Fear Grips Top Executives Not Used to Failure

citgroup logoIn an economic downturn, executives who have experienced success throughout their careers, sometimes don't know what to do to change.  They are actually gripped by fear that paralyzes their productivity and their success. If left unchecked, these fears can impact an organization's bottom line in significant ways. Letting go of the CEO shouldn't be your first option.  Helping them identify and address their fears should be. An article entitled "Re-Energizing Senior Management" from Forbes.com, which originally came from McKinsey Quarterly outlines reactions executives have to major business changes: organizational drift, missed opportunities, unaddressed threats.

The article goes on to say:

"Among the many emotions that can influence how executives interpret and respond to events, there's one worth addressing on its own: plain old white-knuckled fear. In times of rapid change, when the actions that used to lead to success don't any more, even strong leaders can experience intense, unproductive levels of fear caused by threats to their identity, their reputations, their social standing, and even their basic survival needs of a job and a paycheck. Ironically leaders with the strongest track records are often more susceptible to fear during tumultuous periods because they have less experience facing adversity than do their colleagues with more checkered pasts."

With the presence of fear in the management ranks, open and frank conversations become hard if not impossible to have. Executives are unwilling to be candid for a variety of reasons:

"Spiking levels of fear can convert frank, flexible, open and self-reflective leaders into defensive, close-minded, rigid and literal ones. These leaders may take things personally, feel persecuted, cease productive self-reflection and lose the ability to process new information and respond to difficult situations. Others in the organization will notice this, of course, and will let the executive know in subtle ways--reinforcing fear and defensiveness."

Work Effects has worked with organizations going through transitions, downturns and economic or competitive turmoil.  Fear is a natural human reaction to significant change.  One way to address this is the Conflict LensTM, tool which extensively researched over 1,600 conflict situations and found that there are 10 behaviors that occur when a person if faced with certain situations (see Conflict Lens page).

Even a company's top brass is faced with paralyzing indecision that can affect every aspect of an organization.  Helping them overcome fear in our current economic environment will go a long way to achieving business success.

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