someone go from their job could be a great act of kindness. For that individual, it very well may be that you are releasing them from the pain of being in the wrong job, giving them the freedom to finally pursue one that better fits their skills.

It could also be that difficult but teachable moment, where someone with a sense of entitlement finally realizes in fact they are not. Although no longer employed by you, they are now much better prepared for their next employment opportunity.

Maybe most importantly, it is an act of kindness to the rest of the organization.

It can be so demoralizing to be hard-working, a driven performer and not see those who aren’t be held accountable for their lack of performance.

Leadership Courage

When we care about others, we don’t want to be the cause of any pain or suffering.

No one relishes having difficult conversations or enjoys taking tough action. When we care about others, we don’t want to be the cause of any pain or suffering. But, avoiding those conversations and failing to take the needed action can be far more damaging in the long run.

Not only damaging to that individual, but also, to the efficacy of your own leadership and to the organization as a whole. Kindness requires that you push past your own discomfort and insecurity to take the needed action that best serves the interest of the company you help to lead.

You do not need to be nice to be kind. But, you must make people feel heard, cared for, valued and respected.

It is also essential that you always act with integrity and honesty and, that you have the conversations and take the action needed to best serve the organization you represent.

If you do all that, you are in fact a kind leader.

Remember: You do not need to be nice to be kind.

Thanks for reading.

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Elliot Begoun

Elliot Begoun is the Principal Consultant of The Intertwine Group, LLC.
He works with companies to Deliver Tools that Enable Growth
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Leaders: Be a Mirror Unto Yourself

How to Create More Mental Space to Drive Success

Mindfulness

As leaders, we are encouraged to meet people. You know, network, get close to key influencers and difference makers. 

This makes sense. And I do believe a vast personal and professional network is important.”

However, I would suggest that in order to grow, the most important person you need to get familiar with is yourself. Self-knowledge can be transformational.

On Personal Mindfulness

My favorite place to hang out is in my head. I find it an interesting place to be. It can be funny, crazy and, every once in a while, heavy. I spend this time both formally and informally. I consider myself a student of my own mind and the thoughts that it produces.

Mindful MirrorI feel this is a great use of my time. I know there is a real benefit. I am more in tune to the way I will react in a given situation. I’ve recognized the things I meet head on and those from which I retreat.

I’ve learned that a thought is merely a passing cloud and not a real construct from which I must act. Most importantly, I have created space in my head.

I have learned how to catch myself in a thought, before acting on it. The side benefit of doing so is that I take myself far less seriously. I find the workings of my mind and the habits it churns out very funny. Being able to laugh at those captured thoughts has loosened the grip they could have on me.

On Powerful Routines

I have a daily meditation practice. I would encourage everyone to add this to their routine. To sit and watch your mind is far more entertaining than any reality TV show. When you realize that a thought, regardless of how visceral or powerful it may feel, is no more than a wave, rising and falling away, it can be truly liberating.

We you recognize that it is your choice whether or not to feed that thought with the energy needed for it to manifest, it is really powerful.

I find casual “mind time” in a myriad of ways. For example, while driving, walking or just sitting out back. It is my place of refuge, my sanctuary.

I go there when I need to step off of life’s merry-go-round.”

As an introvert, I sometimes retreat into the inner sanctum of my mind in large social settings when the cacophony of conversation becomes too much. Oddly, doing so has also helped me to recognize this behavior. I have become more mindful of this tendency and, therefore, less likely to just check out.

Your Mind’s Own Reflection

I believe that spending time, looking at your mind’s own reflection makes you a better giver of time to others. It helps you listen more fully. You are more aware of your habit driven reactions or those propelled by ego and insecurity.

You become more present, which is a wonderful gift to offer another.”

We are just so frequently not there, in that moment. It is something the receiver will undoubtedly notice.

I have been working on this for years. In terms of catching my thoughts before acting on them, my batting average is far lower than I care to admit. But, I understand that it is a practice because habit energy is hard to break. Creating space and slowing things down is difficult, yet, over time, I see it happening more and more frequently.

I emerge from the time spent inwardly able to more fully meet this moment outwardly. I am more present for those I interact with and a better giver of my time. By being a mirror unto myself, I’ve become more effective in my interactions with others and frankly, I like myself a bit more.

So how are you doing at being mindful with yourself? How could the right kind of “playing around in your mind” help you become a better person who can lead others better? What steps can you take now to settle into a mindful routine that helps you learn, grow, and become a better leader? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Please join our GROW Community. We will share helpful articles, tips, tools and videos. We will never share your email address.

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Elliot Begoun

Elliot Begoun is the Principal Consultant of The Intertwine Group, LLC.
He works with companies to Deliver Tools that Enable Growth
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Leading Through Fear

Fear is a Liar

It happens even to the best and most experienced leader – fear.

Facing Your Fear

It may be a fear of the ‘Great Recession,’ a fear that your position or career is in jeopardy, a fear that you personal life is suffering or the fear that you may have chosen the wrong profession.  The fear may be on your mind every day or it may be hidden in your subconscious.

Whatever your fear is and wherever it may lie, if you’re a leader, you still need to present a picture of strength to the people you lead.

So – how do you do it?

“As fear is based on something that we think may happen in the future, it is clearly a mental process which tries to predict the future – in that sense, the reason of fear is a projection of our mind.View on Budhism

Leading through fear requires two basic things…

  1. Always presenting a strong and confident public persona
  2. Fully understanding, confronting, and moving past your fears.

Your Public Persona

Present a Strong and Confident Public Persona

ConfidenceAs a leader, you are looked at to provide direction, coaching, mentoring, vision, strategy, and many other things for your team.  For an inexperienced leader who is facing fear for the first time, providing the things your organization needs can be difficult or even impossible to accomplish some times.

Most young leaders who experience fear for the first time while leading either struggle with presenting a strong and confident persona and not feeling like they are lying to their team or revert to a controlling and almost dictatorial style of leadership.

What they don’t realize is that, internal struggles like those in option 1 can be paralyzing and cause them to be inefficient leaders and extreme measures like those in  option 2 can lead to them losing team members and possibly even their job.

Presenting a strong and confident persona while experience fear is neither lying nor being two-faced, it is in fact, a skill that every great leader must develop.  Great leaders aren’t the ones who avoid fear or never fear anything, they are the ones who feel fear, confront it, use it to push them to great decisions and pull their team through.

“Regardless of the route we choose, fear is a fact of life. Although many of us have been taught that fear is negative, fear can be a good emotion. It is like a warning signal to be aware, to be prepared. Managed effectively, fear can teach us to look out for ourselves and make decisions that are right for us.” Find a Mentor

When leading through fear, a leader must also avoid turning into a dictator and trying to control everything.  While this desire to control everything is a natural reaction to many fears, it can also lead to more conflicts and issues than it solves.  In short – while controlling things make us feel better, the feeling of being controlled by someone else is not a very good feeling for people around us.

Understand, Confront, Move Past Your Fears

First – determine if the fear is real or imagined.

This is sometimes difficult to accomplish – especially when it comes to a work situation.  For example, you hear about layoffs at the company where you work.  Your team hears the same rumors as you do and confronts you about them.  At the beginning, everyone is feeling the same fear – the fear of being laid off.  However, until you get conformation one way or another, you must present a confident persona to your team and give them the confidence they need to continue performing at a high level.

At this point, the fear of being laid off is technically real.

As time goes on, you are told by your direct manager that the layoff will not affect anyone in his/her group.  You hold meetings with your staff and let them know that you have been told that you’ve been told the layoffs will not affect them group.  As long as you have built trust within your group, they will believe you and their fear will subside.

More time passes and it’s announced that your division will be going through a re-organization and that, in a few weeks, you and your entire group will be working for another manager.  This is scheduled to happen after the layoffs are basically complete.

At this point, the fear of being laid off could be either real or imagined.

More time passes and the unfortunate happens, as the transition to the new group is in progress, someone is laid off.  This is bound to create tension in the group and leave people in a state of fear for their own jobs.  They also may begin to distrust management as the layoff for your group has become a reality.

Second – if the fear is real, confront in head on.

Now that the fear of someone in the group being laid off has become reality and that they group knows they may be next, a number of things must happen.

First, you must explain to the group why the layoff hit your group when you said it wouldn’t.  Everybody understands that things change. Everybody understands that business changes and sometimes deeper cuts are necessary.  Also, everybody understands if an organization is re-evaluated and found to be too heavy in one area or another.

The key here is to be open, honest and transparent.

Second, you must start to rebuild trust.  Maybe take the team out for lunch or host an offsite event.  Your team will need time away from the office in a non-threatening environment to voice their questions and concerns.  Possible even consider involving Human Resources or another third-party to ensure all fears, concerns, questions, and so forth come to light.

Only by acknowledging and confronting our fears can we move on.

So what is your experience with leading through fear? Do you have challenges at your organization when frightening news is rifling through your team’s psychological network? What do you do to calm fears and bring people down a calmer path? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Chris M. Sprague
Chris Sprague is a Visionary Servant Leader
He strives to bring out the best in everyone
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