Fear is a primal human instinct, it has helped us survive the grey and grave threats of the cave life and generally caused our race to conceive and build secure places, plains, and things. We’ve come a long way though, the need to be watchful for constant threat is no longer a reality of modern life, a large part of civilization lives in responsibly put together safe surroundings. The evolutionary burden of finding fear and focusing on it, however, remains in our systems etched. As a result of which we crave for challenges and when threats do not actually exist, we invent them: loosely defining it for the sake of this article, and saying that psychological basis of over speeding, overeating, obsessive pursuit of various things can be in the crude form found in these instances.
Like us humans and our ways of life, our understanding and relationship with fear has also undergone change, not calling it evolutionary as I continue to maintain that fear is one such part of our being which will go extinct or should get eliminated right at the cusp of the progressive change over, right on that point where the old changes into the new irreversibly and forever. So, humans learn to live without fear. Ohh, who am I kidding, let’s just accept that it is not going to happen, but we can certainly work towards making fearless existent, as we move along? For a moment let’s get wishful and re-imagine our lives without fear – think for a moment, experiments will become the way of life, people would hesitate lesser in trying out newer ways of doing old things? Is that imaginary plot liberating? Well, if that felt like scary, uncertain, unstable and in the borderline of being insane; well it is that primal instinct doing its job, put it aside and imagine again. Does it feel better? Let me move ahead with the assumption that it did.
Physical and environmental threats and resulting fears have now got replaced with societal, professional, economical and even emotional fears. That is to say that we no longer fear about getting eaten by a lion but worry about missing a deadline, not succeeding at a project, not amassing enough wealth to support our ever-growing needs & desires, losing a friend, breaking up from what once felt like real relationship etc. How do we deal with this reality, we can find common ground in the fact that a scared mind is less likely to be home to thriving ideas. Unstable worried homes do not host pleasurable dinners when you are not in control, you do not create things that can take charge of situations, better, intuitively or make way for positive release if nothing else.
Fact is, we all have fears and we all need to overcome them, at some point in our lives. One theory in the study of fear is that if you own something more than average people you know that your fear of losing it is more prominent in permanent ways. Fear can send you on an overdrive, make you reductionist of some sort too. These are cases when you avoid sharing your gifts and your goods with others naturally. You feel like protecting what you have tightly and passionately at all times, so much so, that in the place of growing what you own, you place most of your efforts towards protecting it from others to avoid the imminent possibility of losing it, not sure if it helps to secure it, but it certainly takes your attention off the need to nurture what you have and in absence of that what you possess grows weak to the point that it fails to retain the same size and stature, it degenerates and then de-grows to a point, where we see our worst fears materialize conclusively: loss of the prized.
I have my set of fears too, like any other regular person. Do I deal with them? well, I do not know but what I do know is that I try to organize my thoughts and beliefs in a manner that least possible attention is rendered to the dark side: the trepidation. Does it work as designed 100% of the times, well, I have to be honest with you, it does not, sometimes it falls flat on its face dragging me further away from my plan. But expeditions are necessary, you will need to undertake them to fortify your plans. Apprehension immobilizes constructive thoughts and submitting to it can leave you paralyzed. Is ignorance the key to the solution? Nope, ignoring doesn’t help .. it is a dumb idea.
Freeze, flee or fight are three most common reaction to fear (Don’t agree with me, ask Robin Sharma, he says so in his recent book “The 5AM club); I dare you to choose the last one; You got to take it head-on. It can mean different things to different people. You are afraid of dark place .. try wrestling with a dark room in your home. Water puts you off the grid, try taking a swimming lesson. The idea of Public speaking leaves you all sweaty walk into a bar with an open mic, say what you have to and slip into the oblivion. These are simpler issues to deal with. What is slightly more complex and therefore interesting is creating fear free teams, workgroups & organizations. Before we go any further, let me say this is a fear-free organization doesn’t mean a place where accountability is not fashionable. It also not in any way is to be read as a group that is a target, aim or direction devoid. It is also not an absolute liberal hippy group which is never restrained: None of these.
Business leaders often make the mistake of believing that if they let it go easy, do not install a sense of fear among people who work for them, their workforce will become uncaring, unproductive and perhaps slow, derailing and delaying their ambitious growth plans. Some also hold that their group will become a depiction of the three situations that we have just stated. In fact, many believe fear is an effective tool for exercising control. “If you do not do this or achieve that: I will fire you”, you know that school of management? Let me say it is not completely useless a technique .. people do respond to these fears positively in the near term, the problem is that progressively, its impact keeps going down. In the sense that people develop resistance, you yell .. and then you yell harder and then you will need a mic and then a powerful loudspeaker or an amplifier etc. to express how concerned you are: this model with all its benefits is not a sustainable one. Exercised in long terms is largely ineffective as people no longer get moved by it as much as they did the first couple of times they were subjected to it.
There is no denying the fact that, there is a scarcity of aptly skilled people on top of it if you were to look at skillful and sincere people in large numbers, you are really in for a treasure hunt. Let’s just agree that there aren’t so many radially available and therefore business leaders are forced to rely on creating an atmosphere of fear to get lazy, insincere, semiskilled and unambitious people to move. And at some level, I empathize with them. You gotta admit that one person has put all his hard earned money and all his ‘time’, the time that he/she is never going to get back in building something that he/she is trying to put forward & when they see people play around .. picking fear comes naturally and it is not always a bad tool to choose it can be damaging if one chooses it more often than not.
In an organizational set up: constant anxiety cause these common behaviors
1) Wild spread coverup
2) An unending stream of lies
3) Mistrust and politicking
4) The high rate of attrition
5) The difficulty of hiring fresh talent.
We can all agree that these can never do any good.
So what is that we should then do? We certainly can’t let the place run unregulated. It will be stupid to let the unproductive continue unchecked. What is not working must be brought to an end and it is ok if the end is unemotional. What is however not essential that it will all get done in an environment of dread, worry, horror and phobia. You can be nice and decisive at the same time. It is not an either-or situation, for things to work in an organization it will require to be both at all times. In the process of being nice, you essentially will have to work towards creating a culture of transparency, a workplace that thrives on information and data and not perception and opinions. One that values and respects the need to maintain civility in all exchanges, written, verbal and even non-verbal without ceasing to be objective & descriptive, when needed.
Ditching fear will enable you to reap the benefits of positive psychology. Behavioral studies conducted in last two decades have all proven the fact that a happy mind is more creative, more focused, more responsible, more attentive and more WORKING then a mind cluttered with doubt, one that works overtime to avoid unpleasant situations. The behavior of the business leader or the organization should at no time be prohibitive. One simple test for that is.
Do your people come on their own to honestly explain to you that they have faulted, that they failed, that they are responsible? Or for fixing accountability do you have to push people across the corner? If pushing is that you find yourself doing then .. you have work to do. But if people come up on their own to admit; congratulations, you’ve created not just a happy and responsible organization but also a productive one.. because no time is now required to be wasted in fixing accountability and finding the responsible, the one at fault and you can quickly pick whatever went wrong and make progress from there.
The fear free atmosphere is GOLD!
And as far as productivity is concerns that is straight forward.
1) Give data validated meaningful targets to people
a. Give them time to study, research and come back with different views
b. Hear them out
c. Get buy-in for the target
2) Review performance
3) Call non-conformance out
a. Define tolerance
i. How many chances should you give?
4) Take process driven action
a. Date driven
b. Free of bias
c. Heartless, if that is what is needed.
With that, I end this first article of Jan 2019. I hope and pray that all fears in your life evaporate when you put the conscious effort to create resolves & results in your life.
Until next time, bye-bye!