The first time I ever had a job managing people, I heard secondhand that one of my employees said that I needed to grow a spine and actually give people feedback. Apparently he perceived that I’d let people get away with almost anything.
It hurt. Mostly because he was right.
I used to be a scaredy cat. Like a lot of mangers, I was excited to lead people when times were good. However, when it came to tough situations, fear crept in.
I’m not perfect, but I’m a lot better than I was 15 years ago. Here are 10 things that I’ve done before that almost anyone could do to get rid of a scaredy cat:
1) Set expecatations early: Fear showed up for me when I had to give feedback to someone on something that was never made clear. I discovered that while I can’t anticipate every situation, some general ground rules and standards up front lessened fear. If expectations aren’t there with followers, create them. If they aren’t clear, clarify. Do it early or as soon as you can.
2) Be willing to change directions: I used to believe that if I missed a feedback opportunity, I had lost my chance. A mentor gave me great advice when they said, “No leader is perfect. You can always acknowledge to a follower that something has been OK up until now, but that you are now making a different decision going forward.” I’ve done that many times when I realized that I had given tacit approval to something I later wanted changed.
3) Read “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”: I read this after my first management experience. It helped me realize I wasn’t alone and gave me tons of tips for booting my scaredy cat.
4) Ask a trusted colleague for feedback: We all have blind spots. I discovered that asking for advice from a person I trusted often gave me new ideas. I also found that when I proactively sought feedback, I got better faster and colleagues were more honest. It also got easier to hear tough stuff – way easier.
5) Build your confidence: Put yourself in situations where you can be successful and also stretched. Public speaking is a great way to do this. I was a Toastmaster for a number of years and I also did the Dale Carnegie Course (and later instructed it). These two venues will help you develop more confidence.
6) Respond in 24 hours: I’ve mistaken too much thinking time for wisdom. It’s wise to not always react in the moment, but it’s not OK to avoid. Handle stuff in less than 24 hours in tough situations. Do the most unpleasant thing of your day first. I love the wisdom of Zig Ziglar who said, “If you need to eat a frog, you don’t want to look at that sucker too long. He ain’t gonna get any prettier.”
7) Stop confusing quiet with passive: I used to think that my quiet personality meant that I would always have issues confronting people. I now know that introverts lead just as successfully as extroverts. If you need convincing, watch Susan Cain’s TED talk or listen to my interview with her. You can also discover more about yourself through assessments like MBTI and DiSC.
8) Earn trust by being a good-finder: I discovered early that I was way less fearful when I had trust. I started being a good-finder with everyone. I spent time each day finding good stuff people were doing and told them. Because I did this genuinely, I got better responses when I wanted to give tough feedback.
9) Do one thing every day that scares you: When you push yourself hard at least once a day, the world suddenly becomes a lot less scary – and you expand your comfort zone 365 times a year. It’s a good development plan for all of us.
10) Listen to daily inspiration: We all have power to influence our moods, and inspiration can silence any scaredy cat. These days, I listen to podcasts. One that always gives me a boost is Michael Hyatt’s show This Is Your Life. Positive audio books or speeches/sermons are great too.
If you start now, you can get rid of your scaredy cat for good. Choose one item above and begin there. In the comments below, tell us which one you are choosing and when you will start.