It’s both utterly personal and completely universal. Fear is an entrepreneur’s worst enemy, so face it, beat it and be a better leader.
By Jennine Heller (Executive Coach, Booster Stage Coaching)
As your startup grows and you face new challenges, one of the easiest traps to fall into is to hide from the things you are uncomfortable with. But getting to know your weaknesses and facing your fears head-on will make you a better leader.
Most of us hide from certain aspects of our work without realizing it. I know that when I have a lot to do, it’s easier to take things on that I have no particular emotional reaction to. Even if the work is difficult, there’s no added burden of having to fight through emotional baggage. But when it’s time to face those challenges that are loaded with kryptonite, I’m really good at rationalizing my avoidance of them.
It’s one thing if we’re talking about procrastinating on tasks. But when we’re talking about avoidance in our attitudes, behaviors and approaches to how we’re running our company, the impact can be far-reaching.
As the leader, your behavior affects team morale, company culture and your business’ success.
What Frightens You?
If any of the following examples sounds familiar, it’s time to face your fears.
“I am conflict-averse”
So you are being held hostage by prima donnas and your underperformers are coasting. This isn’t bad just for productivity, but it’s toxic and demoralizing for the rest of the team.
“I’m an engineer by training, not a CEO”
Your technical background makes you feel more helpful when you’re solving development problems. So you hide in the details where it’s more comfortable.
“I feel like an impostor”
After all, how could you be the president and CEO? So you don’t provide leadership or direction and your company strays.
“I hate networking and I dread doing pitches”
So you put off building your connections and having the meetings you need to have.
“I’m uncomfortable with being the leader”
You have authority issues or are afraid of being “uncool”, so you don’t set priorities, make decisions or hold people accountable.
“I’m insecure about [fill in the blank!]”
So you avoid dealing with issues and situations that bring this to the forefront.
How Can You Tackle Your Fears?
Until you take responsibility for yourself in all these areas, you’re not going to be as effective as you want to be. So where do you start?
Define the role
What do you believe a company leader should be? What is your responsibility to the company and your people? When you imagine a leader, what do you see?
Go through the role and evaluate yourself
Be honest about your limitations. You can usually tell if you’re uncomfortable about something because of how you physically feel when you imagine it.
Consider each pain point and identify examples where you were hiding. If you have partners or colleagues who can give you honest feedback, take it.
Prioritize your weaknesses and address them one by one
Choose the most important issue and work out a plan to improve. This might involve leadership training, finding a mentor, joining a support group, working with a coach or seeking therapy for deep-seated emotional issues. You don’t need to do this alone!
Keep on Going
Working through our fears is an ongoing process. Conquering each one is a cause for celebration, and will give you confidence to take on the next one. Above all, believe that this uncomfortable process is really one of the best things you can do for yourself and your company!
What are your fears and how do you tackle them?
Photo credit: Sarah Holmlund via Shutterstock.