Fear doesn’t always manifest itself as fear. Oftentimes, we will enter into a fear-driven behavior pattern while remaining unaware of the real driver of that behavior.
In fact, 9 such behavior patterns exist, with different individuals reverting to different patterns depending upon how they react to the fear of failure. We refer to these patterns as The 9 Faces of Fear and sometimes as the "masks of fear."
This 9 Faces of Fear assessment is one of the many tools in the book, Fearless Leaders: Sharpen Your Focus by Greenberg and North, designed to help you identify which of these fear-driven behavior patterns you use the most.
Once you understand how your Faces of Fear operate, you can have access to specific exercises, tactics, and techniques to overcome and transcend them, so that you can become more fearless in your leadership style, and better able to lead with inspired courage.
Once you've come to terms with and overcome your fear of failure, you can focus your mind on successfully attaining your goals and dreams.
Self-evaluation – For each of the 9 ”Faces of Fear,” score yourself on a 1 to 5 scale according to how often you manifest your (possibly subconscious) fear of failure through that described behavior patter. For this quiz the 1 to 5 scale is graded as: 1 = almost never/never 2 = seldom 3 = sometimes 4 = often 5 = always/almost always
This fear comes from the belief that if you give 100% and fail, then you’re a failure. This is the most devastating form of fear of failure because it seems hopeless, as if you’re permanently flawed. And it manifests itself as hedging and/or self-sabotaging behavior. Or in not moving forward with any progress that is available to you because you’d rather do nothing and retain the dream of 100% potential, than to be “judged” on a 100% effort with less-than-100% circumstances/equipment/support.
On a scale of 1-5, rate yourself on how often you hold back from 100% effort, engage in self-sabotaging behavior to justify less-than-perfect results, or opt to do nothing perfectly than something productive imperfectly.
This face is a more obvious face of the fear of failure. When you’re afraid to fail and you think you might, you put off doing things so you don’t have to face failing. An individual may procrastinate on implementing a new strategy or initiative because he is afraid it might fail. Or a leader may put off firing someone for fear that she will spend a lot of resources hiring someone new, who may possibly be worse, so she continues with the known person.
On a scale of 1-5, rate yourself on how often you procrastinate on important and crucial decisions, projects, and work. How often do you wait to the last minute and then allow yourself an excuse that “it could have been better if I’d had more time”?
Instead of dealing directly with your fear, you express it as anger so no one sees the fear, possibly even yourself. There’s a good chance you don’t even know you have a fear of failure because it is quickly covered up by anger.
Anger in this situation is actually a protective response. Fear is the primary response, and anger is the secondary emotional response. Expressing anger won’t resolve the real issue when it’s actually a fear of failure. In fact, expressing anger will probably only create a new set of problems. Anger can be a very deceptive face of the fear of failure, because anger held in will fester, often being unleashed on a person or situation that has nothing to do with its original source.
(In What Happy Companies Know by Baker, Greenberg, and Hemingway is stated that "men fear not having enough, and women fear not being enough")
On a scale of 1-5, rate yourself on how often you find yourself frequently frustrated, tense, or argumentative during stressful projects or big opportunities. How often do you find yourself initiating unproductive arguments over opportunities and projects? How often have you unleashed on a co-worker, spouse, or child over a “bad day at work?” How often have you had to apologize for your temper?
There are a variety of reasons people cry, including emotional pain, physical pain, and grief. Crying is a fairly normal response to fear, including the fear of failure. Crying can be cathartic, but after a good cry, if it’s being used as a cover up for fear, you need to deal directly with the fear. “Crying” can also take the form of self-loathing. Rather than facing up to a fear of failure, a person will back down or self-destruct, then engage in crying or a bout of self-loathing as “punishment,” only to repeat the fear-driven behavior the next time around, rather than using the painful experience as a motivation to change.
On a scale of 1-5, rate yourself on how often you find yourself pulling away from opportunities and challenges, or giving into difficulties, followed by a bout of crying or self-loathing.
For example, after losing a big deal, the leader or the sales rep says, “I didn't have much of a chance anyway.” Stop deceiving yourself! Stop making excuses. What if you want a new job or a promotion; will you go all out for it? Or rationalize that you don’t have a chance and either not go for it or give a half-hearted effort? Rationalizing keeps leaders from realistically assessing the situation, learning from set-backs, and improving over time. If the failure wasn't due to your performance, how can you take control over it?
On a scale of 1-5, rate yourself on how often you find yourself making excuses for losses, set-backs, and unmet expectations? Over the last 5 setbacks or failures in your professional life, how many of them have you owned outright? How many of them have you blamed on other factors? What does that ratio say about your use of rationalization and your 1-5 scale?
You avoid putting yourself in situations where you think you could fail. This is a sure way to live your life as an underachiever. Underachievers stay in their comfort zone. Facing the possibility of failure is too uncomfortable. High performers live and thrive with challenge and discomfort. The possibility of failure motivates them to take positive action.
On a scale of 1-5, rate yourself on how often you avoid challenging situations? How often have you let opportunities to explore a strength go to waste for inexplicable reasons? How many of your weaknesses have gone un-addressed because of a desire to remain within your comfort zone?
A fairly common face of fear of failure for leaders is indecision. Indecision is a decision . . . the decision to not change anything now. It’s an inaction that keeps things the same. Fearless leaders are good decision makers. Sometimes the decision is to do nothing, but doing nothing is made as an active decision, not a passive lack of action. When indecisive, consider making a conscious decision to do nothing, or to take action.
On a scale of 1-5, rate yourself on how many of your recent bad results, misses, or failures came about as a result of inaction on your part? How often have you given away your authority by leaving important decisions to others, when it was clearly more appropriate for you to have stepped up to the plate and taken charge?
Do you know someone who is always chasing a new, shiny ball -- someone who’s always after the newest “thing,” be it a new idea, a better product or service -- before finishing what has already been started? Chasing what’s new and exciting (nexciting) can keep someone energized even though he is not succeeding at much of anything. He is afraid of failure and covers up with the drug of ‘nexciting.’ Consider having strong, positive accountability to follow through on all that is important.
Of the last 5 big opportunities or trends or projects that you’ve gotten excited about, how many of them never came to fruition? How many where never brought to an appropriate conclusion? Rate yourself on your answer using a scale of 1 to 5.
There are different levels of withdrawal. A mild form would be similar to procrastination or avoidance. In an extreme case, you could be curled up in bed in the fetal position. Unlike other Faces of Fear, this one is usually very consciously felt as fear. The opportunity, challenge, or problem causes enough fear in you that you withdraw from the situation entirely. Sometimes you may just not be ready to face that challenge, but if you habitually react to the fear of failure through withdrawal, you will need to address this habit pattern to succeed as a fearless leader.
On a scale of 1-5, rate yourself on how often you have withdrawn from an opportunity, challenge, or problem out of fear.