Is your organisation free from fear?

This little snippet came out of our recent survey of managers in the non profit sectors. We asked them to rate their organisation on the statement ‘Our organsiation is free from fear’. The results were;

4% strongly disagreed thus suggesting there was a very high level of fear

40% disagreed thus suggesting there was a high level of fear

40% agreed their organisation was free from fear

12% strongly agreed their organisation was free from fear

4% were unsure if their organisation was free from fear – suggesting it probably isn’t.

So that means a slim majority of only 52% of respondents felt they worked in an organisation free from fear.

What are the signs that an organisation has a high level of fear?

  • When people lie to cover up their mistakes
  • When people avoid offering up ideas and suggestions
  • When people refuse to recommend working for an organisation
  • When people attend meetings and offer little or nothing
  • When the only person talking is the boss
  • When more questions are answered in the lunchroom than in group meetings
  • When the suggestion box remains empty or full of insulting comments

These are just some of the signs. What about in your organisation, what do you see?

If you are a manager what can you do to reduce the level of fear? For a start stop talking and begin listening. Spend your time observing and facilitating conversations. Learn about what people are up to. Provide advice when sought and give credit to those who do something special. Praise those that do a good job – even if it is not special. Provide your people with development and then delegate work so that they see you trust them.

Invite feedback and ideas, and just listen, then acknowledge the input and thank people for their ideas. Avoid arguing or defending the status quo – take time out to reflect, identify what it is you still don’t know and then ask some more questions. Learn how to identify the root cause of an issue and learn how to engage people in using their experience to solve problems.

All this takes time. You have to do it over and over and over again just to establish credibility and then, in time people will feel comfortable about coming to your with ideas, trust and respect will be established.

Finally, overcommunicate. Many managers undercommunicate. They, sometimes subconciously withhold information. This leads to a credibility gap between them and those in their work group. Granted some things are confidential. It is sufficient to explain why something is confidential – all else should be conveyed to as many people as practical.

Let The Journey Continue

John Coxon


About John Coxon

Principal consultant for John Coxon & Associates, a management consultancy working with boards and management teams in healthcare, aged care and not for profit organisations to develop effective strategic planning processes and social enterprise business plans
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