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Don't Be Afraid to Lead

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Don't Be Afraid to Lead
Take a critical look at the role fear plays in leadership.

I have had a fear of heights my entire life. It’s so bad that I can’t even watch a YouTube video of high places without getting that roller coaster feeling in my stomach. Yet I have a list of some great experiences in some very high places. I took a ride on the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. I’ve walked across the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in Northern Ireland. One of my absolute favorites was riding in an open cockpit biplane in California while the pilot did acrobatics. None of those experiences have solved my fear of heights, unfortunately, but I have learned not to let fear dictate my actions.

Why am I addressing fear? Some people could describe this as a scary time in our industry. Last month, I wrote about some of the changes in our industry, and change alone can be frightening at times. Can we afford certifications? Will consolidators dominate my market? How much will vehicle technology impact collision frequency? Will I be able to hire enough qualified technicians?

If there’s one thing I think our industry needs most right now, it’s fearless leaders. There are several areas I think a fearless leader is essential for taking a company to new heights in 2018.

One of the biggest issues facing our industry is the technician shortage. While I am aware of the challenges we all face in finding the right people to join our team, I truly believe we need to dedicate more time and resources to retaining the people we already have. I believe one of most effective ways to retain people is through impactful communication. That can be a scary thought for some of us. Communication that’s impactful takes effort and often leads us out of our comfort zones. As we venture out of our comfort zones, we often allow fear to move us back a comfortable place.

That comfortable place we seek often involves using email and text to communicate. We live in different times than when I grew up. How did we ever meet up with a friend at the same time and the same place without text messaging? How did we ever share a photo of a trip we took without Facebook? The way we communicate has changed so much in the last 10 years. And I believe the value of face-to-face communication is more valuable as it has become rarer. Yet as we rely more on technology to communicate with people, the thought of having a one-on-one conversation with someone can be something of which we are fearful—especially when it comes to difficult conversations.

We are still human beings and our two most common instincts when we get uncomfortable are fight or flight. As leaders, if we choose to fight, we tend to blow up and holler and scream. If we choose the flight option, then we just head into our office and hope the situation we need to address will resolve itself. We must ask ourselves, how has that worked out? What we need to do is face our fear of having those difficult conversations. When we do, we will find that our fears are unsubstantiated. When difficult conversations take place, doors get opened instead of shut. Relationships get strengthened, as well, when we talk about tough topics.

While some of those topics are work related, we also need to remember we are working with human beings who have lives and families outside of our walls. Conversations about what is going on outside of work is a great way to show you care about them as a person. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Showing you care about who your employees are makes the individual much stronger and also strengthens the relationship of both people involved. As those relationships grow, the likelihood of them leaving over a small dust-up or disagreement reduces.

I encourage you to take a good look at where fear is dictating your actions as a leader. Recognize that fear is not going to go away. Facing your fear and not allowing it to impact your decisions will make you a better leader and take your company in the direction you want to go. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his inauguration speech, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”

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