We're leading in an age of anxiety.
The people we work with, live with and serve are being fed a daily diet of disaster from the news media and political parties that have a vested interest in fueling their irrational fears. In addition, some of their co-workers, clients and family members are adding more fear to their fire.
However, fear is not the enemy...it's their friend. The people we lead and love could not thrive, or even survive, if they had no fear. The problem is the never-ending negativity causes most people to worry about things they can't control.
The Serenity Prayer is a great reminder to me of where I should be investing my time and energy.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
As a leader in your workplace, family and community, you have a responsibility to help other people turn their fear into positive action. Most people can't win the fight against fear by themselves. They need someone like you to help them create a desire for achieving a positive goal that is stronger than the fear that is holding them back.
Unfortunately, most leaders assume everything is okay because it's easy for someone to appear fearless to a leader who is always putting out fires or too busy with other projects to have meaningful coaching conversations with them.
Next week, I encourage you to schedule one-on-one meetings with your five most important relationships. Before each meeting, remind yourself that everyone is afraid of something and someone who's dealing with fear does not need a cheerleader or advice. They just need someone who is willing to ask them good open-ended questions and really listen to their answers.
I recommend you ask these five questions in your first meeting:
What's one thing you really want to do this year but you're a little afraid to do it?
Why is it important for you to do something this week to make progress toward reaching that objective?
What are all the benefits of doing what you say you want to do this week?
How are you going to get started today?
How can I help you?
One very successful leader I was coaching agreed to do this exercise with all of his direct reports. To his amazement and disbelief, one member of his team said that it was the only time in 15 years that they had lunch together to just talk about how he was doing.
Nothing you'll accomplish as a leader will be more important than helping other people develop the habit of turning their fear into positive action. It's worth the time to put meetings on your calendar every week and challenge others to act in the face of their fear. This one activity will do more to increase the health, happiness and productivity of the people you coach than any other investment you can make.
However, just having a meeting and creating a plan does not mean they are going to execute it.
If five people in your organization were sitting together at a networking event and three of them decide to get up and introduce themselves to some potential clients, how many will be left sitting at the table? The answer is five, because there is a huge gap between deciding to do something and actually doing it.
Changing behavior is hard for anyone, especially those who are trying to overcome fear.
If you're going to influence and inspire others to face their fears, you have to do one more thing. You have to have the courage to show them how you're turning your fears into positive action. Soon you will all be winning your daily battle with fear and bringing out the best in each other in the process.