• During an annual performance review a manager ‘water downs’ feedback because he doesn’t want to upset his staff member
  • An employee calls in sick because he doesn’t feel he can cope with his cranky and pessimistic supervisor
  • A new director remains silent about her opinion of company strategy because she doesn’t want to be viewed as critical or negative by her peers
  • A manager decides not to run a critical decision past his director because the last time he was scolded for not showing more initiative
  • An entire team is putting energy into ‘treading carefully’ around an overly critical co-worker
  • Feeling overwhelmed and unsupported a supervisor heads to HR to file a formal complaint against her manager
  • No one is telling the VP of operations everyone is afraid to give her feedback
These are just some of the behaviours leaders report to me as prevalent within their workplaces. While these scenarios represent diverse situations and people they also all have one thing in common: Decision making led by fear. Fear of what might happen with another choice. Fear of dealing with human difficulty, drama or conflict. Fear of not being able to cope with the impacts of a candid conversation.

Fear is the biggest inefficiency in organizations today

When we make choices out of fear it holds us back from sharing honestly with others and keeps us from having the important discussions necessary to advance issues and problems. Even worse our energy goes into avoidance, defensive or resistance behaviours which comprises information flow, stymies cooperation and blocks learning. We start justifying our actions instead of evaluating their impact and value. The cost of decision making led by fear is staggering. The sum accumulation of withholding feedback, absenteeism, silent leadership, and complaints/grievances/litigation equates to low trust/confidence in leadership, high levels of stress/anxiety and significant losses of revenue.

It doesn’t have to be this way

Fear can only influence our decision making if we let it. We can become better at managing how we respond to difficult circumstances by developing certain abilities. The more deliberate and disciplined we become around these abilities or competencies the more they act like kryptonite dissipating fear’s hold on us.

The Remedies to Fear

Fear can only influence our decision making if we let it. We can become better at managing how we respond to difficult circumstances by developing certain abilities. The more deliberate and disciplined we become around these abilities or competencies the more they act like kryptonite dissipating fear’s hold on us.

Calm – Our ability to have physiological, emotional and psychological poise in highly uncomfortable situations is the foundation for positive decision making. Self-regulation is key to successfully manage all conflict.

Optimism – Steadfastly believing in the potential for a positive outcome even in the most challenging of circumstance. Knowing every problem we encounter has a fulfilling solution can motivate us to navigate seemingly impossible situations.

Self Awareness – Knowing and appreciating our triggers in regard to fear is necessary in order to help neutralize its influence. Everyone has a unique autobiography and the more we know how our life story has shaped our relationship toward difficult moments the better we are able to successfully manage them.

Connection – Having strong, supportive relationships with others is a meaningful resource in troubling times . Robust and positive relationships with people who ‘have our back’ is equated with being able to more willingly delve into risky and uncomfortable territory. Knowing we are not alone is an invaluable support when needing to make tough decisions.

Truth Telling – The ability to discern relevant information and feedback and having tangible and positive skills to share and discuss. So often we diminish what is actually meaningful and exaggerate the irrelevant (drama!) in order to avoid an uncomfortable truth. The only way to change a current reality is to first fully acknowledge it exists.

Integrity – Aligning our behaviours with clear purpose and steadfast values. When we have unshakeable focus on what is really important to us it weakens the grip of fear. Having strong congruence between our inner self and outer self is an essential component of well being.

Resilience – Developing an ability to turn pain into power by leaning into our tough situations and doubling down on what we can learn from them. This enables us to recover quicker from setbacks and failures and to continue to push forward toward best outcomes despite the presence of fear.

Each of these seven competencies is learnable and offers us a way through fear creating a stronger capacity to meaningfully and effectively address our problems.

Bottom line: Leaders at all levels within organizations can develop their abilities to better manage fear thus ensuring more positive outcomes and greater well being.

Your organization needs you to be the boss of fear.

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Download The Conflict Manifesto

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Enter your name and email and we'll send you our downloadable Conflict Manifesto, so you can jump start a more positive and effective relationship with conflict

Please check your email for your downloadable Conflict Competency Test!

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