Education and Skills

Facing these five fears will make you a better leader

Carolina Kostner of Italy reacts after winning gold medal at the European Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, January 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Ints Kalnins (ESTONIA - Tags: SPORT FIGURE SKATING IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Top performers are able to overcome these fears. Image: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Jeff Boss
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High achievers are comfortable being uncomfortable. It takes a high threshold of guts, smarts and heart to press on when others quit. Some people get it. They understand that life isn’t a straight line and when they’re stuck in a rut, they’re gritty enough to weather the storm of uncertainty and let it pass until a new path reveals itself.

I had a coaching client one time who made a career leap from working as a financial advisor with a hefty paycheck, to entrepreneurship and stressing about when the next paycheck would come. Her entire career had been as a financial advisor. She wasn’t worried about financial stability or business development or how she’d support her family. But now she was an entrepreneur, and she was worried sick.

What she soon realized was that problems don’t go away, they just get better. You see, she had a choice: figure it out as an entrepreneur and have the job autonomy she craved (not to mention stress), or, return to her nine to five and have stability but be miserable. Fast forward four years later. She needs to hire help because she’s inundated with business opportunities.

High achievers don’t scurry away from fear because they know there are two types of fear:

Good fear. This is the fear that tells you not to step onto the crosswalk during heavy traffic.

Bad fear. This is the voice in your head telling you you're no good at something without any evidence to show for it. This is, essentially, you getting in your own way.

High achievers know how to quell the negative self-talk in their heads and get out of their own way. They’re self-aware enough to distinguish between reality and story (i.e. excuses they tell themselves), and when it’s the latter, they rewrite their own narrative.

Below are five unwanted fears I see as a leadership coach that, when faced, forge average performers into high achievers:

1. Uncertainty.

High achievers don’t see uncertainty as a confining boundary to avoid but rather an undiscovered area that hasn’t been explored yet. They embrace uncertainty by employing the mental strategies of elite athletes to their daily routine because they know that having a mental game plan is just as important as having a financial or business plan.

2. Being wrong.

High achievers don’t care about who’s right or wrong, they only care about the truth because they know the truth leads to results. When ego gets in the way it prevents you from seeing beyond yourself, and then you become part of the problem.

3. Unease.

With change comes unease. While even the slightest deviation from the norm can spur feelings of uneasiness, high achievers don’t cede to the knee-jerk reaction of returning to equilibrium immediately. Instead, they critically assess why such uneasiness is occurring and how they might benefit if they face it (or how they might not).

4. Social judgment.

Humans are social creatures. We like socializing. We like feeling accepted, we like being liked and when we’re not accepted, discomfort sets in. The difference between high achievers and everybody else is that high achievers realize that when somebody rejects you, it’s not necessarily because of you, but because of them. It’s because they’re missing something from their lives and they're making up for it by being overly critical or judgmental toward you. That’s why high achievers don’t let social rejection bog them down, because they realize that how you see the problem oftentimes is the problem.

5. Feedback.

Along the same lines of social judgment is feedback. Whereas social judgment is a habitual process (since everybody has an opinion), feedback is less natural. Giving and receiving feedback can be uncomfortable for many people, but high achievers actively seek out feedback whereas others wait for feedback to occur. High achievers know that without feedback they can’t course correct, and if they can’t course correct then they won’t be high achievers much longer.

In my experience as a leadership coach, people don’t lack motivation, they lack clarity. It’s when they become clear on the potential that facing their fears could bring that they become not just more willing to be uncomfortable, but also high achievers.

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Education and SkillsEmerging TechnologiesLeadership
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