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Confronting The "Fear of Heights"

We usually think of the fear of heights as someone who's afraid of looking down from high places. You may be one of those successful leaders who also has a fear of heights -- the success that will propel you or company upward.

I was speaking with a talented leader and owner of a growing business a while ago. I could see her carefully laid plans starting to bloom after years of preparation. Her business profile is growing, and big things are on the horizon, yet there was an anxiety she couldn't quite put her finger on. If your company is on the verge of growth, it is vital to consider three important aspects that could hinder the upward movement:

  1. Do you have the team in place that can handle the demands of growth? As we grow in scope and influence, there may be team members who have settled into behaviors and/or mindsets that are not growth oriented, (think -- "Why do we need to change?") When we are small and agile, we do what needs to be done, even if it's "not our job." In a new or growing company, there's often an "all hands on deck" culture that covers for those whose work performance is inconsistent. However, growth puts demands on your team that can spark new levels of creativity in some, and totally wreck those who may be misaligned. When is the last time you took a step back to evaluate your team, and identify individual strengths and opportunities for growth? Additionally, have you overlooked so many "little things" that an honest conversation is uncomfortable for you?

  2. Are your company's systems prepared to handle the growth you want? My friend Bernie is a record producer who shared some counterintuitive wisdom when we worked for a startup some decades ago: "The worst thing that can happen to a small record label is to have a big hit." His example illustrates that while every record label wants a big hit, that hit will require systems to feed and support its growth. Can your company's systems feed the growth of the "big hit" you are looking for? Evaluate how those systems are functioning at the current level and with small spurts of growth. Adjust the corporate systems in anticipation of the growth you seek.

  3. Most critically, are you inwardly prepared for the cost of new heights in your market? Increased financial profits, market influence and staffing demands will impact your internal processing and decision making systems. Your internal system also needs to be evaluated. For instance, are you postponing making major decisions because of fear, either of increased success or failure and disappointment? The "analysis paralysis" at one level can keep you on a loop that distracts you from the necessary steps you need to take for your business or yourself.

Having uncertainty in any of these areas could create a "fear of heights" for you as the leader. Of course, from my perspective the easy answer is to bring in a thought partner who can see your team, your systems, and your leadership from a distanced perspective, and help you to craft the solutions to these issues. I would welcome the opportunity to talk with you about how we can help. But whether you decide to bring in help or not, now is a great time to take an introspective look at what the next level of growth requires from you and your team.

Michele Aikens is Lead Coach at ClearSight Coaching & Consulting. You can connect with her here.



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