Fear is killing top performance. Here’s how you stop it.

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FEAR IS KILLING TOP PERFORMANCE. HERE'S HOW TO STOP IT.

Fear kills top performance. When people are scared, they don’t communicate well and share information. When people are scared, they don’t experiment or take the appropriate risks they need to take. When people are scared, they don’t perform.

That’s why as a leader, your role is to eliminate any fear that you see in your team. In other words, you need to create a culture of safety. This means work place where people are happy to collaborate, aren’t looking over their shoulder, and don’t think they are going to get sacked tomorrow.

Here are 5 ways to begin creating your own culture of safety.

#1 – RECOGNISE GOOD PERFORMANCE

A great way to eliminate fear is to boost confidence. Often when people lack confidence, they start fearing the worst. They will experience negative thoughts such as:

“What if I’m not good enough for this role?”

“What if they find someone better than me?”

“What if I have made the wrong choice joining this company?”

These thoughts are destructive for the person in question, the team and you as a leader – so eliminate them. Every time you see them do something well, tell them how well they have done. Even when something hasn’t gone as well as it may have, see the good in the attempt. Be relentlessly positive and recognise the good in what everyone does. Doing this will take you a long way to creating that culture of safety you need.

#2 – SEE THE GOOD IN MISTAKES

Similarly to #1, you need to always see the good in mistakes. There’s a very famous clip of Steve Jobs responding to a harsh question on stage in 1997. Near the end of the clip he says:

“Some mistakes will be made along the way… That’s good! Because at least some decisions are being made along the way.”

It’s a powerful quote and an even more powerful mindset. Mistakes happen. We all make mistakes. Take 10 seconds to think of some mistakes you’ve made, and I bet you can come up with 20+. Imagine, if every time you made one of those mistakes, your boss came down on you like a ton of bricks – 1 of 2 things would happen. Either you would lose all your confidence, or you would leave.

So, if you want your best people to stay, and to be confident, you need to consistently see the good in mistakes. Any other reaction is counterproductive.

#3 – EXPLAIN THE IMPORTANCE OF THEIR ROLE

Everyone in your team plays an important role (If that’s not the case then you have to re-think your team structure). Remind them that they play an important role. If they are a salesperson, remind them that they are the ones that keep the customers coming in. If they’re in marketing, remind them that they are the ones that make your company’s products and services look great in the market. If they’re in HR, remind them that they are the ones that look after the company’s top talent. Whatever department your team in is, and whatever role they have, they play a part in the company’s success. Reminding them of this, is a cornerstone to creating a culture of safety.

#4 - DEMONSTRATE YOU KNOW THEIR UNIQUE ABILITIES

One of the beautiful things about the world is that everyone is different. We all have different personalities, different passions and different ways of working. These differences are what make teams really work. Moreover, these differences are what makes certain people able to do their job in a way that others simply couldn’t. As a leader, you must be aware of the differences in the people in your team – never treat everyone as the same. When you notice these differences, remind your team members that you see it, and explain to them how their individualities help them to do their job, and make them invaluable to the team.

For example, if Sarah is very chilled, then explain that her composure under pressure is invaluable to the team. If Ryan is extremely thorough, tell him that the team relies on his attention to detail. If Sunil is hyper, explain that his energy keeps the team buoyant in those hard times. Doing this will show your team that you understand them on a personal level. However, it will also make them feel needed and important – another key step in creating a culture of safety.

#5 - ILLUSTRATE THE LONG TERM VISION

If you don’t have a long-term vision, then get one. It doesn’t have to stretch 10 years into the future, it could even be 1 or 2 years, but it’s important to have a goal that you are aiming for as a company, or as a team. Once you have this vision, make sure you share it with your team, and make sure you illustrate that they have a role to play in that vision. It’s important that they see the vision cannot be completed without them. When they see this, they will again, feel important and the fear will start to slip away.

The truth is that any of the above 5 things work to eliminate fear in isolation. However, when put together, they create a powerful culture of safety. The rule here is to imagine it were you. When you act as a leader, deploy empathy to think, how would I react if my boss did that for me? If the answer to that question ever involves fear, then immediately re-think.