How Confronting Fear Creates Confidence

The Challenge

A Fortune 500 company was restructured to address global competition, and a number of senior leadership roles had been dramatically altered to fit the new structure. My client was one of those leaders. Once responsible for North and South America as well as Asia-Pacific with control over manufacturing and all the supporting functions, my client was given new responsibility for leading sales and services on a world-wide basis. One thing hadn’t changed – the unrelentingly demands for results. There would be no honeymoon period. He and his team were responsible sales and innovation starting immediately, even though they no longer controlled manufacturing, engineering or product development. He needed to create a new team identity, vision, and values immediately. But his greatest challenge was to flush out any fear the team had about failing and create a winning game plan, one that the entire team could authentically and freely commit to.

The Process

We brought the team together for an intense two day off-site meeting. The first step was to create a “box” – a clearly defined and non-negotiable set of expectations that left no doubt about what they were “on the hook” to deliver. There was no way out, no excuses would be accepted.

Next we openly acknowledged what would be challenging for the team. This was not the time for rose colored glasses. It was a time to face reality. At that point, the goals and all the challenges were clearly defined. That was the easy part. Now the team had to create a way to win, no matter what the challenges were.

We had the team create a powerful success story three years into the future, one that they all would be proud of. Several short but emotionally moving videos created a context for boldness and courage. That was followed by identifying the specific skills, talent, and behavioral styles necessary to produce the outcomes that were so vividly described in their vision.

By the second day, the team was starting to trust each other. The conversation was direct, open and honest. It was time to acknowledge their fear. Were they praying to win or expecting to win? Several courageous people raised their hands and spoke freely about what could derail them. We listened without questioning and carefully noted their comments.

As a group, the team challenged the show-stoppers. Which ones could really stop them? Only a few really mattered, the ones that did could be handled. From there the team created two major initiatives that would completely overwhelm, if not eliminate, the final barriers. They had a game plan in which they could believe.

The Result

The team discovered a powerful new way of winning. Instead of relying on the old model of hierarchal power, they would become masters of influence, persuasion and collaboration. They would not only work with customers to deliver important strategic programs, they would do the same for the other internal divisions. They knew the only way to win in the new structure would be to create wins for everyone. And they would lead the way for the entire organization. No longer praying to win, this team expected to win.