“I’m afraid I’m just not going to measure up to the expectations of my staff.”
“I’m afraid of speaking in front of large groups.”
“I’m always afraid I’m going to be fired.”
Fear. We all have it, and we all carry it with us. At VIM Executive Coaching, when we are on our journey with those who seek coaching, the best clients are invariably those who express their fears. They may be relatively minor, “I’m afraid of my new commute because I’ll have to take the freeway,” or it can be major, “After I reported a harassment issue to HR, I’m afraid no one in my department likes me.” Sometimes it may just not be only one fear, but multiple fears.
To express a fear, or several fears, means that at the same time we also have to be vulnerable. It is an expression of imperfection (which is delightful, by the way) and it is also an indication of authenticity (even more delightful).
Be here, now
If you note the quotes we started with above, none of them exist in the present – and that is a very important point. For example, the statement “I’m afraid of speaking in front of large groups,” is a statement of the future, that exists in the future. The fear imagines a meeting at some indeterminate point in the future, in front of a group of unknown size, speaking on a yet to be defined topic, for an indeterminate amount of time. It can go even further if we allow our fears to run rampant: are you afraid of saying something stupid? Tripping over an extension cord? Spilling water on a computer? Ripping your trousers on the way to the meeting?
How about a dog wandering into the meeting room and howling at you? Suppose the croissant you had at breakfast contains salmonella and you get violently ill? Or here’s a classic, suppose you give a talk in an office near a golf course and a golfer slices a ball through the window?
I know I am getting silly here, but my point is that often our greatest fears are future worries – and they cripple us. Incidentally, I once saw a lecturer fall off a dark platform while giving a talk. Several people rushed to her assistance and helped her up (because people are, after all, inherently decent), and she continued on with her lecture. No apologies were necessary because, you please understand, it could have happened to anyone.
Virtually every polished speaker I have ever met will share that practice and preparation will minimize the greatest speaking fears. Much more important than that, they admit that a certain amount of “nerves” will always make for a funnier, brighter, more inciteful, and effective talk. It shows you care. It connects you with others. It makes you an authentic person; a human being and not a wooden statue.
In my daily life, and yours, we should always take an authentic person over a person who claims no weakness and no vulnerability.
The person who is fearful of not measuring up to the expectations of their staff can be successfully coached and can become tremendous leaders. The person who marches into an office in a dictatorial, mean-spirited, “insulated” and officious manner cannot be so easily coached, for he or she is unwilling to be vulnerable and to be human.
Your deepest fear?
Your deepest fear may be your greatest asset. I knew an accomplished man terrified to be married and of being a father who turned out to be the kindest, gentlest sweetest husband and dad in the world! He was not afraid to be vulnerable and express his fears. I have known seemingly polished female executives terrified of tackling huge assignments in male dominated companies who became extremely successful leaders inspiring their organizations.
Your deepest fears are often based on a past that no longer exists and a future that is nothing more than mist. Don’t be afraid. VIM Executive Coaching can work with you to be more mindful and authentic. In short, a wonderful leader and an even better person. Your deepest fears may be your greatest assets.
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