Key Point: I’ve referred to my favorite definition of FEAR in the past: “False Expectations Appearing Real.” The best growth opportunities emerge when the “palms of our hands are sweaty.” I’m not talking about the absolute fear that is very real when our personal well-being is at risk. I’m talking about the fear associated with our insecurities and self-doubt. So here is a challenge: When you feel that latter type of fear… Step on the gas and go. What do you really have to lose?
When I was in my early 30′s I facilitated an executive planning session with the entire Dean’s Council of a major university. The best and brightest had this “kid” in front of them, walking them through a strategic session. When I was 18, I remember my first University of Alberta Golden Bears football practice and the gnarly, nasty seniors of the 1967 National Championship team wanting to stick my head deeply back into in my shoulders. In my 60′s, I had that same sweaty feeling doing my first radio interview after my book was published. Speaking in front on hundreds of people evokes the same response. So here’s the deal…I literally have hundreds of these “sweaty palm” examples, regardless of age and setting… And not all have gone perfectly, but you know what? They’ve all gone.
I’m so much better for “jumping in” and putting myself out there. To me, FEAR does mean GO… Not in an unprepared, stupid sense. I promise that nothing was guaranteed in every “risky” situation. But in every case it involved a level of self-authenticity and honesty connected to non-fatal risk. Fear is a great teacher. We really need its lessons to improve, become stronger, and build our self-confidence. This includes “getting back in the saddle” when we get thrown… And we will.
As I was thinking of this blog, I coincidently read Lara Galinsky‘s HBR blog, To Change the World, Fear Means Go, on the exact same topic. Her message really resonated. Especially her recommendations in the first three moves captured below:
- Acknowledge you’re afraid. Instead of swallowing or hiding your fear, and pretending you don’t have it, look at it. For instance, if you are continuously avoiding a particular activity or person, have the courage to ask yourself “why?”
- Determine what kind of fear it is. Ask yourself: Is this a healthy fear that I need to pay attention to (is there a hungry bear on the path ahead of me)? Or is this a fear rooted in my own insecurities and self-doubts? It can be difficult to tell the difference at times, but if you really want to know the answer, pay close attention to what your gut says.
- Acknowledge it as a gift. If it is an insecurity-based fear, it could be one of the most powerful gifts you’ll ever receive. These fears are like a compass. They tell that you need to go towards what scares you.
The next two are mine:
- Be really well prepared when you confront that insecurity-based fear. When facing a challenge that really stretches us and hits the fear button, we usually have time to get prepared. For example, if we have a speech in front of a big crowd, we need to test and practice it over and over until we’re ready. The palms are still sweaty but we’re ready to step on stage.
- Assume the position. I remember the first time I walked into a meeting with the Chairman of a Fortune 50 Company. I wasn’t arrogant, but I guarantee you that I didn’t walk in there “hat in hand.” I was ready and believed in my value. How could he have confidence in me if he saw FEAR in my eyes? That would have signaled STOP instead of GO!
FEAR means GO in The Triangle,
P.S. don’t fear downloading The Character Triangle Companion.
Key Point: I believe there is huge value in thinking and acting as an entrepreneur in any environment. Constantly ask yourself who would pay for your personal “offering” if you weren’t being paid by someone else tomorrow. Let’s say you lost your job today and the only way to get a paycheck was to put your skill into the market place. How would you do?
I was 29 years old, my wife was six months pregnant with our second child, and we had just bought a house with an unbelievable 17 percent interest rate on our mortgage. My business partner and I started a consulting company, using our two weeks vacation and $250 dollars as working capital. I remember the delicious mix between fear and excitement. We never looked back and built what became a very successful business for 10 years. In some ways it was more luck than brains, but the best thing about having been an entrepreneur is that I NEVER worry about whether I can “put food on the table.” It is gratifying to know that one can thrive with no corporation or public entity paying your way. You learn to take action that creates value. There is NO “THEY.” Sometimes I want to throw up when I hear coddled and entitled employees whining about this and that. The less sensitive me wants to say, “Shut up and do something about it or leave and go do something of value. See if anyone wants to pay you for it?”
The following are key things to put in place to build that entrepreneurial you.
- Consciously build your brand. I am privileged to be the Chief People Officer at ATB Financial. But I am also the Lorne Rubis brand inside and outside the company. That’s one reason I continuously develop lornerubis.com. We are all individuals, but unless we are also a brand, our individuality will be invisible. According to Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s blog, The Future of You, a brand “means showcasing that which makes you special, in a way that is distinctive (recognizable), predictable (consistent), and meaningful (it allows others to understand what you do and why).”
- Commit to being known for building, creating and making things better. Who really cares if you are a lawyer, doctor, candlestick maker, teacher, laborer, etc? What are you known for? How do you make things better? Why would anyone care? And don’t mope around thinking you’re just ordinary. You may not be flashy but you are the only YOU. And we are hard wired to create and connect. Have the courage to be responsible for your own state of being. Don’t be afraid to get support. I could not have been successful starting that company without my wife’s encouragement and business partner’s competence.
- Become a super connector. If you can rapidly and effectively connect solutions to problems, people to each other, ideas to money, etc. you will attract buckets of value. Do not isolate yourself. If you’re by yourself literally and/or digitally, you will get in a dark, unproductive hole… It’s only a matter of time. That doesn’t mean we don’t need alone time. Of course we do. But we are built to be with each other. In today’s digital environment we have the opportunity to embrace the world. Do that AND make room for feeling the personal energy of the people. Embrace them. They deserve you and you them.
Personal market value in The Triangle,
Key Point: Everyone wins when you quit your job. No one wins when you “quit” on the job.
“Here’s the cold truth: Deciding you want to quit is usually just the first move in a sometimes long and arduous cerebral chess match you’ll play with yourself. The reasons that over 70 percent of Americans stay in jobs they hate might surprise you. I’ve found that people’s inability to quit their current roles had little to do with the perceived riskiness of their new professions, their financial situation, or general economic conditions. The real barrier for most of us is not external. It’s our own psychology: We over think decisions, fear eventual failure, and prioritize near-term, visible rewards over long-range success.”
The above quote is from Daniel Gulati, author of How to (Finally) Quit Your Job. It was one of the most read Harvard Business Review blogs in 2012. Why? Because almost all of us have been at this intersection before. If not, we’ll likely be there one day. Navigating through the decision of staying or going is relatable. My belief is when people stay with jobs, organizations or bosses they deeply dislike, they are seriously wasting the organization’s and their personal resources.
It is ok if a job, profession, trade or organization does not fit for us. In fact, it makes sense. Our personal circumstances and perspectives evolve. And so do organizations. Business models, and turbulent environmental factors dictate continuous change. “It’s not like it was before,” is an accurate reflection of most organizations we work in. However, do you think you are doing your organization or colleagues a favor by sticking around if you detest your work? And please don’t think that your “honest day’s work” is enough for people to notice your absence. If any of us think we are indispensable, we will be surprised how quickly our spot is taken up. But forget about your organization for a moment… What about you? Your happiness and well-being is the most important result. And in the world of work there definitely is an intersection between what you’re good at, what you like to do and what is valued by others. Find it. I know it’s easier to say than do. But staying miserable is worse.
Character Moves (Gulati’s and my suggestions):
- Quit for a better long-term trajectory, not a quick win. Develop a game plan. Map out what the rest of a long-term journey would ideally look like. Outline an attractive “next step” and make sure you’ll value its rewards. Don’t quit into an empty space and hope it will turn out. YOU will be the constant variable, so determine how the next step will be better for you, not just a change. But don’t look for “perfect” conditions either. There will always be a reason not to act.
- Quit after hitting calendar milestones, not performance-based ones. Once you accept that you want to go, set a date based on having a good plan. Do not wait for the year-end bonus, or some other “carrot” if it just keeps the cycle of hate going. Execute on the game plan. Don’t hope to win the lottery.
- Quit discreetly and avoid the Facebook fireworks. Settle into your new role privately, and gradually update your friends in person, not over Facebook. If you don’t share it, they can’t spread it. More importantly recognize that you will likely cross the bridge with past colleagues and your organization again. And recognize that your relationship with your employer was a two-way exchange. Sometimes it happens in unpredictable ways. Be welcomed as an alumni.
- Quit or recommit. Please stop hoping, whining, blaming, complaining and regretting. Have the courage to change the situation by leaving. If not, working through the above can sometimes give you an opportunity to recommit with a refreshed approach. In either case you have “quit” and have taken a step forward. That will be good for you and all those around you.
Quit to win in The Triangle,
Key Point: Taking deliberate action is a key element for effectively leading under the emotional heat of extremely stressful situations. As noted in a recent Harvard Business Review blog, acts of violence are not the only extreme situations that a leader may need to confront. HBR asked the following: If the unthinkable unfolds, “How can you practice leadership if you don’t know when or where you’ll be called to lead?”
The author asked Col. Casey Haskins, the former Director of Military Instruction at West Point, what his recommendations might be. His comments included:
“When we make decisions very quickly under stress, we don’t usually have access to a full understanding of the situation, and we don’t have access to all of our calm, rational resources.” He goes on to note: “Even if you don’t know the specifics, your odds are much better if you act than if you don’t.” Why? Because, “If you’re already acting, that by itself helps you remain calm.” And more…
“You have to train so that what you’re really practicing is staying calm, thinking quickly, and problem-solving. Deliberate thinking itself becomes a drilled, automatic response. Your decisions will still have a very high error rate — your error rate making decisions under stress is much higher than when you’re calm, rational, talking like we are right now — but that is still better than the error rate you’ll have if you do nothing.”
- We need to PRACTICE staying calm, thinking deliberately, and critically taking action. By doing this, we will be practicing leadership. The key thing is to practice when we don’t think it counts. Practicing in “smaller” situations will prepare us for the moment the “big one comes.” And that big moment, which hopefully does not involve violence, will come to all of us. We need to be ready.
- If we look for it, there are opportunities to practice taking deliberate action. It may be a stressful meeting, a traffic jam, a loved one needing emergency medical attention, etc. The key thing is to recognize that there is a space or gap between stimulus and response. (See my previous blog on utilizing the space). When we effectively use that space to measure our response, we are likely to make more deliberate and better action-based decisions.
- Remember that taking action under stress is much better than paralysis and taking no action, (the proverbial “deer in headlights”). As Col. Haskins states above, if you’re already in motion, (but NOT panicking), that by itself contributes to being calmer and more deliberate. If we make the space noted above too big, we might become slow and stuck.
- Practicing to take advantage of the “space” between stimulus and response, will also help you take into account others in your presence. The brave, beautiful, loving, teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, practiced for a school lock down and as a result took deliberate action that saved many lives. And that is heroic leadership under the most extreme, and deadly stress.
Leadership under extreme stress in The Triangle,