Let's face it. Fear is real. Perhaps you've felt it rise up in you with questions like,
Will I disappoint my boss?
Will I lose my job?
Am I doing a good job?
What if I make a mistake, and I lose people's trust?
What if people realize I don't really know all the answers and think I'm a fraud?
What if this isn't really my calling, and I fail?
What if I disappoint God?
If you have asked yourself these questions, then congratulations, you're normal.
Believe it or not, the presence of fear (even as a leader) in your workplace does not mean your workplace is unhealthy or that you or those leading you are somehow flawed. Fear is common to all mankind. The good news is, with these 10 insights to managing fear, you can overcome fear and help those you lead overcome it as well.
1. Recognize the Purpose of Fear
I read an article recently that said "Fear serves no purpose." And while I understand the author's point, as a Christian, I believe that fear does indeed have a purpose; a purpose manipulatively designed by the devil himself. Simply put, we must recognize the purpose of fear is to distract us from the work God has created us to do.
2. How You Respond to Fear Matters
There are some pretty common responses we all have to fear, responses that are deeply ingrained in our genetic makeup. They are responses that tell us to tuck our tails and run or to stand our ground and fight, regardless of who goes down in the process. Being aware of our fear and how we personally respond to it will help us combat its effect and power over us. It is not the presence of fear, but our response to fear (both as leaders and as individuals) that matters.
3. Be Aware of the Lizard Brain Response
Seth Godin refers to our inherent desire to run away from fear as our "lizard brain," a word phrase I love because it totally communicates the primal nature of this response. Perhaps you know this better as "fight or flight" but I think Seth is dead on with his description. And in truth, it reminds me to laugh at myself sometimes when I respond to fear in this way. Be aware of when you're in your lizard brain.
4. Release Your Stress
Fear creates stress, and stress makes us selfish, self-righteous, judgmental, and paranoid. And trust me, no one wants to be friends with THAT version of you. The more stressed you feel, the more you give into the effects of fear. It's a vicious cycle. When you feel stressed out, find a release for your stress. Take a walk, take a break, read a book . . . you know what works for you.
5. Don't Go Viral
Fear creates in us a viral response. I'm not talking social media viral response here folks, I mean a good ole' life-sucking virus. Fear creates in us an actual physical response. It begins with a knot in our stomachs, a heaviness in our chest, a weight on our shoulders, and spreads, well . . . like a virus, causing us to isolate ourselves lest others notice we are worried, withdrawn or worse yet, silently and passively angry.
6. There *IS* a Healthy Approach to Fear
As I said earlier, fear is real and it exists in the healthiest of environments. Understanding your response to fear is important, but it's equally important to approach fear in a healthy way. Ignoring it won't make it go away. Freaking out doesn't get you anywhere. Approaching fear with a healthy and godly mindset is not only possible, it's necessary.
7. Acknowledge it
In his book, Practicing Greatness, author and renowned leader, Reggie McNeal says, "The single most important piece of information a leader possesses is self-awareness. Great leaders are self-aware." This is especially true when it comes to fear. Recognizing that your thoughts and questions are rooted in fear is so important to how you respond to those thoughts. Simply acknowledging that fear is present can allow you to respond to it in a healthy way, making clear-headed (vs. boneheaded) decisions.