Fear Driven Business Scares Me

Fear Driven Business Scares Me

Fear Driven Business Scares Me 880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Business can be rough these days. The pressure is on to keep up with the demands and changing ideas of consumers – who seem to be spending less and less. Or maybe they’re just spending smarter.

The trends you jump on this morning are dying by sunset and new trends have moved in. Your competitors are innovating. New competitors are popping up every day – all full of personality and caffeine. Or piss and vinegar as my granddad would say.

I have no idea what those ingredients have to do with anything, but still.

And so, when the heat is on and there are decisions to be made that will have a ripple effect across the organization, far too many companies react based on fear. Like when you punch a haunted house worker even though you know it’s all fake.

It’s fight or flight. It’s instinct.

The difference between socking a guy wearing a zombie mask and leading your company or team with a desperate hand is that the former is a one-time event and the latter often turns into a habit. Those decisions can begin to build on themselves.  They stack up until you have to dig your way out. Change the culture.

Seth Godin talks about something similar here. He calls it Stoogecraft.

So how does one help prevent a layer of suffocating fear-based decisions?


It all starts here. Trust yourself enough to be able to handle unexpected situations. Surround yourself with people you trust. If there’s someone on your team you can’t trust they shouldn’t be there, no matter how talented they may be.

It’s important to remember to extend trust by default. Sure, it can be easier said than done because we all carry certain experiences with us from place to place, but if you trust until someone gives you a reason not to instead of approaching it as something that must be earned you help cultivate a more productive, more agile culture.

Create Team Transparency

Trusting by default is a big step in the right direction but sometimes your company needs some added transparency as rails for trust to run on.

Listen, I’m a designer at the core so reports are the last thing I want to get involved with. I was lucky enough, however, to spend time in an environment that utilized them well.

Reporting on projects, tasks, goals, roadblocks, wins, and losses takes away questions, provides motivation and helps improve communication. Find a rhythm that makes sense for your group whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, just be sure your reports are based on improving transparency and not micro-managing. Create documents and procedures that get questions out of the way and amplify everyone’s strengths.

Share & Educate

Ideally, every company wants to stray away from housing a group of generalists and run with a connected team of specialists. It can take some time to get there. Either way, there’s no reason for any one person to be the Keeper of Knowledge. That’s another fear based maneuver – fear of losing a job, fear of someone else finding a way to do it better.

Hold cross-department Lunch N Learn sessions to get folks familiar with what their colleagues do and how it impacts the business.

Install Glass Door Policies

Just as important as internal transparency is external transparency. When your company gets to be itself, flaws, quirks and all, everyone gets to focus on the tasks at hand instead of maintaining a facade. If your company is small there is no reason to attempt to make the market believe you’re a much larger team. I see companies do this all the time and it’s just silly. That’s immediately where trust fails.

Part of running a glass door operation is opening your business up to partnership opportunities. Pulling back the curtain and letting others take a peek at how they could potentially help can open up a world of possibilities. There’s no shame in admitting you could use some help.

An open brand not only attracts the right partners it’s more effective at attracting the right customers.

In the end self-awareness from the top down is key.

Have more tips or experiences to share? Please do.

Photo credit: Kenny Louie

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