Maybe it is the perfectionist in me, more likely it is the small child who grew up in the abusive home who was afraid of setting off the fighting and hitting. Either way I am extremely uncomfortable the first time I have to do something especially if it is in front of other people. Let me do it once though and I am rock solid and confident the next time. Simply put, the unknown scares the crap out of me! And I am living on the cliff of a big unknown right now.
My mare, Jasmine, is due to foal soon (her due date is in 44 days to be exact, but who has
an app on their phone and is counting *smile*). I have never raised a foal (baby horse) before, I have never handled one more than to pet one while someone much more experienced babysat us, I have seen one birth and it wasn’t an easy one. Everyone keeps asking me if I am excited for my “grandbaby”. I don’t know exactly how to answer them. Yes, I am totally excited, this is a dream come true. But at the same time I am terrified. I wish this all came with a dress rehearsal so I could get through my awkwardness and then do it right. I laugh about it because I really am that commercial for first child and second child, except I only plan to do this once so I want both with this baby.
I was thinking a lot about my clients as I was trying to explain my split mindset to our barn manager. Trying to help her understand that I am scared but don’t want to let that be how I make decisions or how much I chose to be involved versus letting the professionals do.
I think often fear of the unknown is misread as not being on-board, as being against change or not being excited about the future. Fear is a hard emotion to communicate and even when we have the words we are afraid to speak them because they make us look weak or make us vulnerable. Too often expressing fear comes out sounding like excuses or negativity. As leaders we need to learn to hear past the words and the hesitation and dig for the truth.
I have a relatively new client I am working with; I am very excited about this project because I see so much potential for them. They are falling into the trap of hearing fear and hesitation at the unknown, from team members, and seeing it as a lack of buy-in. In meeting with their key members one-on-one, I asked the hard question “What is really stopping you?” and got great honesty. The answer, Fear! While not one of them expressed it as that word, that is what it was. It came out in phrases like, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to get the data I need”, “I don’t know if our software can do it the way I need”, “our departments work very differently”, but it all translated to fear of the unknown.
So what can we, as leaders and change agents, do to belay fear. The first thing is communication, the second is education. The more known we make a change or a plan the more comfortable followers will be to take the path we are offering. This communication and education needs to happen proactively to be successful. Too often I see firms who want to roll out the software, change the policy and then share and communicate. This rarely ever works. You have already tossed everyone into the unknown and they are now in fight or flight mode. The key is to prepare not repair.
I have been trying to prepare for the last year waiting for this baby. I have gone out of my way to watch how other foals are handled at the barn, I have read anything I can get my hands on, I have you tubed to death. Do I feel ready enough, no, but the other piece of dealing with fear is trusting you are in a place where if you fall the net will catch you. I know my mare and I have the best people around us, people who have been raising foals for decades, and I have already told them that they have the right to step in and correct me as need be. I trust the people around me, another key to surviving the unknown. But being a trusting follower is another blog post, for another day.