Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., March 17, 18 or 19
Following up his 2014 book “The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had,” Brown recently wrote about a common problem at work – fear – and the crucial solution: courage.
Brown – whose career has ranged from partnering with actor Roy Rogers in a theme park and with singer Don Ho in a production company to managing artists’ finances and even writing a No. 1 pop-music hit (1959’s “Tan Shoes and Pink Shoelaces”) – now is a business consultant with Cohen Brown Management Group, where he’s started discussing how responding to fear as an essential 21st century skill.
The response – courage – doesn’t eliminate fear, which is natural and inevitable, Brown says, but it can overcome it. That ability is a “third-space skill,” Brown says, after the “first-space” skill of business talent and “second-space” skill of engineering.
Indeed, fear takes several forms at work, according to recent research from the University of Oxford, where sociology professor Duncan Gallie recently analyzed of a survey for the journal “Work, Employment and Society.” It shows that:
* 7 percent thought it was likely they would lose their jobs in the next year, and 25 percent thought there was at least some risk of this.
* 19 percent feared they would be victimized by management, and 18 percent that they would be discriminated against.
* 25 percent feared their jobs would be changed to work needing less skill, and 23 percent feared their job would become less interesting.
* 32 percent feared they would have less say in how they did their jobs.
* 38 percent feared that their pay would drop.
The results also show increased fear across the board since a similar survey in 2000-2001.
But all need not be lost.
“The problem [is] fear,” Brown says. “It is fear in denial – fear that people who experience it rarely admit to. But it’s fear.
“Failures in the workplace happen in front of people you’re trying to impress, to say nothing of creating financial hardship,” he continues. “So our fears deepen, but by now we are experts at denying them.”
Posed generally enough to be applicable either from executives to managers, from management to the rank and file, or even from peer to peer at the job site or workplace, five keys can deal with cowardice and courage at work, says Brown (whose comments follow):
You can’t fix it until you admit it. “People trapped by their fears are discouraged and need to be encouraged.”
Courage is learnable. “Just as there are steps to learning math, or engineering, or French, there are steps to learning courage.”
People quail in the face of big risks but can be coaxed to take lesser risks. “We call that the Off-Broadway Principle. Stage your show where a failure won’t hurt. Correct mistakes before going big.”
Understand peoples’ objections as something to be welcomed, not feared. “We question, we clarify, we offer concerns, we negotiate. That may sound like objections but as we like to say, ‘Objections are the royal road to closing the deal’.”
Fears are often revealed through nervous behaviors. “Feed [employees] confidence in the form of communications arts and skills. Change the physical, and the mental will follow.”
The spirit also advances, and a workplace with more respect and stability, better communication and input, and solidarity and motivation can result in better pay and job security as well as productivity and profits – especially if workers unionize to protect themselves against retaliation, or better organize a unionized workplace to press for progress.
In fact, the second part of Roosevelt’s comment completes his inspiring speech, and it can hearten us now: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves, which is essential to victory.”