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Turn Fear Into Success

Fear can be a great paralyzer, but it can also be highly motivational. Here, Inc. columnists offer ways to transform fear into success.
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Our national day of fear and scare is almost here, so it's as good a chance as any to explore the concept of fear in business. There are some who believe that fear is negative, creating paralysis or, worse, stimulating irrational activity. For many that's true, but great leaders learn to master their fear and use it to their advantage. Daredevils described as "fearless" have stated in interviews that lack of fear makes people reckless. Fear is what makes them respect the inherent dangers they must overcome.

For me, fear is a motivator. It drives me as a companion to my passion. While getting excited about new opportunities and challenges, fear motivates me to be diligent and plan. Fear of a competitor can motivate me to think more creatively or work harder. While massive fear can be debilitating, ultimately I need a healthy dose of fear in my life to make me appreciate the challenges I overcome.

Here are additional thoughts on managing fear from more Inc. columnists.

1. Focus on the Essential

When I sat for the bar exam in July 1997, I was justifiably scared, because I'd barely studied. Instead, a classmate and I had been putting in crazy hours trying to build a company around one of the first successful websites for law and graduate students. To survive, we needed more advertisers--fast.

My solution was to practice triage. I skipped the parts of the two-day exam I didn't know, picked up easy points elsewhere, and hogged the pay phones during breaks, pushing advertisers to sign deals. In the end, I sold the ads, passed the exam and learned that fear can be an entrepreneur's friend. Forget what you can't fix, delay the less essential and focus on surviving just one more day. Bill Murphy Jr.--DC Bill

Want to read more from Bill? Click here.

2. Don't Let Fear Be Infectious

Just like the hero in your favorite zombie apocalypse movie, the way that you approach uncertainty and fear sets the tone for your entire organization. I go so far as to say that fear is a four-letter word.

Case in point: I lost two key employees in the same week. My attitude as I faced this uncertain future for some of our crucial projects set the tone for how the rest of the staff reacted. If I indicated that this loss would be detrimental to the company, that belief would seep into the rest of the organization and paralyze our ability to move forward. Instead, we banded together and used the changes as an opportunity to improve our overall project delivery and knowledge base. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

Want to read more from Eric? Click here.

3. Consider the Root of Your Fear

Since people jump to fear so reflexively, they often fail to think about their first reaction, which is the cause for their fear.  For example, your fear of flying might be a symptom of a high need for control, and giving up that control produces tremendous anxiety. Your fear of public speaking (number one on the world's list of fears) might be a symptom of insecurities--you are not expert enough or prepared enough to give a fluent speech.

When you stop to think about your fear, you can determine if your primary response is insecurity, sense of loss, need for control or discomfort with uncertainty. Once you honestly identify your primary response, you start to know your fear more intimately. Then, you can equip yourself with information and experiences to fearlessly manage change and achieve your goals. Lee Colan--Leadership Matters

Want to read more from Lee? Click here.

4. Reward Risk

Fear is a huge problem in business today, with many employees afraid to do anything that might put their jobs at risk. So what can a smart leader do to get employees to let go of their fears and give everything they've got to the organization? The best approach is to reward your people for thinking outside the box, taking chances and pushing the organization's limits. To encourage his employees to overcome their fears, Richard Zimmerman, former chairman and CEO of Hershey's, awarded the coveted Exalted Order of the Extended Neck to employees who were willing to overcome their fears and buck the system. Peter Economy--The Management Guy

Want to read more from Peter? Click here.

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Last updated: Oct 30, 2013

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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