HomeSitemap This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Leadership

Strategies, advice and opinions helping to define and develop the role of IT leaders and their staffs.

The number one reason you’re not taking action and what you can do about it

Fear is normal and something we all experience, but if we don’t stand up to fearful thoughts on repeat, we become paralyzed by fear. In this article, I want to talk about what fear is, why it stops us from taking action—especially at work—and how to flip fear on its head so we can move forward instead of feeling stuck.

What is fear?

The dictionary defines fear as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.” Feeling fearful in dangerous situations is normal and helpful but many of us feel fear in situations that aren’t dangerous to anything but our egos. These include public speaking, presenting or pitching to the board of directors, going after a promotion, being the only woman at the executive table, etc.

Give FEAR a new definition

Use the tips in this article to help fear work for you, instead of against you. You can start by remembering an alternate definition of FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.

Why does fear stop us from taking action?

Fear stops us from taking action because we want to make the fear go away and the fastest way to do that is by stopping whatever causes the fear. But that’s a false promise because fear is part of the human condition.

As I said at the beginning, fear is normal and common. But did you know that it’s built into us? Fear pops up because it’s an output from our lizard brain that wants to keep us safe; the lizard brain—also known as the limbic system—thinks new experiences are dangerous.

Fear also stems from:

  • Self-doubt
  • Lack of confidence
  • Living by other people’s assumptions or rules, such as “I can’t have kids or I’ll ruin my career trajectory”
  • Judgement (e.g., worrying about what other people will think if your idea fails)
  • Our inner critic: the gremlin (The gremlin tries to keep us safe, play small and prevent us from taking risks. The gremlin tells us we’re not good enough to do or accomplish something.)

With all these sources of fear, we can’t expect to avoid feeling fear, but what we can do is remember that when fear pops up, we can always make a choice.

When faced with fear, we have two choices:

  • Face it and rise to the occasion, also known as “feeling the fear and doing it anyway.”
  • Run from the fear instead of moving through it.

By facing the fear and doing what makes us afraid, we add more activities to the list of things we’re not afraid of and this builds our self-confidence. Running from and avoiding the fear makes us more fearful and more paralyzed.

Let’s look at a few examples that might sound familiar.

Examples of fear at work

Fear of speaking up at a meeting

If you know me, you know I’ve never had a problem speaking my mind, even from a young age—and my mother can vouch for that! But I’ve seen the reluctance to speak up countless times throughout my career as a leader and now as an executive coach.

Women are great at second-guessing themselves. In meetings, this shows up as not participating. Instead of putting her hand up and adding to the conversation, she’ll sit back and hope that someone picks her to participate. And the result of this approach is easy to predict; she doesn’t share her thoughts and ideas with the rest of the team.

Fear of judgment for being ambitious and having boundaries

This is especially common for women in leadership roles in male-dominated industries. When a woman is the only woman at the executive table, one challenge is stopping stories from playing on repeat in her own mind. These stories are about what other people think of her. Did she sleep her way to the top? Does she know someone? Is she a ball-buster? How can she be away from her children for so long? How can she leave the office at 5 pm to have dinner with her kids?

This fear of judgment can pile on the guilt and stop women from being their authentic selves at work, which is a big mistake. To learn more about why I believe authenticity is essential for women at work, read my article: The importance of being authentically you.

I’m sure you can think of more examples of how fear shows up at work (and at home). Now let’s discuss how you can choose to move forward in the face of fear.

How to overcome fear paralysis and focus on your goals and aspirations instead

The most powerful thing you can do is catch fear in the moment and shift it from self-doubt to possibility. What would’ve happened to Oprah Winfrey if she had let fear get in the way of her dreams? Would she be known worldwide and have a net worth of 2.5 billion dollars? I don’t know Oprah personally, but I suspect she lets fear work for her instead of against her.

4 ways to overcome fear paralysis:

  1. 1. Catch the fear gremlin in the moment – When you recognize the gremlin whispering in your ear, acknowledge her and move on. You can say quietly or out loud, “Thank you gremlin for wanting to protect me. I’ll take it from here.”
  2. 2. Shift from self-doubt to possibility – If you step onto a stage in front of 500 people and your thoughts are about bombing, forgetting your lines or other “failure” scenarios, it’s time to reframe them. Ask yourself positive what-if questions, such as, “What if I do this talk and it’s the best presentation of my life?” or “What if I give this presentation and a young women comes up to me afterwards to tell me it was exactly the message she needed to hear?” What a difference!
  3. 3. Train yourself to think positive thoughts – It’s so easy to get wrapped up in negative thoughts without realizing it. These negative thoughts get cemented in our memory banks if we allow them to stick around for more than 68 seconds. If you catch a negative thought within 17 seconds you can shift it, which keeps the negative thought from getting locked in and fueling further negative thoughts. To get into the habit of this, you can wear a rubber band on your wrist, snap it each time you notice a negative thought and then reframe the thought.
  4. 4. Reframe your definition of failure – We’re often paralyzed by a fear of failure but sometimes what we label as failure would be better described as learning. Stumbling over a sentence or two isn’t failure, it’s a lesson about preparation. Elon Musk and his team at Space X have launched many exploding rockets; these aren’t classified as failures but as learning experiences. Even if your project doesn’t meet your objectives, you will grow if you learn from it. That’s the opposite of failing!

When you shift away from fear, you expand yourself and the possibilities. Without fear ruling you, you’re more able to focus on your biggest goals and aspirations. When fear comes along, flip it around and use it to help you achieve your purpose and live your best life!

Vicki Bradley is an executive coach who helps businesses attract, retain and develop talent to support bottom-line results in the retail, IT and finance sectors. Vicki works with presidents and CEOs to build strong executive teams and with women in or pursuing executive roles. www.synergisticleadershipgroup.com

Past Attendees


ADP - VP Architecture & Infrastructure

AESO - VP, Information Technology

Agnico Eagle Mines - VP, IT

Agrium - Global Mgr., IT Security

Agrium - Senior Director IT Shared Services

Aimia - SVP & Global CIO

Ainsworth Engineered - Director IT

Air Canada Vacations - Director IT

Alberta Energy Regulator - Director, Office of the CIO

Anthem Properties - VP IS

AON Risk Solutions Canada - Head of IT

Aviva Canada - VP, Architecture & Strategy

Bank of America Merrill Lynch - CTO

BC Ferry Services - VP & CIO

Bell Business Markets - Director, Strategy & Planning

Bell Canada - National Director, Digital Transformation

Bellatrix Exploration - Director, Information Technology

Bentall Kennedy - VP IT

Black Press - CTO

BlackBerry - VP Corporate IT

BMO Financial Group - Head of Services Delivery

Bombardier Aerospace - CISO

Bonavista Petroleum - Head of IT

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP - Global CIO

Bow Valley College - Director, IT Services

Bridgewater Bank - Head of IT

BuildDirect - VP IT

Bulk Barn - Head, IT

Burnco - CIO

Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec - VP, IT Planning, Architecture, Governance, Operations

Calfrac Well Services - Head of IT

Canada Mortgage and Housing - VP, Information & Technology

Canadian Depository for Securities - CIO

Canadian Direct Insurance - CTO

Canadian Payments Association - VP & CIO

Canucks Sports - Head of IT

Capgemini - Service Delivery Director

CAPREIT - CIO

Cardel Homes - VP MIS

Cargojet - CIO

CCS Corp. - VP IT

CDSPI - Board Director

Centerra Gold - Director IT & Comm

CIBC - Senior Director, Infrastructure Planning & Engineering

CIBC - SVP & CIO, Retail and Business Banking Technology

CIBC Mellon - AVP, Enterprise Architecture

CIBC Mellon - SVP & CIO

Cineplex Entertainment - CTO

City of Brampton - Senior Manager, IT Architecture & Planning

City of Richmond Hill - CIO

City of Toronto - Director of Strategic Planning & Architecture

CN Rail Service - Chief Information Security Officer

Coast Capital Savings - VP Technology

Concordia University - AVP & CIO

Crescent Point Energy - Head of IT

Dairy Farmers of Ontario - Head of IT and Administration

Dale Parizeau Morris Mackenzie - VP, IT

Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP - Director, Information Technology

DealerTrack Canada - Director, Technology

Defence Construction Canada - Corporate Manager, IT

Deloitte - Director, Risk Advisory

Dentons - Canada CIO

Devon Energy - Director, Integrated Business Services

Direct Cash - VP IT & Security

Dynamic Tire Corp - CIO

D+H Partnership - VP, Head of Canadian Mortgage Technology

eHealth - EVP, Technology

eHealth Ontario - VP, IT Systems & Services

Encana - Director, InfoSec

Enbridge Inc. - VP, Technology and Information Services

Enerflex - CIO

Enerplus - VP. IS

ENMAX - VP, IT & PMO

Equity Financial Trust - VP, IT

Essential Energy Services - Director, IT

Expedia Cruise Ship Centers - VP IS

FGL Sports - VP, Information Technology

Finastra - SVP, Head Technology Managed Services

Fix Auto Canada - COO & SVP

Flightnetwork.com - CIO

Freedom Mobile - Head, Customer Applications, Experience, & Strategy

FT Services - CIO

FundServ - CIO

Genus Capital Management - CTO

Genworth Financial Inc. - VP IT

Golder Associates - CTO

Gran Tierra Energy - Director IT

Grant Thornton LLP - CIO

Greenwin Inc - VP, Information Technology

Groupe Dynamite - Director, IT

GSK Canada - IT Director

GTAA - Acting CIO

H&R Block Canada - VP IT

Haventree Bank - VP, Technology

Hewitt Equipment Ltd. - VP & CIO

Hitachi Vantara - GVP & Global CTO

Home Trust Company - CIO

Home Trust Company - CTO

Home Trust Company - VP & CISO

Horizon North Logistics - CIO

IBM Canada - Associate Partner, Payments Industry

Indigo Books and Music - CIO

ivari - SVP & CIO

JP Morgan Chase Canada - Executive Director, Information Risk Management

Keyera Energy - Director, Information Technology

KnowledgeOne - CIO

LaFarge Canada - Director, IT

Landmark Cinemas Canada - VP, IT

LCBO - Director, Applications Systems

LCBO - SVP & CIO

Leisureworld Senior Care Corp - VP IS

Lightstream Resources - Head, Information Services

London Drugs - GM IT

Loto-Quebec - Corporate Director, InfoSec

Magna International Inc - VP & Global Leader, IT (CIO)

Manulife - Global Head of Private Markets & Real Estate Technology

March Networks - VP Professional Services & CIO

MaRS Discovery District - Managing Director, Fintech and Commerce

McCain Foods Limited - Manager InfoSec

McInnis Cement - Director of Information Technology

Medical Pharmacies Group - VP, Information Technology

MEG Energy - Manager, Information Technology Solutions & Services

MMM Group - CIO

Montreal Police Service - CIO

Morguard Investments - CIO

Moulding & Millwork - CIO

National Bank of Canada - Information Security Officer

National Capital Commission - Chief, IT infrastructure & Support Services

NHL Players' Association - Head, Security & Technology

Northbridge Financial Corp - CIO

OEC Group Canada - Vice President, Information Technology and Client solutions

Oildex - VP, Architecture & Infrastructure

Olympia Financial Group - CIO

OMERS - EVP, Data & Technology

OMERS - SVP IT

Ontario Pension Board - CTO

Ontario Trillium Foundation - CIO

Osum Oil Sands Corp - Manager, IS

Ottawa Police Service - CIO

Pacific Western Transportation - CIO

Packers Plus - Global IT Director

Pason Systems - Manager, Digital Communications & Corporate IT

Patient News - CTO

Peel District School Board - CIO

Pengrowth Corp - Director IS

Penn West Exploration - Snr. Manager, IT Operations

Peterson Investment Group - Head of IT

PFB Corp. - CIO

Pizza Pizza - CIO & VP, IT

Precision Drilling - VP, IT

Precision Drilling - Director, IT Infrastructure & Security

PSP Investments - Snr. Director, Internal Audit & Business Infosec

Public Works and Government Services Canada - Director, IT Security Directorate

PwC - Managing Director, Real Estate Technology Advisory

Qantas - Global CIO

Queen's University - Director, Information Technology

RBC Royal Bank - Head of Application Security, Data Protection & Security Consulting

Regal Lifestyle Communities - CIO

Revera Inc. - CIO

Revera Inc. - Security Architect

Ricoh Canada - VP,IT

RioCan Property Services - VP IT

Roche - Head of IT Americas – Operations

Rogers Communications - SVP, Customer Experience IT

ROM - CIO

Russel Metals - VP,IS

Scotiabank - Head, Systems Architecture & Platform Modernization

Scotiabank - VP - International Systems Technology

Scotiabank - Head, System Architecture & Platform Modernization

Scotiabank - Global Head, GBM Compliance & Transformation

Sears Canada - Divisional VP, Information Technology Services

Secure Energy Services - GM, IT

Shaw - Head, Customer Applications, Experience, & Strategy

Shaw Communications - VP, Technology Operations

Shaw Communications - Director, Risk Management

SMART Technologies - Director, IS Corporate Services

Smartcentres - Director IS, IT

SmartOne Solutions - President & CIO

Societe de Transport de Montreal - Division Head - Security and Compliance

Street Capital Financial - CIO

Sun Life Financial - AVP, Data & Business Intelligence Services

Sun Life Financial - VP Application Ops & Services

Suncor Energy Inc. - Director, Application Portfolio Optimization, I&PM, Business Services

Symcor - CTO, VP Technology Services

Talisman Energy - SVP IT & Business Services

TD Bank - Enterprise Architect

Teknion - SVP, CIO

TELUS - Chief Security Architect

Tervita Corporation - VP, Information Technology

The Hudsons Bay Company - VP Technology

The Hudson's Bay Company - SVP & CIO

The Source - VP, Information Technology

TMX Group - CISO & Global Head of Infrastructure Services

Toromont Industries - VP & CIO

Toronto District School Board - Chief Technology Officer

Toronto Hospital for Sick Children - Director of Technology

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - Chief Enterprise Architect

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - CIO

Toyota Canada - National Manager, IS

Transamerica Life Canada - CIO

Trican Well Services Ltd. - Director, Business Information Systems

Tridel Corporation - CIO

Trillium Health Partners - IT Director, Applications & Clinical Informatics

UFA Cooperative - VP & CIO

University of Calgary - Executive Director, Development Services

University of Ottawa - CIO

University of Ottawa - Senior Director IT Services & Infrastructure

University of Toronto - Director, Centre for Management & Technology

University of Waterloo - Director, Technology Entrepreneurship

Vancity - VP Technology & Solutions

Viterra - Director Enterprise Technology

Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company - Director of Innovation Outpost

World Health - Director IT

Wolseley Canada - CIO & COO

Yellow Pages Group - Director - Enterprise Data Management

York Region District School Board - CIO

Leadership Archive