Fear: the Basic Enemy of Success
By Dr. Rick Johnson
Friday, 24th December 2010
Fear can stop you in your tracks, fear is an emotion that if left uncontrolled can ruin any chance of success and the biggest fear many of us experience is the Fear of Failure. The only way to develop confidence is to address and overcome the fear of failure.

For ten years I did corporate turn-a-rounds of financially troubled companies. During that period I was often asked;

 "Why would you take over a company that was in a death spiral approaching bankruptcy?"

My answer was simple and it was based on the premise that I had no fear of failure. I simply stated a fact.

"Why not, there is no failure. If I turn it around I am a hero. If I don't it simply means
 Nobody could."

A basic principle of success in developing confidence is overcoming the fear of failure.  During my early years as a consultant our firm had the privilege of interviewing numerous very successful CEO's and Entrepreneurs that had proven success track records. A common trait found in every single one of these success stories was the fact that they were all risk takers. They simply were not afraid of failure. Their risks were generally calculated but they were risks just the same.

Early childhood development experts confirm that instilling confidence starts with allowing kids to fail at an early age. That is one reason I adamantly oppose the no score sporting events for young kids that many people are now promoting. Everybody gets a trophy even if your team sucks. Kids need to learn how to fail and it is just as important as learning how to win.

One of the toughest mentoring moments for a leader is to learn to let his employees fail.
Applying this concept does not mean letting them make a mistake that will put you out of business but it does mean paying attention to what happens  when someone does step up and attempt to do more than the specific task requirement. It means letting them fail but being there to catch them when they fall. It becomes a tremendous mentoring opportunity if you do it right.

 Put yourself in their shoes. If you are positively noticed for trying something new - and not just chastised if the outcome was unsuccessful, what will it do the next time business throws you something that just does not quite fit the usual job description?  

Confidence Creates a Positive Attitude

Employees that have a "Fear of Failure" often lack self-confidence. Some may even have a self-esteem problem. Lack of confidence by employees can have a detrimental effect on the organization as a whole. Productivity often suffers in the absence of self-confidence because if a person lacks the confidence to accomplish a task, they will hold back their effort because they fear failure.

The sales force is probably the worst place for the company to find a lack of confidence or fear of failure. Most effective sales people are extremely confident and in fact many have large egos. It's almost a requirement due to the fact that rejection is a part of the life of an outside sales person. Sales will suffer if a sales person lacks self-confidence.

Fear of Failure and the lack of confidence breeds intimidation, apathy and an unwillingness to go the extra mile to secure the order. This could be critical to the overall sales strategy. The sales manager must be keenly aware of the passion level and confidence level of every sales person under them.

Management in NOT Immune to the Fear of Failure

The fear of Failure can also impact the level of self-confidence in mid-level managers. It is not uncommon for manager to address some tough issues with employees and if they elect not to address those issues they set precedent and may even create a different culture that allows less than acceptable performance. The lack of confidence and fear of failure can become very contagious and if it isn't recognized early on it can permeate an organization. This can cause a devastating effect on growth and profitability.

Fear of Failure stifles Innovation for those charged with developing new ideas. Innovative ideas are not brought forward, nor discussed. New ideas are kept to oneself in the hopes that person won't be criticized. It can also create a roadblock to effective communication, marketing and service.

Communications suffers in the presence of a lack of self-confidence. People who don't have confidence don't speak up. Things are left unsaid and, by default, internalized. If it's not out in the open, it can never be dealt with. Marketing suffers when the marketing team lacks self-confidence. "This idea probably won't work anyway." That's a likely statement from a marketing department employee with no self-confidence and so the idea goes  nowhere.

The point is, people are the reason companies succeed and people are the reason companies fail.

It is a primary responsibility of management to make sure they have a finger on the pulse of employee attitude, confidence, emotion and self-worth. Keep your employees confident with an attitude of success and the company won't ever have to worry about the Fear of Failure.

Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution's "Leadership Strategist", founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com 

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