Fear drives a lot of what we do in life, we are not always conscious of it and nor is it always a bad thing. For millions of years, little step by little step, our brain has evolved and created behaviour programs that we are born with. The ability to look for faces from day 1 is an example of this innate intelligence, we look to faces, they convey feelings, instructions, it’s where we start learning from.
The same is true for other animals with a different context depending on what matters in their evolution. Horses for example, are born and know how to walk and run around in a very short amount of time. What makes humans marginally different to other mammals is that we have more depth to our instinct than others. These instincts are vast and programmed so deep in our mind we are not always aware of them. We know what and who we are attracted to, for example, but can’t explain why. It’s all pre programmed as part of our sexual production instincts. Fear is an instinct, if we sense danger then we react to protect ourselves. There is a great range of the types of fear. If your boss comes to your desk and asks you why you made a mistake on a report, you don’t tear your shirt off and attack them with a knife to protect yourself do you? No, instead you explain what you did and why and how you have learnt and won’t make the mistake again. You have survived and live to fight another day.
Fighting for your life and covering your ass at work at both examples of our survival instinct at play. We are preprogrammed to look after ourselves and over the history of humanity we have had to change what survival has meant from the cave to the farm to the factory to the office block but it’s still there, it just pivots a little bit at a time. From a work context, in 2017 we want to feel safe and when we do, our survival instinct kicks to maintain levels of ambition, consistency and many other variables in between which make up our work as we know it. Where your instinct gets heightened in awareness is when there is a major change, something that has us all scrambling for clarity of our worth, safety and risk. This is especially true if we get someone new in the mix of work, it could be a new boss, a new divisional head or a new CEO. Now that we have set the scene for individual employees and how we look after ourselves, let’s look at the perspective of a new CEO.
A business is like a pyramid scheme. The CEO says what they want to happen to the next tier, the C-level people and they pass this onto Heads of business areas who pass it on to their VPs who pass it on to their Senior blah blah and on and on it goes. What the chief says is what we do, that is the culture of business, or at least it should be. It goes awry in many places because of miscommunication, mini cultures in one region or one office and of course leadership that is about self interests vs teamwork (great example, Simon wrote about a classic division that you find between Sales and Marketing and how to build a bridge fix it).
A great CEO knows that their behaviours create positive change, the pressure comes with knowing they only have 100 days to make major changes and anything after that becomes easy for each of us to dismiss. The reason for the 100 days is what they call President time because it’s a great analogy to understand the challenge. Take President Trump, his leadership is a reflection of his conditioning, he is used to running the show as a CEO. His inconsistent behaviours were never challenged but he’s now in politics and the mindset is different and how you run the show is very, very, very, different. There is no wall, no replacement for Obamacare, a pending risk of world ending war and at last count 1,893 people fired in the Whitehouse. What you had was a great execution of a campaign promising to make ‘America Great Again’ but the promises were never delivered and now we are way past 100 days and now when he comes out with some aggressive rhetoric what do you do? You dismiss, scoff, doubt it, ignore it, he’s lost his chance because he messed up the first 100 days when everyone was listening (some doubting but listening nonetheless).
The same is true for anyone starting a new job. If you bring positive change quickly and communicate it well, then people fall in line and believe in you and act based on your wishes. If you don’t, then over time people ignore it, they retreat back to safety, they don’t believe we need to follow your lead to maintain their safety. That’s the risk of procrastination or not understand the employees you serve as a CEO. This is all a great example of psychology and how we do or don’t do things based on the existing preprogramming in ours brains.
Next time you swap roles, take a new job or become a CEO, remember you have 100 days to make a splash and fear plays a big part in people adapting to what you want. Don’t act and you will fail. If you doubt this, have a think about companies you know have lost their way… that brand you forgot about… the company you used to buy from but switched from… 100 days to bring change and everyday thereafter to maintain it. It’s a good rule to understand and plan around.
The clock is ticking, plan for success