I know in my own leadership journey I have had to face the fear of leading, particularly when it came to running the charity I established, the Australian Charity for the Children of Vietnam – ACCV (accv.net.au)
I had a very limited skill set and a real fear of failure.
There was a lot more at stake than my own well-being if I failed. Young blind people living in poverty were reliant on this working. If I failed I could dust myself off and go back to my nice life, but what would happen to them?
I have faced a few decent hurdles through managing ACCV and during those times I’ve really questioned myself. Do I have what it takes? Can I step up as a leader and do this?
I have overcome those times by thinking; ‘well, there is a risk of failure in anything we attempt to do, but failure will be certain if we attempt nothing at all’ so I kept going. ACCV is now thriving and supporting about 200 families with blind or seriously ill children living in poverty. The risk and hard work was worth it. I needed to face those fears and step up to lead.
It’s the same in business.
There is a risk we will fail in our business ventures, research tells us that the failure rates are quite high for small business, so the risk is very real. As leaders and business owners we can’t avoid risk, but we can be proactive in reducing those risks. Plan well; do your homework before investing your time and funds.
Remember that failure is okay, the important thing is that we get back up again. There is a Japanese proverb that says: “Fall seven times and stand up eight”.
Many great success stories include a number of failures along the way. How we handle those failures is what will impact our business; look for lessons learned and keep going. Learning from our mistakes is an important step in dealing with failure and building resilience. Here are a few tips on resilience in a recent article 5 Ways to Build Your Leadership Resilience.
Fear of criticism is another issue for leaders. Nobody likes to be criticised but it’s important for growth and open communication. Consider the source and try not to take it personally, usually it’s not. Once we realise the criticism is not personal unless we choose to make it so, it becomes much easier to deal with.
With ACCV I received quite a bit of criticism; why didn’t I set up a charity in Australia? Why did I fire staff and volunteers? Why did I insist on the program being run in this rigid, boring way?
Look at the criticism as objectively as possible. For me, the long term integrity of the organisation and its programs is more important than pleasing others. I considered the source; if they had experience and knew what they were talking about or their points were valid, I took their opinion on board. I made as informed a decision as possible, and then I let it go. You can’t please all of the people all of the time.
Again, we face similar criticisms in business. There will be times that you are criticised for the decisions you make. On occasion your critic may be right and you may review your decision. There’s nothing wrong with making a mistake. Telling your critics, whether staff or other associates, that you acknowledge their valuable input and have reconsidered will have a positive impact on relationships as they will feel empowered because they know their opinion is valued. It is also good for your reputation for being authentic. You’re only human after all, you make mistakes and you own them.
Whatever your fear is, whether it is failure, criticism or a combination of others, it’s best to look fear in the face and deal with it.
It’s interesting how fears can be reduced when they are exposed and out in the open.