If you think that our world is terrifying, dangerous, and insane.
It is; and, it has always been that way.
Every generation has faced its own terrifying, dangerous, and insane version of the world.
Arguably, what makes today seem worse is that this is our time. This is our experience and the media loves to fuel our fear and anger.
If something horrible happens anywhere in the world, it is immediately displayed on your smart phone and plastered across the nearest television screen.
- Your next plane flight is doomed
- You shouldn’t go to public places
- You better be ticked off at ‘those’ people
I imagine that you may be thinking…
You’re right, we do live in a world filled with fear and anger, but why would I possibly want to foster a culture of fear and anger?
I am NOT talking about the type of fear and anger the media often fuels.
Allow me to explain my thinking.
Being fearful about things and angry at times is part of the human condition.
Show me someone who claims to never be fearful or angry, and I will contend that you are pointing to a person who is burying feelings, lying to you, or in need of serious self-reflection.
Or, worse yet, you have identified an individual who is unable to feel, indifferent about the situation, or lacks any concern about the outcome.
Now, think about your culture?
If we define culture as what the majority of people do the majority of the time.
Do you want the majority of your people to bury feelings, lie, deny self-reflection, become indifferent, or foster a lack of concern?
Of course not.
Perhaps you want them to fear and become angry at certain issues and at appropriate times. You may even choose to fuel those feelings. Here are a couple of examples:
- You want employees to fear disappointing their teammates, This could mean failing to deliver what was promised OR, better yet, not asking a teammate for help.
- You want them to take risks and innovate. Fear comes along with these behaviors, but you can help them to still take chances.
- You want them to be angry if they continue to experience the same problems without learning anything new or improving performance.
- You want them to be angry about what your customers are angry about and have the desire to help your customers succeed.
“The man who is angry at the right things and with the right people, and further, as he ought, when he ought, and as long as he ought, is praised.” – Aristotle
The key isn’t to suppress feelings.
What comes along with these feelings is to encourage people to appropriately deal with their feelings. According to Science.com, there are three options:
- Hold the feelings in
- Let them out in a burst of energy
- Control them
If an employee holds in feelings of fear and anger, he is likely either to take them out on on others in his life or start to work on his resume (perhaps both).
If an employee lets the feelings out in a burst of energy, she will often cause damage across the organization. Others will be upset and likely retaliate or start working on their own resumes (perhaps both).
However, if we demonstrate control and deal with our fear and anger in an appropriate way, everyone can benefit.
As a leader, here are some behaviors you should foster (and model) in your culture:
- People should feel comfortable addressing issues that cause concern as opposed to avoiding or burying them.
- People should treat one another with respect. As Stephen R. Covey said, “If two agree, only one is needed.” In other words, disagreement is fine. It is often the spark of something great. However, disrespect should not be tolerated.
- People should feel that they can fail at times. The fear of failure should be more about not achieving your best, vice not having a job. Learn to ask questions that focus more on “What can we learn from this experience?” or “What can we do better next time?” Avoid the “Why did you do that…?” type question. People just shut down when you appear to be judging compared to learning.
In the end, people won’t remember the specific goal that you set for this quarter or last year, but they will remember what it felt like to be well led. They will remember what it felt like to contribute their energy to something that mattered and to be their authentic selves along the way.
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.