By Steve Moran
If you have a fear of public speaking, it is a natural and instinctual thing. It is something that I have spent a lot of time working on and still is a huge plague in my life.
I am afraid like there is a lion just out of sight waiting to pounce on me when I step onto the stage and start to open my mouth.
It is, of course, ridiculous to have that much fear when I step on a stage (virtual or physical). Because . . . is it the very worst thing that could happen to me?
I could bomb, and in fact, I already did that at least once. I didn’t die. And, in fact, I still have people hiring me to make speeches. But the fear remains.
We as humans were built with a certain amount of fear because fear keeps us safe. Today it keeps us from doing foolish things when we drive (mostly). It keeps us out of dangerous areas and makes us more vigilant when we are walking down dark streets at night.
The problem is that we are programmed to be terrified of the unknown, the unpredictable. And, sometimes, our bodies and unconscious mind, get stuck in the “where is the lion?” emotional state. It makes us react in sub-optimal ways, ways that actually do damage to us rather than help us.
Leading Beyond Stage Fright
As leaders, we often have to make big decisions and choices where the outcomes are, or feel like they are, scary. And when we get into those situations it becomes really easy to not make a decision. That, of course, is its own kind of decision. Or, sometimes, we just do what we have always done, even though it is not working well, because it feels safe.
This is a huge problem. Because when our leadership style is to allow “fear of the lion” to dominate how we lead, it will inevitably be the wrong decision. If we are honest, that thing we are most afraid of is the thing that is THE LEAST LIKELY THING TO HAPPEN.
Sure you can say “But, But, But”. Yes, every year a few people die from lightning strikes; and in North America, 27 people have been killed by mountain lions . . . in the last 100 years. But the odds are less than that of winning the lottery.
Right now I am fearful we are letting the “fear of the lion” win with respect to residents’ mental health and perhaps to the detriment of the whole industry. The lion, of course, is additional COVID deaths and the response is to take the most restrictive approach with regard to allowing visitors.
This is causing great emotional stress for residents and family members. To the economic peril of senior living, prospects are saying no to senior living because no one wants to be isolated from the people that are most important to them.
Our COVID memories will remain deeply embedded in our souls, likely stronger than our 9/11 memories with more of us directly impacted. We will get to choose whether to let it make us more afraid or to let it be a lesson that fear of the lion is worth conquering.
What will you do?