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    Overcoming Fear of Failure

    by Sara J. Baker, Ed.D.

    Fear of failure in leadership is one of the greatest impediments to making decisions.

    Fear of failure can cause you to postpone or even worse, delegate, important decisions. In today’s quickly moving world, sluggishness in decision making can cause a business to miss or lose incredible opportunities.

    Time waits for no man or business.

    How do you stop Fear of Failure from winning?

    Ask Your Team for Input

    1st step – make sure you have all the information. Involve your team and ask for input. The idea behind gathering input is not that you will somehow make a decision that everyone is happy with, because you won’t. That decision doesn’t exist.

    And it doesn’t mean you turn decisions over to committees to really mess things up. Instead “asking for input” means that you ask for perspectives.

    You ask questions like:

    • “What are your thoughts?”
    • “Is there anything I’m missing?”
    • “What have I not considered?”

    Team members may only know a small part of the issue you are facing or may only have access to pieces of data that may not necessarily represent the full picture.

    But the simple action of asking them for their ideas, not only provides you with necessary feedback, it also helps your team to feel valued and authentically communicates your respect for them as an essential part of the team.

    Your team may not completely agree with your final decision, but they will appreciate that they had a chance to inform the decision-making process.

    Your responsibility is to take the input and in combination with other data you have available and MAKE A DECISION.

    That’s your job, right? Because you’re the leader.

    It is ultimately your decision, your responsibility, your rear on the line if the decision doesn’t go well. And, of course, that’s the reason for the fear.

    Be Bold, Make the Decision

    2nd Step –  If you have analyzed the data and received expert input from critical stakeholders, then you are ready to make the decision.

    If that decision ends up not leading to success, it really doesn’t mean that YOU failed. It simply means that you need to go a different direction.

    We all feel at times that we have “failed” because a decision that we made did not come out the way we had hoped. That “failure” of a decision does not negate every good decision that we have ever made. That “failure” is simply part of life and, more importantly, part of the learning process.

    If we never take risks, then we never grow. As leaders, we cannot lead quiet, mouse-like existences.

    Be bold to overcome fear of failure

    Our teams and our organizations are depending upon us to make decisions that help the organization be successful.

    We absolutely cannot allow the fear of failed outcome to prevent us from taking risks.

    If your decision leads to a “failed” outcome, then you will need to own the decision. But that isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds.

    This is the part of leadership where tenacity of spirit is critical.

    If it leads to outcomes you don’t like, then simply reassess where you are.

    Determine where you want to be and decide if you should be pivoting in a different direction or just adjusting the course.

    As the leader who made the ultimate decision, it is essential that YOU claim ownership of the decision and that you do NOT blame your team or anyone else.

    Blame is counter-productive and will only make you look weak to others, including senior leaders and your team.

    Instead, own the decision. “Wow, I really thought that would provide us with the outcome we had hoped for, but we need to figure out a different way. Team, what are your thoughts on how we can correct course? I think some of our key issues are…”  And, then lead your team in creative problem solving and move forward.

    Team is key in times like this. The best part of a failed decision is the information that it will provide to better inform your next step.

    Leaders cannot delay in making critical decisions out of fear. You must be bold. You must be courageous.

    Dr. Sara Baker, Founder of the Leadership Reformation

    About the Author

    Dr. Sara Baker is an advocate for positive leadership and healthy workplaces. With over 20 years of experience leading private and public organizations, she understands the challenges that employees and leaders face every day.

    Sara is the author of Toxic Workplace Survival Guide, an essential resource for anyone who wants to thrive in spite of a toxic work environment. In addition to her writing, Sara provides online courses for leadership development and coping with a toxic workplace.

    Dr. Sara Baker, Founder of the Leadership Reformation

    About the Author

    Dr. Sara Baker is an advocate for positive leadership and healthy workplaces. With over 20 years of experience leading private and public organizations, she understands the challenges that employees and leaders face every day.

    Sara is the author of Toxic Workplace Survival Guide, an essential resource for anyone who wants to thrive in spite of a toxic work environment. In addition to her writing, Sara provides online courses for leadership development and coping with a toxic workplace.

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