My lovely wife Kendra and I were debriefing another week last night as we always do … Date Night! Every Friday (or as many as we can manage) are for us and us alone. We head home, turn on the music, pull the cork on a bottle of wine and cook a great meal (at least we think so!). And throughout the evening we talk about what has transpired for the week.
This week Kendra had an old colleague call her which turned into a bit of a coaching session. Her colleague was worrying some things and Kendra introduced him to one of her favorite expressions. The definition of FEAR … Forgetting Everything’s All Right. We started discussing the impacts and sources of fear and eventually began exploring the topic of shame as one of the more complex manifestations. Brené Brown has a wonderful new TED Talk on this subject that we watched together (check it out).
But today my thoughts returned to her definition of fear, and it occurred to me that there are probably a number of solutions to the acronym FEAR. I started to think of some of these and how when caught up in them it is easy to be led astray, whether in our personal life or at work. Let’s explore some of these, our reactions and the truth about each.
- Forgetting Everything’s All Right … my wife’s version and a pretty common way we respond to the unknown. How many times do we hear or see something whose meaning is uncertain or unknown and then begin to fill out the story with negative outcomes spawned out of a fear of what might go wrong. There is some degree of merit in this approach in that it does allow us to identify potential negative outcomes and develop plans in the event they come to pass. But so often, the negative outcomes we imagine can almost become a reality because we truly do forget that everything is still alright and will likely remain that way if we just engage and manage through the issue.
- False Evidence Appearing Real … how many times have we looked at the supposed facts associated with an event or incident and drawn conclusions about the errors, culpability or even bad intent of someone else? I can remember a time
as a young manager signing off on a team members overtime for the previous week, and recalling that the person left on time every day. How could they have worked overtime? Before we get too committed to a position is it possible that we could actually find the real truth before we draw conclusions? Could we overcome what small fear there may be of a conflict and actually seek out the other party and ask? I did and wandered back to my office to sign the form (somewhat redfaced) knowing that this person beat me into the office by 90 minutes every morning.
- Finding Excuses And Reasons … sometimes things just don’t go our way, and it can be very tempting to deflect responsibility for the less than perfect outcome by explaining just why it couldn’t have anything to do with what we did … it must be some outside force that prevented us from doing well. What’s driving this? Probably a fear of being seen as inadequate or incapable or some other word starting with “in”. Where in fact sometimes things just don’t go our way because of circumstance, luck or the actions of some other force that we were completely unaware of.
But what if there is another solution to this FEAR acronym? What if there is a really positive outcome associated with it such as …
4. Face Everything And Respond … what if each time we faced a challenge we first let go of the desire to control or manage the situation and step into the challenge by asking a few simple questions that are driven by objectivity and a quest for the truths of the
matter? Questions like …
- What’s truly happening here?
- What do I really know for sure?
- What am I assuming and how can I validate these assumptions?
- Is what I am seeing/hearing/reading true for me?
Then once we know what we know and know what we don’t know we can begin to build a plan to respond based on these facts and gaps with the knowledge that we are not employing any of the first three FEAR models above. Without the tensions and reactions that come these forms of fear we can easily offer our assistance to examining the issue objectively and finding agreeable solutions.
And what about as a leader? How can we guide team members who we see are engaged in one of the fear models? Can we not use these same sorts of questions to help them move to a position of facts, missing facts and constructive collaboration? And by doing so let go of the emotions that sometimes attach themselves to workplace situations (a.k.a. office politics)?
I would love to hear some examples of any of these models at work … Any stories to share?