What If Executives Replaced Fear with Possibility Thinking?

05/27/2017 12:22 pm ET
Seeing Possibilities Everyday
Seeing Possibilities Everyday

What would you do if you were not afraid?

The Power Question posed by WorldBlu CEO Traci Fenton is simple: What would you do if you were not afraid? On a podcast, we were talking about transforming from fear-based to possibility focus to unlock full human potential in freedom centered workplaces. Recognizing the underlying presence of fear is a powerful step toward engaging and retaining talent and to improving the quality of decision-making at every level, especially the executive function.

There’ s a lot of power and freedom to be released when you put fears openly on the table where they cannot insidiously infect minds and workplace health. Fear is a quiet unassuming enemy of business sustainability, infecting executive decision-making with the effect of narrowing options to one. Exposing fears expands decision-making options from one to at least three. Power is reclaimed by regaining control over the optics to perceive reality with a broader perspective.

The Conference Board did their part in identifying he fears of 550 CEOs worldwide to identify their top fears before Trump was elected. The top four are: 1) Fear of a global recession, 2) Developing the next generation of leaders ready to reinvent the business, 3) The security of cybersecurity to keep the vast quantities of data safe and, 4) Attracting and retaining talent. Fear #2 and Fear #4 are intertwined in that no matter what the external conditions are, the mindsets of leaders must be centered in possibility to see the interconnectivity of social, ecological conditions required for economic sustainability. In addition, changing values alter customer choices and shape the relationship between customer and the company.

Reputation is made of the capacity to form trustworthy and transparent interactions that are not rooted in fear. So, by being aware of your emotional state, and the emotion driving company-wide decisions, both decisions and communication can improve in effect as long as the focus is on possibility. Consider the difference between a fear-based response: ‘cut costs’ and a possibility based response ‘save money’. Seems like a minor detail but to the brain, it is far from it. Sense the difference in yourself by running those two phrases through your mind.

Extending the contrast between fear and possibility to the strategic level and the difference becomes clearer still. For example: “What are the risks we lose market share?’ has the effect of amplifying fear. “How can we create a business opportunity out of disruption in the energy sector?” or ‘How can we reduce risk exposure created by relying solely on fossil fuels?’ instigates a creative response.

The Effect of Fear on Emotional Well-being on Strategic Conversations

Being mindful of the effect of thinking on the emotional well-being of the organization also has an impact on the stress the organization asks employees to carry. Simon Sinek said it well via Twitter, “When we work hard on something we believe in, it's called passion. When we work hard on something we don't believe in, it's called stress.”

Thinking big picture is wise if companies hope to attract and retain talent who reference progress against the big picture. To spark internal discussion at the strategic level, Business School Lausanne created GapFrame, a framework revealing where major gaps in sustainability reveal opportunities to add value and greater relevance to society. Thinking rooted in an industrial mindset would perceive focus on sustainability as eco-addiction easily dismissed. But talent seeking to contribute is looking for meaning and to make a difference. Only big goals invite and hold attention. Today’s talent is more aware of the ecological overdraft that a more linear approach to running business has sidelined as irrelevant or, at best, a separate and unrelated part of business profitability.

Attracting and retaining talent today means creating more meaningful, consciously aware workplaces focused on possibilities and achieving the impossible.

What could CEOs do if fear were replaced by possibility thinking?

As simple as it looks, the five-step power question process developed by WorldBlu can move decisions from a constricted and narrow frame to a wider more creative set of opportunities.

1. What am I actually afraid of?

2. Why am I afraid?

3. What would I do if I weren’t afraid?

4. How would I feel without the fear?

5. Why is it OK to let the fear go?

Run your mind through that series of questions when you feel tension or stress and you will discover the key to working with uncertainty. Trust and confidence in your Self is the most powerful technology available on earth.

Facing and naming your personal and company-wide fears is a simple way to begin.

Dawna works with progressive early adopter decision makers to create a growth oriented workplace and ethical reputation. A speaker and workshop leader, she is also the author of Decision Making for Dummies and has contributed a chapter on the new purpose of business to ‘The Intelligence of the Cosmos” by systems theorist Ervin Laszlo. She hosts the Insight to Action podcast for business innovators on iTunes. Contact her through www.FromInsightToAction.com and LinkedIn.

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