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How to kill the fear

by Miki Saxon

Continuing from yesterday. Just as culture is created from the top, fear is killed from the top.

How do you kill the fear? Not by proclamation, that’s for sure, although the information that the messenger won’t be shot, that failure isn’t the end of the world, that intelligent risk will be rewarded, does need to be announced to the troops.

But first, you need to be sure that your senior staff believes you when you tell it to them; and you can count on its being a hard sell if it’s a major reversal of your current attitude or they recognize it as lip service to the idea du jour.

Since it’s unlikely that kill-the-messenger types are reading this blog, we can proceed with how to align your senior staff with your world view. Assuming there is trust between you and your staff, you need to create an understandable, stable environment within which it’s OK to fail—a little or a lot—but not in the same way over and over.

  • Design a simple methodology provide that environment and encourage risk-taking. There are dozens of examples available on the Net. It’s rarely a good idea to adopt another company’s stratagem whole, but you can adapt ideas/approaches from the best to fit your situation, no matter the size of the source or of your company.
  • The very best (I really believe that there is none better) way to move people in a specific direction, let alone get them to alter their MAP (you can’t force that, they have to want to change), is through the use of vested self-interest. Make it worth their while using innovation bonuses, kudos, etc.
  • Since you know that not every effort is going to pay off revenue-wise, the innovation bonus must be partly for the effort (linked this story yesterday, but you may not have read it) and partly for not killing, or allowing others to kill, the messengers below them.

People are creatures of habit and conditioning. The speed with which the fear is killed is directly related to how much of a cultural change you are implementing. In other words, the greater the balance in your, and each manager’s, “trust” account the faster the fear will die.

One more thought that may be of use to you—my own definition of “failure” is death. I’ve always believed that as long as I could get up (no matter how slowly) and try again that I hadn’t failed, I’d just postponed success.

3 Responses to “How to kill the fear”
  1. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] to outside-the-box thinking. As I wrote last July in “Don’t kill the messenger” and “How to kill the fear,” if you want your people innovating outside the box, give them a culture in which they feel safe […]

  2. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] by innovating? As I wrote last July in “Don’t kill the messenger” and “How to kill the fear” if you want to innovate, give people a culture in which they feel safe enough to do […]

  3. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] a culture with sans fear where the messenger is never killed; […]

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