Is your fear of failure holding your team back?

    January 1, 2017

    We all know that fear of failure can limit us. But did you know that when managers experience fear of failure and let it dictate their professional actions, it can have a negative impact on their teams?

    Playing it safe can carry significant risks.

    The problem is that when someone in a decision-making position experiences fear, he or she is likely to choose the “safe” option whenever a decision has to be made. Because the outcome of the safe option is more known, there’s less apparent risk involved—in contrast to a “new” option whose outcome leaves more to be discovered.

    But the truth is that always choosing the safe option does involve risk, albeit perhaps not the kind of risk you’d expect. Playing it safe doesn’t allow room for innovation or growth—two factors that are key to any company maintaining a competitive position. Moreover, when managers continuously make “safe”” decisions for their teams, their well-intentioned efforts to protect could have negative consequences. It could make teams afraid of failure and cause them to doubt themselves. It can make them feel unsupported and frustrated at work, which is likely to result in diminished engagement and higher turnover. And in the long run, it can prevent them from professional growth and reaching their full potential.

    Overcoming your fear.

    Clearly, fear of failure can have far-reaching effects. So what can you do to overcome your fears and create a stimulating, challenging work environment for your team?

    The most important step is to become aware of when you’re avoiding things due to fear. Let’s say you avoid going after multinational clients because as a mid-sized company, you’re afraid you don’t have the resources to meet their needs. What’s so important at this point is to instead of just letting your fear decide for you, invest some time and effort to determine whether that fear is valid. Figure out what you’d stand to lose and gain by approaching bigger clients. Use your managerial skills and knowledge of your industry to analyze precisely what resources you’d need to deliver a top-notch product. List out the pros and cons for your employees, your organization, and yourself. This information should be enough for you to make an objective, informed decision—not one based on fear.

    You’ll have to do this each time you become aware of your fear potentially influencing your decisions. If necessary, enlist the help of a mentor or trusted advisor—someone who’ll give you an objective opinion instead of telling you what you want to hear.

    Supporting your employees.

    Let’s say you’ve established that there are a number of distinct benefits to going after bigger clients. Now it’s key to make sure your team has the resources it needs to succeed, whether that’s a bigger budget to allow for additional research or direct access to stakeholders in the company with in-depth knowledge of the industry.

    Failure isn’t always bad.

    Even if you’ve objectively evaluated the risk and provided your employees with the support they need, success isn’t guaranteed. But failure isn’t always bad—in fact, it can be a profound lesson that helps you grow and develop as a manager.

    In the Forbes article “30 Powerful Quotes on Failure,” Ekaterina Walter quotes Winston Churchill, who famously said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” And those are wise words to live by, since the only way you can overcome failure is to try again, and the only way you can achieve greater things is to build on your success.


    Let’s solve your workforce challenges today.

    We create limitless opportunities by successfully connecting you to the people and solutions you need. Let’s talk about how we can help your business thrive.

    Let's Talk!