Fear Sucks

Permit me to sound like a keynote speaker for a minute...

If there's ONE THING you remember from this blog post it's this: (dramatic pause...) the reason your organization sucks, is fear.

I write about a lot of things. I talk about truth, conflict, leadership, strategy, etc. And of course I think it's all important, and we need to be having these various conversations to make our organizations better. But every now and then I am hit with the fact that many of these topics are dancing around something more fundamental: fear.

This week, I read this blog post from Eric Lanke on Hourglass. He's been writing good stuff about innovation and in this one he points out that many associations "approach risk from a decidedly conservative perspective." In other words, they are afraid.

Seth Godin talks about our fear of momentum in his blog this week too. "We're afraid of being a part of something that is too big for us."

We're afraid we'll get fired. We're afraid they won't like us. We're afraid it won't work. We're afraid we'll get in trouble. We're afraid we'll lose status. We're afraid we'll lose control. We're afraid it will hurt more than it does now. 

Fear is always there. I think that is unavoidable, because fear is rooted in our "Lizard brain," as Godin points out in his post.

So fear may be inevitable, but courage is a skill. Courage doesn't dissolve fear. It is simply a different way of acting when fear is present. Courage means choosing a different response to fear. And most of what I think is going to save our organizations in the years to come is going to be rooted in a better response to fear. And step one will be raising our awareness and our acute understanding of how fear is operating in our organizational lives.

Let's Talk About Workplace Culture


  1. 19.08.2010 at 10:24 am

    Fear does the very things you describe. Mark Twain had a great way to phrase the thought: “A cat that sits on a hot stove will not sit on a hot stove again. But it won’t sit on a cold stove, either.”
    I think that many of the discussions of this look through the wrong lens. They seek ways to “make people willing to take risks” when it might be more productive to remove the risk.

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