The Revealing Power of Fear
I’ve noticed an unsettling and revealing set of questions that my coach, Bob Hancox, asks.
- What’s most concerning for you?
- What makes this so important to you?
- What’s really at stake for you here?
These questions crush the tyranny of the urgent and cause me to focus on my fears. Bob never asks me, “What are you afraid of?” I’d pull back if he did. “I’m not afraid.”
Fears point to things we cling to – we don’t want to lose – something we’re protecting.
Fear points to our values in emotional and behavioral terms.
Fear creates barriers. I’ve watched fearful people talk in self-protective ways while, at the same time, they search for weaknesses or faults in others. It may not be intentional but it’s manipulative.
Asking the questions I listed above allows people to get in touch with their values and see core issues. Connect with others through understanding. Be certain you’ll disconnect if you judge. When someone expresses a concern, ask, “What makes this so important to you?”
- “Why” questions.
- Belittling or minimizing. “That doesn’t seem very important.”
- Quick conclusions.
- The temptation to fix. The first lesson of coaching is you don’t fix people.
One application might be asking a stressed out employee (after they’ve calmed down), “What’s really at stake for you here?” That approach sounds better than calm down, doesn’t it? Listen for and connect through the values that come out.
You could use five types of questions to advance a coaching conversation:
- What’s happening?
- What do you want to happen?
- What are the next steps?
- When will you take those steps?
- How can I help?
If you’d like to enhance your coaching skills, consider “Coaching for Engagement.”
What coaching questions have you found most useful?
Couldn’t agree more. Every leader needs a coach.
Though, the majority of the public has a negative connotation with the “coach” word. They think it’s someone that’s going to fix them.
Everybody needs a coach. So says the CEO of Google.
I agree the fear creates barriers. I also believe that fear without efforts keep increasing frustration. But fear with good effort minimize frustration. When people think and expect without understanding the limitation of individual capacity and external forces, they get even more frustrated. So, the best way to alleviate fear is to understand things that are beyond our control. Other way and perhaps best way to overcome fear is ” To kill the Fear itself”. While it looks easier said than done, it takes great challenge and determination. Generally people have less or no support system, tend to fear more. But people who have more support system are less prone to fear.
All the coaching questions suggested is future oriented. The coaching questions I found most useful is to increase self awareness. Other ways that make sense is to living in the present, making effort for future, understand limitation of system, discipline our expectation etc. Finally, greed is perhaps the one core component that fosters fear. It indicates that Fear and Greed perhaps moves together.
Good point. Whenever I am at a road block, I usually ask myself what I’m afraid of (usually I drill down to fear). After the realization, I usually feel so much better. Thanks for reminding us that we can figure the solutions to our own riddles, if we just stop and consider all the possibilities.
I completely agree on the points and rhetoric phrases.
– Fear is something so deeply psychological that it is hard for most people to understand and really work on it consciously. I do not fear anything, because even if I die tomorrow, I know I have done everything I could and wanted in my life up to that point. It would be a huge pity and I don’t like the fact. But I do not fear it as I can’t do anything against it anyway. And, I learnt in my life, that there are sooo many opportunities, no matter which situation you are in…often, most people just do not see them and that makes them scared of losing their job/getting into an accident, and so on. Besides, people let too much influence the TV/media their opinion about a lot of things
– I have been coaching and leading for quite a bit. Yet, what, if one doesn’t find a coach? Or it’s hard to find someone? How do you find a coach? In my point of view, a coach is someone, who can motivate you, teaches you things you don’t know, supports you on achieving the next steps, reaching higher and stepping beyond your borders. Correct me, if I may be wrong in that sense.
I’m looking forward to your thoughts 🙂
Important topic. In my experience, I still see fear as the dominant driving emotion in most workplaces. Part of it is the pervasive fear we bring in our emotional baggage, but the structure of most organizational cultures triggers fear in everyday processes of work. And because as you say, it’s difficult to admit fear, it stays largely taboo (even to ourselves) and especially regarding work.
In light of what we’re learning from neuroscience – about the corrosive effects of fear – enlightened org leaders must begin to take on the challenge as Deming said of – driving fear out of the workplace.
Great post! I love you questions for a coaching session. I would add one more that I’ve found effective- Help me understand.
If a leader can help address the fears of their team the whole team will benefit. Getting help from a coach is invaluable to grow your own skills.
Great post endeed. My name is Diana and I am from Romania. Here, after 50 years of communism, the relation between leadership and fear has been enriched with different aspects and meanings. At the three questions from the begining of the article the answer is always my life, my freedom, my privacy.
Therefore the necessity of a coach is also more complex. It relates to everything and every kind of workplace. Here the need is to create leaders from zero, with new ideas and priciples. So the coach has more work than you could imagine.
Maybe some day we will exchange opinions so as to help me learn more about you western view on things. Maybe you will also find a way to make you heard here.
For the last 2 or 3 years I try to tell people the same things yoy wrote here, but it’s difficult. Maybe you cand give me some specific tips.
Thanks. Good luck!
Fully agree! If there is fear below the surface, bring it out and discuss it.
I use similar questions like the 5 that you mention, and some addational questions that focus on the strengths of people, like:
– What brought you here, how did you get this far?
– How do you manage through the day, giving the xxx situation that you are facing?
– What did you do to solve yyy? Why did it work?
Focusing on strengths help people to stand out above the average, and really make a difference. And they will feel good doing it :-).
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