In the movie, Three Amigos, the townspeople of Santo Poco were afraid to deal with a bully named El Guapo who made them live in fear. They solicited the help of the Three Amigos. The Amigos help the townspeople use their unique skills to conquer El Guapo.
We each have our own El Guapo. For most of us, it's not "a big, dangerous guy who wants to kill us." How we face our fears, walk with them and soldier on goes a long way in how happy and successful we are.
I personally have a fear of working a room with a large number of people I don't know. I'm not skilled at presenting myself and engaging in conversation in such situations. I've actually run out on such occasions due to a huge pit in my stomach from anxiety. I do well with individual networking situations and I'm quite comfortable with public speaking. However, I have such a sense of inferiority in 'grip and grin' situations that I seize up.
As leaders, I think it's important for us to be open to understanding the fears that we have and be open about them. Also, we need to understand the fears of the people we lead and help them walk with them.
Here are some thoughts on how you can confront your own El Guapo and help those around you do it as well.
Engage someone to walk with you. You can't lean on someone forever to help you with your fear. However, if you choose the right person to help you develop skills and confidence to manage and walk with your fear, you can put yourself on a path towards success.
As a leader, you can be that person one leans on. However, you don't need to be an enabler and be there all the time. Work with the person to face the fears, give them some tools and goals that can help build their confidence and let them start walking on their own. You can be there in different ways as they progress down their path.
Of course, some El Guapos are quite large and bring forth such a reaction in us that will be difficult to conquer. Even progressing to a point where you can function for a small amount of time to handle key objectives and get out of the situation can be considered success, as the person with the fear, or the leader helping out.
Find ways around your fear to achieve your goals. Many times, when faced with an opportunity or an issue that puts us in front of our El Guapo, we stop in our tracks, frozen. The stress that is induced keeps us from thinking clearly and puts us into flight mode.
When we are stressed, many times, we narrow our focus and lose sight of options around us. We turn back because we know we've been there and it's safer than where we currently are (for me, out of that large room filled with people I don't know). It's hard to expand our vision in these situations, but when we do and are open to the possibilities, we can find other ways to reach our objective without being beaten by El Guapo.
Having another person that recognizes and empathizes with your situation may be able to be an objective voice that can help you calm down and find those other options. They don't have to be there at that time; you can come to them after the situation, discuss it and together you might be able to come to solid solutions.
Approach the situation you fear from a different perspective. We all intellectually know that when we come at a situation with a bad attitude or with the belief that we'll fail, we've lost half the battle. For many of us, that's hard to translate to our emotional side when we know we're going to come up against El Guapo.
One possible option would be to establish a new definition of success. Instead of confronting El Guapo head on with all you have and getting dropped to the mat, give yourself a mini-goal you believe you can manage and set some processes to accomplish that. When you succeed, you are heartened in the knowledge that you've chipped away at your fear and can take another step, either right away or the next time the situation comes up. You may even find you will search out El Guapo at some point and take the offensive.
As a leader, it's important for you to understand that success is not always reaching the final end goal. To paraphrase Coach John Wooden, success is the knowledge that you did the best with what you had available. If you see success as a progression, a journey, you can help you and your team move forward in a way that will help the person, help the team and help your organization.
Completely change the way you come at the task at hand. I don't fear coaching kids the game of basketball. I love doing it and I love impacting kids. However, I still changed my perspective on coaching a few years back that has worked nicely for me.
Nowadays, the first words that come out of my mouth at the beginning of each season is that the players, from that moment forward, have my unconditional love. I coach based on the acronym L.R.S.F. - Love, Respect, Service and Fun. I've found this allows me to focus on the real goal of my coaching - developing young boys and girls to be solid, contributing members of our community through the lessons taught from the game.
Any fear I might have about winning and losing and my effectiveness at that has changed to the impact I'm having on the kids. The wins and losses take care of themselves because I can put the kids in a different place mentally, emotionally and spiritually so they can use their basketball skills to their best capability.
When facing a situation you fear, see if there's a way to change the objective. It could be as simple as going into the situation with the goal of finding ways you can serve others. This empowers you to use your strengths to enable others to be better. That perspective is quite fulfilling.
- Find a path that will keep you away from El Guapo. Sometimes, it's not prudent or worthwhile to put ourselves in situations where we see little chance at succeeding due to our fear, no matter how we try to manage it. The effort and pain involved with addressing it is not worth the reward on the other side. We may lose the chance at reaching certain goals, but that's something that will need to deal with.
Sometimes it's best to simply avoid situations where El Guapo will show himself and dedicate more energy towards things that bring us more joy and success. As leaders, we shouldn't shove people into situations where the chance of success is minimal. It's not good for the group, it's not good for the person and it's not good for you and your long-term relationships with your people. A good leader will recognize the different capabilities people have and tap them when it's the right time.
Each person will have their own unique challenges in facing their personal El Guapo. The fear is much less the actual situation or challenge and much more our internal reactions to it. As a leader, you can use your talents to help and serve. Look to others when you need a hand. Step back outside yourself and change the way you look at your fear and the circumstances that bring it forth. If such a task is an El Guapo for you, use the above to help you. Many people will want to help you when they see you want to help others.
How have you come up against your own El Guapo and how have you managed it?