One of the least acknowledged issues in business is fear. Fear as a sense frequently has no direct link to logic. It can arise from perceptions, past histories, current success or even uncertainty caused by too rapid a change. Because it is almost never articulated it is almost never acknowledged and that means that businesses often find themselves looking at symptoms within their work environment that have no discernible underlying cause.
This leads to the interesting proposition of businesses having to work hard to get rid of fear from within without ever knowing if they are truly successful. Whether it is a very specific sense of fear that is felt within an organization or a vague sense of foreboding, the only thing that you can guarantee is that left unchallenged it feeds on itself and amplifies until it becomes catastrophic.
Generally speaking organisations that have not successfully dealt with this problem display symptoms of extreme risk aversion, low productivity, lack of purpose and lack of innovation. They tend to pay lip service to ideas and ideals but do nothing to turn words into actions.
Yet a business should be a place of safety. It should be where we go to feel free, protected, safe amongst people whose vision, passion and ideas we share. That kind of business provides a sense of freedom for its stuff that often expresses itself in an inherent energy within the business itself. It gives rise to a sense of a shared mission that needs to be accomplished through the efforts of everyone involved.
The fact that this is not the norm speaks volumes about how we communicate at work and within the work environment. Yet, a business culture that creates a sense of purpose and a distinct identity for the individuals within it, can become just the empowerment they need to develop and grow and the motive force that takes a business from being average to being exceptional.
Just how you achieve that is the million dollar question and it is going to be different for each type and size of business. But the way to achieve it requires honesty, courage, transparency and accountability. All the ingredients, in short, that are required to transform a business from a place you go to work to a community you join to thrive in.
So really, have you yet recognized the fear factor in your organization? And what are you going to do about it?