Fear Itself: The Obstacle Between You and Workplace Trust

February 10, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

“Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead….The scarcity makes leadership valuable”.

This powerful quote, extracted from Seth Godin’s blog, innocently inspired a sub-theme for my recent community event exploring the EQ of Trust in the Workplace. Presenter Valia Glytsis, executive coach and founder of Paradox of Leadership, began her talk with Godin’s words to indicate our greatest obstacle to achieving success: Fear. More specifically, it’s the fear that emerges when we haven’t found our place in the trust equation. And as her presentation unfolded, and morphed into what I compare to a Tedx Talk with audience participation, many in the room began to identify this fear in themselves.

Breaking the Barrier

Indeed, there is a fear barrier that even the most determined of us need to shatter in order to achieve a leadership role or bring an ambitious undertaking to completion. It is perhaps a lack of trust in our own abilities that perpetuates these fear roadblocks, and squanders potentially grand accomplishments along the way. Valia pointed to an Imposter Syndrome that 70% of professionals suffer from, whereby we begin to question our value and impact in a particular work environment. Reverting from the “I’m not good enough” mindset and a “They’re going to find me out” type of pessimism is crucial to being an effective component of the team, and learning to trust our own aptitude is at the center of that effort. This, however, is a challenge that requires a look inward and an openness to true personal growth.

Just Do The Math

Those who will ultimately succeed and become leaders are not necessarily the fearless bullies or the Type-A’s or the ones driven by some mysterious, unrelenting power-pack within; Rather, they are the ones who understand David Meister’s trust equation (Trust = Credibility, Reliability, and Intimacy, divided by Self-Orientation). Without tackling the Self-Orientation denominator, it becomes impossible to know where you stand in the minds of others, rendering assets like Integrity as mere personality traits. Such vulnerability prevents IQ from becoming EQ, and may also be preventing a competent you from becoming a successful you. The new goal is to use techniques to shrink your façade and reveal yourself to others (opening your Johari Window, taking advantage when asked open-ended questions, etc). Valia’s greatest advice in this arena is to notice your moment of leadership, and find pause in that moment. Only then will trust begin, melting away your career roadblocks.

60 New Leaders Emerge

The evening’s post-presentation “Breakout” group discussions produced some promising feedback from our participants with respect to overcoming workplace self-doubt. Most notable was the notion that fear of the stress associated with a challenging task can get in the way of selecting the task, often prompting us to choose the easy stuff, trapping us in career limbo. It was thus acknowledged that stress is relevant whether you’re a shop clerk or the closer of a $50 million deal. It all boils down to unwarranted, unnecessary fear. The new outlook: Why let leadership be reserved for the chosen few? Trust in yourself, open the “book of you” to others, actively work through your fears, and unleash the leader inside you.

To explore the topic further, link to WAC’s Testimonials Page, where I’ve posted actual “baby steps” written by the event’s participants in reference to fear as it relates to trust. These affirmations further attest to the compelling information that gets shared at our events. Those fortunate enough to be in the room walked away with life and career-changing insight. Next time you’re in New York City, consider being among them!