As I mention in my writing from time to time, knowledge is often not the missing element in us getting in action toward achieving our goals. It is helpful to learn new concepts, or be reminded of what we already know, but the true culprit is almost always the inspiration and inclination to be straight with ourselves about what is holding us back from acting on our insights. Think of any area of your career or life that is not going as well as you would like it and do an honest assessment of yourself against the habits I describe to determine which apply to you. We all know the theory behind what it takes to be successful and fulfilled, but we rarely take a hard look at ourselves to see why we don’t actually operate that way. That is what this episode is about.
Let’s face it. Fear mongering works! At least on some level. That’s why some so-called leaders resort to it. They attract followers by convincing people that the sky is falling and things are going to go from bad to worse unless everyone else follows their lead. As much as you and I don’t want to believe it, the truth is that a great number of people do respond to tactics like this. In fact, even those of us who consider ourselves immune to overt forms of fear mongering because we “know better” are subject to acting out of fear in more subtle ways, often under the pretext that we know the “truth” and look down on those who don’t. Some of us buy products and services because we have been convinced that without them, we wouldn’t be safe or secure. Others of us vote for political candidates who scare us into thinking that unless they are elected, the world will be a completely miserable and dangerous place. Sometimes we even abandon pretext entirely and resign ourselves, albeit brazenly and proudly, to only looking out for “numero uno.” We might compromise our values and principles in the workplace for the fear that we would lose our job if we refused to fall in line, or we give in the petty fear of ridicule and failure instead of taking a chance to try something new. The most granular result of fear mongering comes down to this one attitude, that is, “I’ve got mine and the sky can fall on everyone else.” I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound very inspiring or interdependent to me.
Several years ago, I made a career move that seemed great at first but very quickly turned into one of the most challenging professional experiences of my life. I found myself leading a manufacturing plant which had produced fairly decent results when I got there, but within a few months the house of cards began to crumble to the ground following the plant being acquired by more ambitious owners who were quickly increasing demand and complexity. The old style of management that had kept things together was no longer sufficient in the new environment. Soon, we were delivering the worst results in the company. The only thing worse than our results was our morale, which had been very unhealthy for quite some time, but undetectable to the naked eye.
Since you are reading this post, chances are you’re on the lookout for ways to enhance your experience of leadership and life, and because of that, you’re better off than most. That makes you just the right person for me to have this “conversation” with because you and I both know deep down there is more fulfillment and significance to be experienced.