You may know that I’m an avid skier, and you can find me skiing at Big Sky, Montana, throughout the winter season. I’ve been asked to contribute a bi-weekly business column to Explore Big Sky. You’ll find my latest column below, and you can also see it HERE (I’m on page 19!).
In a recent column, I wrote about the value of overcoming fear in your life and career. After it was published, I discovered that my lifelong fear of heights and exposure had dissolved. The act of sharing it publicly contributed to this.
But having the opportunity to lead two male skiers into Lenin – a steep, double-black diamond ski slope off Big Sky Resort’s Lone Peak Tram –really allowed me to overcome my fear.
Focusing on the safety, confidence and inspiration of others – and ensuring that they’d have a positive first experience without fear – melted my own fears away. It was a powerful experience. Since then, new possibilities abound – I’ve skied the terrain alone, under more challenging conditions, and ridden the tram without good visibility, all while feeling at ease.
I began to consider the times in life when we are called to lead, and how being forced to take charge often supersedes any fears. Business leaders and civil workers often take daily responsibility for a number of people bound to their decisions and actions.
When you focus on the risks and responsibilities, you can become immobilized. But the passion to create, the necessity for action or solutions, or the need to save lives, usually inspire and strengthen these individuals, allowing them to manage the complexities of their choices on the fly. We have all witnessed the power of great leadership in the face of crisis – without having been trained under the exact challenges of the situation, a leader can still have the resolve to know what to do.
But what if your instinct to overcome fear doesn’t kick in immediately? What if the best you can muster is the outward appearance of confidence, not actual confidence? I’ve counseled numerous business leaders as they asked these same questions, dealing with imminent decisions that could fuel the success of an organization, or stifle it. Here’s what I recommend in times of indecisiveness, crisis, conflict, fear or confusion:
- Step back- Don’t react immediately. Take the time to gain clarity about how to best proceed while assessing the consequences of your choices and decisions.
- Trust yourself- You don’t have to be experienced in every situation you’re confronted with. Tap into your inner wisdom and trust yourself.
- Get centered- You must find the capacity to lead with the composure that inspires others’ confidence to trust and follow you. Learn to overcome being frazzled, radical or erratic.
- Take initiative- Be prepared to take the first step and to share your vision. Trust others. Trust that the ones you lead have the capacity to surmount their fears, to readily contribute with new insights, and to act with courage.
- Delegate wisely- Through clarity and centeredness, be clear about what you should delegate to others. Delegation can be a lifesaver in times of stress or crisis, and it will be crucial under competitive pressures and deadlines.
- Keep breathing! Even if the situation doesn’t allow for you to excuse yourself, learn to take deep breaths and repeat to yourself that, “You will get through this,” while recognizing that you must bring the best out of yourself and others in the process.
Throughout my career, I’ve never held a role or position that someone else had held before. I’ve always had to blaze trails for the organizations I’ve led, for my employees and for my clients. We must know what we can do, and have the confidence to lead with experience and knowledge.
In leading or in serving others, we have a great ability to overcome our own fears and obstacles. By acting for others, we become better ourselves.
Johanne Bouchard, a former high-tech executive, is a leadership advisor to CEOs, executives and entrepreneurs, as well as an expert in corporate board composition and dynamics. An avid skier, Bouchard and her husband have a second home in Big Sky. See more at johannebouchard.com.