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Fear paralyzes, alertness stimulates

When arriving in Montegualandro, I was surprised to see that this small Italian village at Trasimeno lake was in commotion. There had been a series of thefts during the night! The thieves also broke into our house and stole the best of our last olive harvest. I didn’t expect my holidays to start this way! Anyway, it is clear now that the quality of our product is outstanding.

People like to search for a scapegoat and many point at the ‘stranieri’, the strangers who ‘just freely walk around here since the Schengen Convention’. Of course, the ‘carabinieri’ are also bad. Only good old Silvio gets respect.

To my surprise, I have hardly heard something bad about Berlusconi here! Or is this normal perhaps? The people of Montegualandro see him as the personification of a vigorous policy. At least, Silvio speaks clearly. And this is exactly what scared people like. People who are afraid, don’t think; they get paralyzed!

‘Fear paralyzes, alertness stimulates’. This is what I once heard in the middle of an exam period. I will never forget this sentence. ‘And if you are well prepared, luck will be on your side’.

As a coach, I am regularly confronted with ‘scared’ people. Nobody likes to admit (s)he is scared. Even managers are scared sometimes, but mostly, they don’t talk about it. The lunch break or the coffee room can be a temporary escape, but talking to the boss is no option at all.

According to my experience, fear is often related to change, a strong trigger that became a constant factor in corporate life. Fear has many faces, but it is often based on three uncertainties:
  1. How does my future look like? Can I secure my future?
  2. Do I establish the right priorities? Did I do it in the past?
  3. Who am I? Will I be able to face the challenges?
Nevertheless, there is only one remedy: openness! Create an atmosphere in which everybody dares to speak. You should not only discuss business; the daily routine is also important, maybe even more, because people are responsible for business. How are problems tackled? What about mutual cooperation?

Some guidelines:
  1. Inform your team and employees systematically. Give compliments and always conclude with a constructive ‘call to action’. Tell your team that its efforts are crucial to the company.
  2. Keep ‘close contact’ with all your employees. Through one-2-one discussions, you can obtain lots of information. Every day, you should take some time to ‘hang around’ at the office. Also call a few people working outside the office. And especially, don’t interrupt your employees and show some interest. ‘How do you do today? Everything all right?’ These simple questions are not vain at all.
  3. Always be constructive, even in difficult periods. Don’t act, but show your feelings. EQ is at least as important as IQ!
  4. Be visible and accessible for your employees. This is only possible if your agenda is not full! This seems to be impossible, but believe me: practice makes perfect. Read this little sentence again and do a Self-Test! How accessible are you for your employees?
Now, it is time for a one-2-one discussion with my olive trees!


By Herman van Herterijck

"my ambition is to put the importance of pragmatic and continuous self-coaching on the agenda of current business leaders"

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