We fear what we cannot control. What we cannot exploit increases our risk of failure. We, as people, are wired by default to run away and avoid failure. Everyone. Every leader. Every employee. If someone tells you they don’t fear failure, they are lying.
People react to fear and uncertainty in different ways. Fear and uncertainty cripple some. Many, in fact. Others embrace fear and uncertainty. They accept it, identify ways to combat it and find a path to success. The difference between those who crumble and fail and those who succeed is knowledge and experience.
All leaders go through a phase when they must control all facets of their organization, team, industry, or environment. Young leaders, middle management, senior executives all feel this at some point. Type A people seek opportunities to increase this control. Regardless of what we think we control, the reality is that we can only control what we have direct authority over. We can influence things that are supporting or augmenting that which we have direct control over. We can do nothing about outside factors affecting our lives, business, operations, teams, people, etc.
To manage the fear of uncertainty, we need four key characteristics:
- Adaptability: the ability to adjust our behavior to the situation
- Resiliency: perseverance in the face of challenges
- Effective Intelligence: apply our experience and knowledge to the situation
- Emotional Strength: emotional control in stressful situations to bring calm to chaos
So, where do we start?
- Understand our role, what we bring to the organization, and what we are expected to do. Often as leaders, we believe we have to solve every challenge and fill every function. We forget that we may fill a specific position.
- Once we know our role, we have to define our core tasks. Then list all the factors we must be proficient in to achieve our core tasks.
- Determine what internal and external stressors or factors will be placed on us while conducting these core tasks, such as the composition of our team, timelines, operating environment, goals of leadership, quality of the product.
- Identify what we have direct authority over, what we can influence because it touches our efforts, and what is outside of our realm and is therefore uncontrollable.
- With our uncontrollable now defined, we can start planning and preparation by first becoming as proficient as possible on what we can directly control. The better we are at what we can control, the more focus we can overcome what we cannot. Our core tasks must become routine muscle memory where precision execution is the norm. The less mental, physical, and emotional effort is spent to complete what you can free up mental, physical and emotional bandwidth to handle what you did not expect, influence, and control.