Learn to Be Fearless As A Leader
Learn To Be Fearless As A Leader
Q: As a business owner, I have to deal with a lot of difficult situations with customers and vendors. I’m actually good at it. But….when it comes to dealing with ethical issues with my employees, I’m not very comfortable. I feel like it’s easier to pretend I didn’t see something than it is to address it. Any advice on how I can approach things?
A: Yawzzzzaaa! You are not alone. Did you know that? A lot of people feel the same way—give them a customer that’s doing something wrong, like stealing, or bad-mouthing the company, and they know exactly how to handle the situation.
But give them a peer or an employee who is bad mouthing the company, and they feel like they have to agree or sympathize. Or witness a colleague abusing the time clock or wasting company supplies, or looking at porn websites, and they turn a blind eye. What is it about standing up for what’s right when it involves co-workers that is so darn hard? It’s time to strengthen your courage muscle and learn to be fearless!
We’ve become desensitized
Well, here’s my take—you’re a dumba@@ if you let such nonsense keep happening. I’m just kidding. No, I’m not…but maybe that’s just a bit harsh. Dealing with sticky situations that involve ethics, integrity, honesty, etc., really ARE hard for lots and lots of people.
Part of it is that we’ve become desensitized to some things, we don’t want to get involved, get in trouble, get anyone else in trouble, become labeled a whistleblower/snitch, put our own jobs at risk, etc. Tons and tons of reasons and excuses.
But, if you are someone in a position of authority or ever hope to get there, or just want to be a damn good employee, you can’t turn a blind eye. So, how do you figure out the right approach to take and how do you get better at addressing uncomfortable situations that take courage to tackle? How can you learn to be fearless?
Here are 3 things you should consider as you learn to be fearless:
1. Make sure you have the facts, Jack.
Don’t get sucked into responding to rumors that may be circulating. Don’t ignore them either. What’s that old cliché…where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Unfortunately, that is often true, so if you hear a nasty rumor that causes you concern, keep your eyes and ears open to determine if you can observe the behavior directly yourself.
Don’t just jump right in and spread the rumor or make accusations based on hearsay. As long as the issue isn’t a safety or legal issue, take your time to check out the facts.
Ask yourself if there are other possibilities for the allegations. Is there another interpretation that is possible? Run through different scenarios in your mind and use those possibilities to ask strategic questions and watch for behaviors that supposedly are happening.
If you discover there is truth to the rumor, plan who, what, when and how to deliver your message about the situation. Too often, we hesitate to do anything because we’re afraid we’ll do the wrong thing. As long as you have verified the facts of the situation, you can take control of how to handle it effectively. In this way, you can learn to be fearless with confidence.
2. Make sure you are delivering your message to the right person and at the right time.
Once you have direct knowledge (you’ve seen or heard something directly) it’s time to figure out who you should express your concern to so the issue can be resolved at the lowest level possible. Perhaps you should talk to the actual person involved so they have the chance to fix or remedy the issue. Again, this is especially true if we’re not talking about safety or legal issues.
Some things can be corrected by stopping certain behaviors, or apologizing to an offended party. Other things, relating to safety or legal concerns, must be addressed more formally and immediately.
And if talking to the person involved doesn’t resolve the issue, it’s time to go up the chain of command.
Just make sure you’re not merely passing along rumors or skirting around things. Be direct and constructive.They say timing is everything, and it’s pretty critical if you want to learn to be fearless as well. Once you know who you need to talk to and what you want to say, make sure you pick a time when you won’t be rushed and a place where you will have privacy.
Don’t try to catch someone in the hall to discuss sensitive issues. And over drinks at the local bar is probably not the right time or place either—usually. Use your common sense—would YOU want someone approaching you in the hall or over drinks? You want to be taken seriously by the person, so you need to treat the situation professionally.
If possible, give the person a heads up, at least in general terms, about what you want to talk to them about so they have time to think about it as well. Be calm and be sincere. After all, you’re taking action because you care about the person, the team and the company. Don’t lose sight of that.
3. Balance your message and bring possible solutions to the table.
Verifying your facts and making sure you’re addressing sticky situations with the right person are just the first two steps. No one wants to be called Negative Nelly and if you don’t take this third step, you’ll become known as a critic and the person who is always negative or ineffectual.
When you are working through a situation that has high emotions, make sure you focus on the behaviors, not the person or their personality.
Ask for possible ways to fix the problem, but be ready with your own suggestions for solutions as well. Once someone becomes upset, it’s almost impossible for them to figure out a solution. They’re too caught up in the emotion.
It’s critical that you stay calm, be sincere, listen to their perspective and their suggestions, and be ready to provide appropriate direction. Help them to understand the consequences from your perspective and offer your help in making needed changes.
Don’t let your fear of being wrong, of losing, or your dislike of taking negative action when necessary, get in your way of becoming someone who is capable of facing people problems effectively.
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. — Mark Twain
If you make these 3 steps part of your approach in handling sensitive situations, whether they are mild or severe, you will learn to be fearless.
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