Friday, December 31, 2010

Accepting fear will allow you to move foward in your business

My father was visiting over the holidays and reminiscing about his days as a Navy pilot. Being eighty eight years old and a WWII veteran, he is part of a small and shrinking group of men and women who came of age during a time of war.

As a carrier pilot in the Pacific theater, my father had to learn how to manage his fear. He describes his first carrier landing as the most terrifying experience of his life; one he recalls vividly today. There are no heroic images in his recollection, only feelings of paralyzing fear and disbelief. Is it really possible to land a plane on what appeared to be a “matchbook bobbing and weaving" on the surface of the ocean?

When his wheels first hit the deck and the arresting wires grabbed the tail hook, he realized it was possible; he had made it. His fear transformed into belief and the elation of accomplishment took over.  He said: “Once I admitted to myself that I was terrified, a sense of relief overcame me and I believed I could do it.”

Many executives don’t like to admit they are afraid. Instead of managing their fear, they pretend it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, this denial prevents them from taking important and decisive action; they never “land the plane!"

Not landing the plane includes among other things: sticking with a strategy that is successful today, when all indications point to it failing tomorrow, keeping quiet on a point of principle to avoid “ruffling feathers,” waiting too long to admit to a mistake, and delaying action on popular yet poor performing executives. Any of these mistakes can cause your leadership to “crash into the ocean.”
Admit to yourself that you are afraid. Even better, admit to someone else you trust and respect. Accepting fear is managing fear. It allows you to make the tough calls, move your business forward, and bring the plane in safely.

Happy New Year!

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