4 Ways to Turn Fear into Fuel

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The COVID-19 pandemic has escalated around the world and continues to dominate media coverage.

Throughout the last few weeks, we had to make some tough choices as a university. As more information is revealed, we must analyze our situations and make the best decisions for our organization.

When faced with a crisis, you have the opportunity to rise to the occasion and turn fear into fuel for you and others. I like to think of this process as flipping your approach to fear. If you’re not careful, fear can hinder your life. You may suddenly lack the initiative to make decisions that usually take very little thought. When you choose to face your fear, you can use it to fuel your performance. Think of that initial wave of fear as an indicator that it’s time to act. It is less about eliminating fear completely, but harnessing it and using it as a powerful motivating force.

Here are 4 ways to turn fear into fuel:

1. Combat misinformation

There are so many opinions and theories out there right now. Many of them are untrue and causing fear and confusion. It is easy to get caught up in the wind of “what ifs,” and to not seek the truth. During this time, it is important to research what you are hearing and deliver accurate information to your team. Clarity is critical. Choose your words wisely and be consistent. Ask your team for feedback, and work together to ensure you are communicating in the best way possible. Make sure you are getting your facts from accredited sources, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov).

2. Focus on the big picture

One of the most difficult things to do in a crisis is to manage the current problem while also seeing the big picture. It’s crucial to take a step back, observe and audit the context before you act. Every crisis poses an opportunity for innovation, both within your organization and within your team. Make sure you are leading from a posture you want replicated in your organization. What you do in moderation, your team will do in excess. Model a sense of peace, strength and conviction in the moment of crisis. The decisions you make now can serve as a model for the future and can set a new standard of excellence.

3. Have a plan

Dr. Nance Lucas, the executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University, said, “Fear is a type of stress, and when people approach fear with resilience they can use their stress to accomplish something good.” Your approach to a crisis can determine the outcome. Don’t panic; be prepared. People want to feel safe and secure, and this is an opportunity to guide others to a healthier place. The composure of leaders should combine dexterity and perseverance to minimize the impact of uncertainty. If you don’t know where you are going, you will never get there. Choose to go above and beyond your obligation. Take time to sit down with your team and focus. Try to envision success, and take steps to push you toward that goal. Make sure your plan is easy to understand and flexible. Transparency is essential in your communication. How you deliver the plan is just as important as the plan itself. A good leader knows they need to be transparent, but a great leader knows the sequence and the amount of information they need to transpose at each time.

4. Show empathy and build community

This situation is new and scary for everyone, so extend grace to those around you. Show others that you care by listening and trying to understand their perspective. Remember that empathy isn’t about what you want, but is about what the other person needs. Your actions should benefit them. Try to remain as optimistic as possible. The way you lead in a crisis has a significant impact. Some of the most powerful moments take place during a time of uncertainty. Be a voice of encouragement and hope to your friends and to your team. Try to keep positive thoughts and actions that focus on successes, opportunities and collaboration.

As leaders, we must face this challenge head-on with courage, strength and integrity. Don’t miss this opportunity to lead. Choose to rise above the chaos and take your organization to the next level.

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