10 Incapacitating Leadership Mistakes You Make When Youre Scared

10 Incapacitating Leadership Mistakes You Make When You’re Scared

“This guy opened his door and hit your car!” Sebastian, our 12-year-old, announced as Karin and I returned to the car, our arms full of office supplies. He pointed out a small scratch on the door. We laughed about it and how the guy was surprised to find someone in the car he’d just scratched.

The thing is, I don’t mind a few scratches on my car. You can’t speed something down the road at 60 miles per hour, expose it to rain and road debris and expect it to emerge unscathed.

If you’re scared of scratching your car, you’ll never leave the garage. The only way to keep a car in ‘showroom’ condition is to leave it there.

Your Leadership Showroom

Fear is part of the leadership experience. You may fear ruining relationships, damaging your reputation, or even losing your job. When you lead, you’ll probably have anxiety and fear as you face the unknown and take risks to move your team and organization forward.

It’s normal to have these fears.

But if you don’t learn how to manage the fears that come with leadership, you’ll stay in “the showroom.”

10 Incapacitating Leadership Mistakes You Make When You’re Scared

Unmanaged fear incapacitates you and leads to a range of leadership mistakes. These insidious mistakes are dangerous because they can feel rational.

  1. You don’t deal with the very thing that needs attention.

You know that feeling of unease that creeps up and prompts you to procrastinate or avoid doing something?

Listen to it.

But instead of doing what it says (avoiding the problem), use it as an alarm calling for your attention. The thing you feel like avoiding is exactly what should have your full attention. Dive in and get it done.

  1. You lose credibility.

Even if you don’t tell them what’s going on, your team will figure it out. When you’re paralyzed with fear, your leadership credibility slowly erodes.

  1. You feel like you’re all alone.

When you’re scared, you forget your team. This one is particularly brutal because it cuts you off from one of your greatest strengths. Your team is smart and by working together you can figure it out and get it done…but not if fear isolates you. When you’re alone or isolated, things grow out of proportion.

Reconnect with your team to get a healthy perspective and engage many more minds in solving the problem.

  1. You react and create chaos.

Have you ever had a squirrel get inside your house? They are scared and panicked. Every little noise or motion sends them scampering back and forth, climbing up the walls, knocking over everything. It’s chaos!

When you’re scared, you can do the same thing and leave your people frustrated and confused about their M.I.T.s (Most Important Thing) and expectations.

  1. You give up your ability to create the future.

When you’re motivated by fear, you stop building a positive future as you try to just avoid problems. You can’t inspire your team with a message of “Let’s try not to fail…”

Instead, examine and prepare for the actual (not imagined) consequences.

Your mind can play tricks on you and grow imagined problems to epic proportions. This is why listening to your fear is important. What is it you’re scared of? What would actually happen if that came to pass? What would you do then?

If you can find people who have been in the same situations and learn what they did, that’s even better. The point is to reduce the imagined problem to real-life, know you can handle it, and build a positive future together.

  1. You clamp down on information.

In the absence of information, people fill in the blanks with all sorts of pathological nonsense.

And yet, when you’re afraid, you often stop the flow of information (because you worry about communicating the wrong thing or aren’t sure who you can trust). This feeds into the isolation that cuts you off from the very people that can help you.

  1. You avoid risks and end personal growth.

When you worry too much about making mistakes, you don’t take risks. When you don’t take healthy risks, you stop learning new things…and you stop learning altogether. Leaders who don’t grow lose credibility.

Perfectionists and high achievers sometimes let fear paralyze them because they fear making a mistake. But even engineers launching a satellite into space know the margin of error within which they can operate.

Mistakes are a good thing. They mean you’re trying something new and stretching. Use them well.

  1. You won’t apologize, own, and correct mistakes.

When you’re frightened of being seen as a failure, you might not own up to it and apologize. Effective leaders have the humility to “Own the UGLY,” admit their vulnerabilities, and take responsibility for their mistakes.

  1. You become a victim.

Sustained fear erodes your ability to act. That’s the definition of a victim – “This happened and there’s nothing I can do.”

When fear leads to victimhood, one of the best antidotes is to re-empower your self. Do this by asking two simple questions:

What are the results I want to achieve?

What can I do to accomplish those results?

  1. You inspire fear in others.

This is the worst mistake of all because leaders recreate themselves.

Your team is learning from you. If you stay in fear-mode, it won’t be long before your team acts the same way and now you’ve multiplied the mistakes on this list across your entire team.

When you see your team afraid to make mistakes, over-reacting, and unable to build a positive future, it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror and see if they’re feeding off your fear.

Your Turn

Don’t let fear keep you in the showroom. We need you out there, making a difference. You’ll get a few scratches along the way – and that’s okay.

Overcoming your leadership fears takes time and practice. As you practice, you’ll find the situations that caused you two weeks of anxiety will only give you two hours of serious thought.

People with an extreme fear of spiders don’t overcome it by diving into a tank of spiders. They begin by reading about them, by spending time near them in a safe environment and work up to maybe even hold one.

What is the easiest step you can take? Is it to share your concerns with your team? Is it looking for someone who’s been in the same situation? Is it to write down the situation you need to address and plan for likely outcomes?

Leave us a comment and share: How do you manage your leadership fears, stay healthy, and keep your people moving forward?

Start Here to Inspire Your Team

“David, it’s a mess.” Barb ran her hand through her hair and sighed.

“I’ve been here 20 days and have met with people at every level and every department, asking what it’s going to take to turn things around.”

What a Mess

Barb had been appointed interim CEO by her Board of Directors after two executives in a row had resigned at the Board’s request. Employee retention had dropped to an all-time low in the history of the company, their finances were a wreck, and their institutional reputation was in jeopardy.

“One thing that keeps coming up.” She frowned. “Over and over again, I’ve heard these stories – about how people were told to do things with no explanation, how policies were set and then ignored by executives and those they favored, while everyone else was punished if they didn’t comply, and how no one saw or heard from their leaders apart from all-hands meetings or sudden, secretive disciplinary meetings.”

She shook her head, “These leaders were MIA and there’s no trust left anywhere.”

Can We Go Practice?

This conversation was fresh in my mind when Sebastian, our eleven-year-old budding magician asked if I would take him to a downtown street frequented by tourists so he could practice his magic skills.

If you’ve ever met Sebastian, he’s the epitome of “outgoing.” People frequently use the words “fearless” and “precocious” when talking about him. Nevertheless, when faced by the prospect of approaching strangers on the street (with me observing from a safe distance), he froze.

Stage fright set in. The fear of rejection paralyzed him and this normally outgoing kid turned into a shy wallflower.

I encouraged him to give it another try. I identified some likely prospects who looked like they wanted to be entertained, and I shared how success often is found on the other side of rejection.

 

Nothing worked.

Then he looked it at me and said, “If it’s so easy, you do it.”

Uh oh.

I tried redirecting.

No luck.

I protested, “I didn’t ask to come out here.”

He handed me the cards.

“I’ve already done this, I don’t need the practice.”

He folded his arms and tapped his foot expectantly.

I took the cards and scanned the crowd, searching for a friendly face, while fending off eleven-year-old heckling.

Finally, I found a likely prospect and proceeded to perform one of Sebastian’s tricks for a teenage boy, his mom, and his sister.

Ten minutes later Sebastian had earned a couple of dollars, lots of laughs, and was talking about how fun it was to perform for people.

The Fundamentals of Trust and Inspiration

As we walked home, I asked Sebastian what had changed for him that allowed him to go for it.

“I didn’t think I could do it, but…” he smiled, “when you did it, you showed me it was possible.”

Sebastian and Barb had identified two sides of the same leadership truth: your example sets the tone, builds trust, and makes the impossible possible.

Barb’s discovery of dysfunction was a vivid reminder of the importance of trust.

Can your people look at you and see you doing what you ask of them? Do you embody the “why” behind the “what” you ask of your team? Do you treat people consistently, justly, and transparently?

Most leaders we work with will say that they want to do these things.

They intend to live this way…but.

They get busy. They’ve got so much to do that they don’t take time to lead by example. They assume people will “just get it” or that someone else will make the connection and explain why this is important. Or they get impatient with the process, let their frustration get the best of them, and make poor employment decisions.

Your Turn

As Sebastian reminded me that afternoon as he shuffled his cards: you never outgrow the need to lead by example.

Leave us a comment and share: How do you ensure that you lead by example, even when you’re busy and overwhelmed?

Be the leader you want your boss to be,

David

Winning Against The Odds: Olympic Imperfection

The odds are against you. With all your imperfections, odds are: Someone else is more qualified, your marriage won’t last, your new business will fail, the publisher will reject you, you won’t win the election, or you’ll never make the olympic team.

“If we do what is necessary, all the odds are in our favor.”
~ Charles Buxton

Better to save your energy, and your pride.  Shoot for something more realistic.  Stay where you are.  Stick to what you know.  Where you are now, is not that bad, after all. Calculating the odds is prudent, but not always helpful.

Imperfect People, Winning Against the Odds

The Wall Street Journal article, Imperfect Bodies Chase Gold lifts up numerous, interesting examples of imperfect bodies, beating the odds. These athletes just weren’t cut out for their sport of choice. Until they were. Take hurdling star Lolo Jones, who decided it was time to bobsled.

When she first met Todd Hays, Olympic coach in 2012 he was skeptical: “I have her two chances to make the team, slim and none.” Hays says of their first encounter. To Hays, Jones was strong, but in the wrong way for bobsledding. Her muscles were long and sinewy and lacked the explosiveness to push a 375-pound sled.” Until it did.

The Wall Street Journal now reports, “countless squats and clean-and- jerks have given Jones thighs like tree trunks, a bulky rump reminiscent of a NFL running back and the shoulders of a lumber jack.” Not what I’m going for (don’t worry, Marcus), but it’s her dream…so game on.

Jones knows the odds are against her, which is all part of the fun:

“Yes, it’s my first Olympics,” Fenlator shared in a recent interview.” Yes, I’m an underdog or whatever you want to say. But I’m here on a mission. And I have expectations to do well. Thank goodness for expectations.

Will Lolo win? Perhaps. Not sure it matters. What would be far sadder is if she never chased her dreams.  No one wins a race they never start. Where will your imperfection take you?

7 Ways To Inspire Hope

He had all the signs and words of stuck. “I can’t” “No one will help.” “No options.” He’d stop trying to improve the situation and was looking to numb it. His “sports ready” stance had withered to hunched and clenched. He still had an occassional “wish” for a miracle. But, wishes without action are another side of hopeless.
And yet, from the outside looking in, I saw huge possibility, talent, and relationships worth leveraging. I yearned to help him adjust his lens to see new beginnings.

Why I Subscribe to Hope

Hope encourages hard work, risks, and meaning. Not the “want without work” kind of dreaming. The feeling deep in your gut that there’s something more.

I’m ridiculously yet pragmatically hopeful. Ridiculous, because I dream big and set goals beyond my reach. Practical because I work like a dog to make wishes come true.
Hope brought me through a divorce and into a loving marriage
Hope led to “impossible” jobs that made a difference
Hope in people transformed careers
Hope inspires my kids
Hope matters
Hope Inspires Others.

7 Ways to Inspire Possible

Leaders are ambassadors of possibility. When tired eyes look your way, engage them in gentle challenges. Help them realize more.

  1. Start with your own heart – Connect with possible. Remember feelings of turnaround and triumph. Export passion in your connection.
  2. Ask possibility questions – Sit with them in the silence of consideration before narrowing to questions of feasible.
  3. Discover stories of past success – First excavate positive feelings then connect to potential actions.
  4. Identify folks to crew the lifeboat – Who do they (and you) know who could help? Encourage the fortitude to ask for it.
  5. Open doors – Sure, they need to do the heavy lifting. But when your hands are full, it’s helpful when someone opens a door.
  6. Commit to continued support – Ensure that this is more than a one time “pep talk”
  7. Your turn – What would you add?

*Photo source: http://seattletimes.com/special/mlk/

How Do You Inspire Passion in Others?

What if you’re “skipping to work?,” but are having trouble igniting passion on your team? That’s more difficult, and a vital part of leadership.

Why Passion Matters

Jeremy Kingsley, author of the new book, Inspired People Produce Results shares 7 reasons passion is so important in the workplace.

Passion…

1. intensifies our focus
2. enables innovation and creativity
3. provides the drive to persevere, to avoid cutting corners and to pursue excellence
4. creates energy among colleagues that allows work to be completed more quickly
5. helps people deal with fear
6. makes employees want to stay in their jobs and contribute even when they’re not feeling at their bestv

When I spoke with Jeremy, we talked about why passion is sometimes hard to come by.

“Leaders have put so much focus on leveraging people’s strengths, that they forget about passion.”

For people to function at their very best we need to help them find the work that best leverages their strengths, AND which ignites their passion.

“If you don’t find the passion you might have a strong, miserable person.”

Jeremy suggests it begins in the hiring process. Ask people “what inspires you, what brings you joy?” And then be sure there is a close match with the job you are looking to fill. He also advocates for spending the time to really get to know your team. Talk with them about what they enjoy and their hobbies. Listen actively and see what makes their eyes light up that’s a clue to what can ignite their passion.

Jeremy’s book offers 9 other ways to “inspire people to produce results. Although Jeremy gave me this book, as you know, I am not selling, just sharing insights if fact you can read a free sample chapter.

Jeremy Kingsley is a professional speaker, best-selling author, and the President of OneLife Leadership. Since 1995 he has spoken to over 500,000 people at live events around the world. He has given over 2000 keynote speeches and his messages have reached millions through radio, television, and the internet. Jeremy holds bachelors and masters degrees from Columbia International University. He is the author of four books, his latest is titled: Inspired People Produce Results (McGraw Hill 2013)Jeremy lives in Columbia, South Carolina with his wife and two sons.