Leading When You’re Feeling Afraid photo

Leading When You’re Feeling Afraid

So here’s the question: How can you inspire your team to achieve the impossible when you yourself are feeling afraid and uncertain about how — and whether — you can achieve it?

Often trades business owners think they have a staff problem or a sales problem. But that isn’t quite right. What they really have is a leadership problem. You need to inspire people to loosen up, try new things, experiment. You need to get people thinking out of the box at the precise moment that they are huddling together in a small corner of it.

How do you get out of this conundrum?

Build Emotional Courage

Your first step is to build your emotional courage — your ability to act thoughtfully, strategically, and powerfully while feeling afraid.

Why not just overcome your fear? That’s what most people try to do (and what many coaches try to help people do), but it’s a huge mistake.

You can feel scared without acting scared. It isn’t ignoring fear — you still felt scared — but it doesn’t control you.

Focus on the Process

When we’re scared or intimidated or pursuing something so big that we don’t even really know where to begin, we need to focus on the process that will get to the outcome. A good process will guide you along the path to get you where you want to go, and you can follow a good process no matter what you’re feeling.

Communicate Clearly

Once you bolster your emotional courage and target your focus, you need to direct the attention of your team.

  • Vision. People need to have a clear sense of where they are headed. You should articulate the vision so that it’s succinct, simple, palpable, and clear.
  • Empathy. People need to know that you are not out of touch and that you can feel what they are feeling. You do not need to drag this part out — it should be short but connected and heartfelt. This is where you can also own your part in the challenge.
  • Direction. People need to see the path that they can believe will get them to the ultimate objective, the vision. Like the vision, your direction should be succinct, simple, palpable, and clear.
  • Proof. People need a reason to believe they can walk the path, so you should offer proof for your direction and optimism. You should be specific, be personal, and reflect the work that the team is already doing. This will build your team’s confidence.

Adapated from HBR June 2018 Bregman