#3 Fear of failure (and then letting people down)

We feel fear when we believe we don’t have the ability to cope with something. It can happen to anyone at any stage, it could be about anything and a mix of reality and misinterpretation of our ability to cope (a phobia driven by our emotions).

In this short article, I’m discussing the more personal and social worry of letting yourself, your team or your organisation down. And in our complex and changing workplaces, I have been seeing this more often.

This worry can be a very deep and powerful motivator in performance – our human desire for acceptance. Now it’s important to recognise that everyone has that voice in their head. It’s also important to not let that voice rule your life and to talk about things. Easier said than done right?

I encourage people to explore and then approach the opportunities faced and build on their strengths and overcome their weaknesses – looking at things differently. People can feel and perform better and discover ways to improve. It could take a little nudge, a different way of thinking, an idea, or uncovering what that fear really is then practice, practice and practice.

Members of the team will also worry about letting people down so how a leader reacts to their fear is really important in setting a tone.

And so I was grateful that I didn’t do the stiff upper lip, but I went straight to the therapist. And she was wonderful and helpful, and I went for about two years. – Lyn Redgrave

What to do

There is a surge of ‘accountability groups’ that help individuals to achieve more, simply by committing in the group to what they’re going to do. There are also many meet-ups and networking, blogs like mine, coaches, mentors, developing a coaching culture in your organisation, vlogs, etc. These provide ideas, support networks, learn, and the power of connecting with others would prove beneficial to you.

5 tips for handling your fear about letting people down:

  • Recognise it’s ok to worry about failing and letting people down; that’s human. 
  • If your worry is making you lose sleep or you notice a change in your behaviour (say becoming more controlling and autocratic), get some help and talk to someone objective that you trust – a coach, a mentor or a therapist.
  • Get practical. Visualise what you need to do in order to succeed and not let people down. Play out the scene, then again and look at it in a different way. What are the actions you need to take? How do you need to behave? How will you know it’s working? Do them. If you have no idea what to do, seek advice.
  • Give yourself permission to be honest with your team about your experience and stories. No blame. No shame. Facts and what you have learned.
  • Recognise your fear as a new opportunity which can be learnt. Keep a record of particular situations or actions that impact you the most and work on those.

People think it’s a long walk from ‘I’m not enough’ to ‘I’m better than them’ but it’s actually about standing still. In the exact same place. In fear. Assembling the armour. – Dr. Brené Brown

About this series: Common leadership worries and some tips to beat them

Over the last 18 years, I have coached hundreds of people from interview candidates to team members, to colleagues, executives and board members. Across those conversations, patterns emerge and I’m going to share common worries that I hear with a few tips to overcome or manage them.

Leaders are typically described as strong, confident and assured people, knowing what to do when others don’t, and having the courage to act. But being a leader can put you in one of the most lonely and difficult places you will ever be, and every leader I’ve ever met has worries. Some are genuinely terrified of getting it wrong, letting people down or being found out as incapable, and they cope in different ways with these challenges.

Do you have any tips to share? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog! If you found it useful, please click LIKE and click SHARE to share it with your network. If you enjoyed it please comment and take time to read some of my other articles.

Keep moving forwards and uncovering your potential!

If you have any additional tips or are looking for a new coach, please do get in touch with Juliet via sayhello@opensquareconsulting.com

Image: Photo by Retha Ferguson from Pexels

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