Crippled by Fear

What is the biggest fear of your life? It is not common to think about this question more often, yet, the fact is that we do more than we actually realize. All our decisions are affected by the fear factor in as much as they are governed by the aspiration for a good outcome. Risk is an integrated ingredient of life, and it is there where the element of fear resides.
Whether in our personal or professional lives, we are always exposed to some kind of risk, which alternatively resembles fear of the unknown. We are afraid of what we do not know. A weird voice, a strange place, an unusual situation, an uncommon face are always a source of fear to us, and that is why we usually try to avoid them. We are the enemies of uncertainty, and that is why we always aim to search for, find, and stick to a comfort zone where everything and everybody look familiar.

However, this ideal situation of familiarity is not always an option. Maybe we have a larger margin of maneuverability in our personal life, yet, it is not the same when it comes to our professional one. The Business World is built around uncertainty, and the best way business people express their attitude towards fear is through statements like ‘no pain no gain’, ‘risk is good as long as it is calculated’, ‘we need to find ways to minimize our exposure’, etc.

Still, regardless of what we think and say, fear remains a major driver of our behavior in Business, especially when it comes to Change. I have been involved in extensive missions that have to do with Change recently. To name but few, I am working with Businesses going through expansion and growth; families venturing into the institutionalization of their Business; and entrepreneurs going into new industries that they practically know little about. All of those have at least one thing in common for sure. It is their concern about uncertainty, not to say their ‘fear’ of it.
The thing is that all people talk about Change; few actually take the adventure, and even fewer do succeed. Organizational restructuring, implementation of new Human Resources systems, early retirement plans, teams’ capacity building, processes reengineering are different types of Change that many companies think of. Some of them dare to take the challenge, though only on paper. Still, a handful actually embraces what is put on paper and drive through to implementation.

This dynamic is significantly intriguing to me. I have been thinking for quite a while about the reason that makes some Businesses dream about Change, while others actually jump in and make it happen. The answer that I’m always getting takes me back to the very topic I have been discoursing so far namely ‘Fear’. Some companies envision and plan Change only on paper, and even hire consultants to help them drive this Change. They go into designing and developing systems, schemes and blueprints of how they want their Business to become. They acquire stacks of road maps and communication plans, yet, when the rubber hits the road, they freeze. The only reason I could see for this situation is that people are cripple by fear. In the many cases I have seen, it was never the money, or lack of good human resources, nor was it the absence of good planning and consulting support. It was mostly, fear of the unknown, the everlasting dilemma of Man and his undisputed attachment to ‘Comfort Zones’.

CEOs who refuse to implement a new Organization Structure that they generously paid a consultant to design and which they have personally approved. HR Directors who shy away from utilizing a new Recruitment System that would save them a lot of precious time; and Line Managers who resist embracing a new Performance Management System that would help them differentiate their top performers from under-performers. All are examples of what happens to people when they come to implement Change; they become paralyzed and mostly fall back to their old inefficient and ineffective habits of management that have proven over and over again their sterility.
Bottom line, Change needs courage. It will never be certain, nor it will be a 100% hit. Fear is part of the equation, yet, it is always our prerogative not to let it cripple us. Moving forward or backward is our choice, because at the end, time, tide, and Change wait for no Man