Thursday, October 25, 2012

SHOW ME YOUR SCAREDY SIDE. As Halloween comes closer, Bob asks some employees what they're afraid of.

Halloween is less than a week away, and I'm fascinated to see how people embrace their fearful (and fun) side of this holiday. Many homes are decorated in orange lights, with ghosts and goblins taking up residence in the front yard. Today Halloween is like a warm-up to the big holiday season. And I love it!

We generally try to have some fun for Halloween at Shamrock. This year, we asked employees about their own quirky fears and phobias. I wasn't surprised to find a lot of people suffer from arachnophobia (fear of spiders). Arachnophobia is the number one fear people have. Heck, they even made a movie about fear of spiders in 1990 and titled it Arachnophobia. I bet it was a blockbuster.

Other phobias some people at Shamrock share include glossophobia (fear of public speaking); scoleciphobia (fear of worms); claustrophobia (fear of tight spaces); gephyrophobia (fear of high bridges over water), and fear of missing deadlines (we have no actual phobic name for this, but we all face it from time to time).

In honor of Halloween, we've put together a list of the Ten Most Common Phobias:

  1. Arachnophobia (the most common) -- fear of spiders.
  2. Ophidiophobia -- fear of snakes.
  3. Acrophobia -- fear of heights.
  4. Agoraphobia -- fear of situations in which escape is difficult.
  5. Cynophobia -- fear of dogs.
  6. Astraphobia -- fear of thunder and lightning.
  7. Trypanophobia -- fear of injections.
  8. Social Phobias -- fear of social situations (events, places, people)
  9. Pteromerhanophobia -- fear of flying.
  10. Mysophobia -- fear of germs or dirt.
The Internet actually lists hundreds of phobias that range from the obscure to the ridiculous to the potentially threatening to a person's lifestyle.

One of the newest phobias on a large list of obscure ones is nomophobia, the fear of being out of mobile phone contact -- kind of a ridiculous phobia. But, why is it we like being scared? One reason I found is that the same place of the brain that experiences fear also is associated with pleasure. It is also a method of testing and overcoming our limits as well as realizing we are not always in danger and can enjoy the adrenalin rush. Enjoy your Halloween! 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

SCARED TO ACT? JUST DO IT. This week, Bob talks about those spooky business-related fears we all have, and how to overcome them.

Like a marriage, being good at your job takes work. We all experience cycles of happiness and worries about our future at work. But if your worries become fear then you're held hostage by those fears and before you know it, you're doing nothing!

I believe the biggest fear we have today is the fear of change. Change used to be an evolution. Today it's revolutionary. A year ago, I never would have thought I'd be writing blog posts, or checking LinkedIn to see what my contemporaries and my employees are talking about. But now I just do it.

We all want to succeed, but in order to do so, we have to change; we have to keep up with the ever faster spinning world around us. People younger than I may have fewer fears about new technology. But there are age-old fears, like making a new business presentation, speaking in front of an audience, or making a mistake on a big project, that will always be present. We should use these fears to make ourselves and our business smarter, faster, and more competitive.

The best ways to overcome fear?
Practice Your Fear. The more you do something that scares you, the easier it becomes. Take, for example, the most common fear for people who are selling: fear of closing. Treating a sales cycle as a series of small closes makes closing the deal easier when it's finally time to ask for the business.
Rehearse Your Fear. Superstars in sports and entertainment call this visualization. If you repeatedly rehearse something in your mind, while at the same time visualizing yourself as being calm, confident and collected, you naturally will give a better performance.
Reframe Your Fear. When the economy tanked we had to make tough business decisions to remain competitive. Was it better to fire some folks or ask the team to take some unpaid leave? We chose the latter and lessened the fear of unemployment among the troops.
Reassociate Your Fear. Taking risks in business is like getting on a roller coaster — except that you get to do some steering, so you're actually a bit more in control. It turns out that fear you're feeling isn't really fear after all. It's excitement!
Use Your Fear. Sometimes fear is a signal that you need to do something. If you're afraid to ask for the business, it may just be your subconscious telling you it's getting close to the point where you need to ask for the business. To use the well-worn Nike slogan one more time: "Feel the fear, then just do it."

The biggest lesson I've learned in business (and life) is what's most scary is that one thing we think we have no control over. The best way to eliminate the fear is to take control of it as best you can. ###

Friday, October 12, 2012

SCARY BOSS? CHANGE YOUR MINDSET. This week, Bob talks about his personal experiences as a freshman employee.

Continuing the theme of Halloween month and scary business dealings, I've been asked about my scariest job or the boss who made my life on the job a really big challenge.

My first big job after graduating college was with Moore Business Forms. I worked in sales at Moore for 12 years. I had two bosses. One was a smart direct marketing pro in his mid-twenties (at the time, he was the youngest DM person in the business). He was personable, helpful and taught me that if I can't affect change I shouldn't fret over the problem. 

As I moved into a more senior position, this man cautioned me not to become too friendly with employees I managed. His reasoning was that, being friends with my employees might make it more difficult to perform tough decisions that affect the company later on. I was influenced by his management style, but I didn't buy into his theory about being friends with people who reported to me. (Although he wasn't one to be a pal to employees, this man was passionate about treating them well.) He was a great mentor to me and, later on, when he became CEO of one of the largest business forms companies in the U.S., we continued to be good friends.

My second boss at Moore; well, let's say he was not the type of boss I would choose as a mentor, a role model, or a friend.

I had been selling in our mid-market tier for several years and wanted a bigger challenge. I asked to work on a list of unsold accounts. These were larger accounts on our list of potential clients, so I wouldn't have directly taken work away from other sales people. He said no. I was angry enough to look for another job. Offered a job in Chicago, I was set to leave Moore until family issues got in the way. Ultimately, I stayed with Moore, but I knew that I would have to affect change.

With the self-knowledge that I was respected at Moore, and that my sales performance was quite good, I took issue with this man's leadership and spoke up for myself. I got my promotion and also had the good fortune to not have to report to him. He used intimidation to lead. He also looked out for himself rather than his employees. I knew from the beginning that I wouldn't want to be that kind of boss.

For the most part it's not bosses who are scary, it's the situation that's scary. Sometimes we have no control, or we've lost control of a situation. Loss of control is what's scary. I would advise anyone who feels helpless in a situation to seek help from a trusted supervisor or workplace ally. If the situation is helpless, then perhaps the best thing to do is remove yourself from the situation. In the workplace, it may be time to seek employment elsewhere. If that's the case, I would advise someone to prepare for the inevitable and plan to find a job that offers more personal rewards.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT. This week, Bob talks work-related fears that keep some of us up at night.

This is Halloween month -- a good time to pick at the fears and phobias many of us experience in the workplace.

We've all had at least one day filled with disturbances, upheavals and, sometimes, catastrophes at work. Most times, they work out just fine at the end. Other times, we take them home with us like an over-stuffed briefcase that needs attention immediately. It's those days that can often turn into sleepless nights worrying over things that may or may not be within our control. My advice, if you can fix it, get it done the following day. If you can't, bite down hard on your ego and get a trusted co-worker to help you figure it out.

Unfortunately, some worries are out of our control. For example, a recent Fortune article stated that, in a survey by Harris International, American workers' biggest fear is still being fired or laid off. (Although, this was down from 9% to 4% over the previous study conducted in 2011.) Other major disturbances noted in the survey were taking jobs unrelated to one's chosen career, unreasonable workload and stagnant earnings.

Granted, the economy is still not robust, but there are signs it's getting better, so many employee fears that are out of their control may disappear over time.

And then there are the fears that may be considered self-imposed. Several months ago, CareerBuilder did an online poll of what employees fear most. Twenty-six percent fear getting yelled at by their boss, 23% fear forgetting to set their alarm and oversleeping, 18% fear presenting in front of a group, 15% accidently hitting "reply all" to an email, 11% meeting with executives and 9% getting caught visiting an inappropriate website.

What's the one thing all of these fears have in common? They can be controlled. By you! Sure, you may get yelled at by your boss because of something out of your control, or by an error you made. So, you made a mistake. I learned two things about fearing the boss early in my career. The first was to never avoid dealing with the problem immediately and head-on. Avoiding the problem will compound the outcome tenfold in a negative way. Second, if you cannot effect a change to correct a problem, then don't worry about it. I was given this advice from one of my first bosses and it helped me deal with problems with confidence. We all make mistakes or have fears; it's how quickly we deal with them that counts! Let your boss know what difficulties you're struggling with. Believe me, a good boss wants to know and wants to help.

The other fears, as noted in the CareerBuilder survey are those which can be strictly controlled by you, using common sense. Set your alarm the same time each night (and check batteries twice a year). If your advancement depends on it, ask your boss to provide presentation skills training, or check out some ideas online to curb presentation fears. Don't email angry! Prepare for meetings. Don't visit inappropriate websites at work. Then, poof, the fears are gone.

Some employees feel trapped by fear of The Boss, because it is The Boss who holds what may appear to be subjective power that allows you to move up the career ladder and make more money. The reality is, in most situations, most bosses respect strong individuals who can overcome obstacles by intelligently  asking for assistance and relying on help when needed with a difficult situation. This fear of The Boss, like most fears, is self-imposed and can be made to disappear with self-assurance and good judgment.