Fear is an unfortunate but inevitable feeling for anyone in business, especially after years of a rollercoaster economy and stories of layoffs across the country. When disaster strikes, a business leader will naturally feel it too, but how they handle it may be key toward getting past it.
So what should CEOs and other high-ranking officials do in these scenarios? Here are a few tips.
Use fear as fuel
If there’s any business leader that would seem to be fearless, it’s Sir Richard Branson. He appears to be loaded with confidence, so being afraid of anything seems out of place. Not so, Branson says in a story for Forbes. He advises entrepreneurs to not be afraid of fear, but to turn it around and try to make something positive out of it. “Don’t worry if you are going through some tough times and fearing the worst, I guarantee you are not the only one feeling that way — I know I have in the past,” he writes. “The day after we launched Virgin Atlantic, the bank manager came to my house and threatened to shut us down. I pushed him out the front door and called my team to try and work out a way of solving this problem together. It was a very sweaty moment. A touch of the jitters sharpens the mind, gets the adrenaline flowing and helps you focus. It is important not to fear fear, but to harness it — use it as fuel to take your business to the next level. After all, fear is energy. Conquering your fear will allow you to take the required risks to make your business a success and try new innovative approaches to business problems.”
Own your mistakes
A leader will inspire no confidence if he or she passes blame or denies accountability when times are tough. It may be an extraordinarily difficult moment, but accepting the blame can go a long way toward personal growth and earning the respect of peers and staff. Brent Gleeson writes about this for inc.com. “Driven people hate failure more than anything in the world,” he says. “But you do not become a successful leader without having experienced failure along the way. Unfortunately, this is how most of us gain wisdom. When leading a team, failure can come in many forms. Making bad financial decisions. Bringing in the wrong people. Overpromising and under delivering. Inconsistency. Not properly communicating the vision and what everyone’s role is in mission success. The list goes on and on. But failure is inevitable. When you make mistakes, own them and let the team know what you are going to do starting today to right the ship. Be as prepared as you possibly can and make adjustments along the way.”
Accessibility and relationships matter
Just as CEOs may fear changes or economic trends, the support staff does as well. One way a boss can get past workplace fear is by being engaged with employees. Margie Warrell examines this in a piece for Forbes, saying that a “culture of courage that emboldens employees to rise above their fears is vital to creating and sustaining competitive advantage.” Being engaged is “essential to building trust and fostering courage,” she says. “This requires leaders to leave their offices and join employees on the shop floors and front lines where employees live each workday. It requires a willingness to lay vulnerability on the line, share authentically, to engage in open unstructured sessions of discussion where they risk direct criticism, tough questions, open hostility and even unsuccessful outcomes, and to constantly acknowledge the efforts of those around them.”