Fear is all around us. It is our enabler and our disabler. It is the single most influential element driving success from failure and mediocrity from excellence. It comes in all shapes and sizes and affects everyone of us in individual ways. What is it? It is the uncertainty of the unknown, the lack of control over knowing an outcome to be certain. It is a pillar of our decision making process and the underlying constraint to life’s achievements.
So why does fear affect us? To understand this it is important to identify the elements of business (our business) that scare us. How does this fear deter us from achieving our ultimate goals? What, if any, decisions could we easily make today to grow our businesses if we knew for certain what those outcomes will be?
In a poll of today’s top leaders several key “fear factors” were recognized as deterrents of growth into today’s new age business environment.
Here they are in no particular order:
1. Failure to innovate
Remember Borders Books? A classic case of failed innovation, borders closed doors in 2011, exiting nearly 10,000 employees across hundreds of locations. Why? Digital books! Barnes & Noble released the Nook while Amazon marketed the Kindle for the new age reader. An amazing shift happened in technology and Borders was no longer able to meet the needs of an evolving marketplace.
2. Damage to reputation and the ability to defend a brand
Everyone has an opinion. But what happens when the opinions of true influencers speak out in disagreement of your brand or products? Uncontrolled criticism can be the demise of any company’s image. Recently Apple worked diligently to appease some outspoken opponents concerned with “slave labor” wages being paid to partners in China to produce the market dominating iPhone. A real-time, multi-channel approach to acknowledging and rectifying the problem has slowly put the reputation of the company back on track.
3. Attracting top talent
If you want the best, you typically have to pay well and provide enticing work. Top talents feel engaged and further engage employees to be drivers of productivity in the workplace, creating strong business performance. Engaged employees tend to stick around from satisfaction and fulfillment received from doing great work and the additional opportunities presented to them. Think of all of the creative spaces at Google and the free food!
4. Business interruption
Major disasters can strike without notice. Fire, tornadoes, hurricanes, to name a few, can wreak havoc on the communities in which we conduct business. But it doesn’t end there. Almost everyday, smaller occurrences of disruption including power outages, threats of terror, and even unseasonable temperatures, can have a crippling effect. It is estimated that 80% of companies that fail to recover from a major disaster within one month will go out of business. The lack of business continuity is enough to keep any CEO/CTO up at night.
5. Lack of ingenuity
What happens when everything begins to look the same? Businesses lose touch of their true value proposition and forget how to tell their brand story. In this day and age, creativity holds the key to success. What can we do better? More exciting? Different? We fear the things we don’t know and yet, these can be our greatest strength to ensuring we are doing things differently from everyone else.
6. Increased regulations, weak economy and other political factors
An apparent constant, we fear the changes we cannot control. Our greatest defense to these threats is to remain prepared. Always prepare for the worst and have a contingency plan in place. A culture of flexibility and resilience is paramount to maintaining long-term strength in a roller coaster economy.
So it appears we have a lot to fear. Or does it? Some of these fears are challenges that can offer us the greatest opportunities to succeed, but we have to be willing to do what it takes to substitute the fear for excellence. This is a feeling that that is no stranger to Fortune 500’s elite:
“I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.” – Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo)
But let’s not get too crazy! Every step into the unknown should be a calculated risk; one that we can bounce back from if things go sideways. So plan and plan some more. Set your sights on 2014 with a feeling of strength and boldness and as Eleanor Roosevelt put it, “ Do one thing every day that scares you.” With the courage to push through fear, the possibilities are endless.Photos courtesy of 123RF
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