In an era of rapid change, company owners, HR leaders and employees must learn to productively face their workplace fears head-on to fuel future growth, says Amanda Setili, author of Fearless Growth: The New Rules to Stay Competitive, Foster Innovation, and Dominate Your Markets (Career Press, 2017).
"Just as organizations must be bold, agile, and constantly reinventing themselves, so must the individuals who lead and work in them," she writes. "That means no matter how tempting it is to freeze like a rabbit in the shadow of the hawk, we can't afford the luxury."
Setili, president of strategy consulting firm Setili & Associates, who previously held positions with McKinsey & Co. and Kimberly-Clark, says there are seven rules companies that grow fearlessly live by:
1. Embrace uncertainty. People are wired to fear uncertainty, but it's important to capitalize on uncertainties in your market, rather than letting them slow you down. Companies that grow fearlessly are willing to take prudent risks and know how to manage risk. In short, they operate confidently in uncertainty. "Uncertainty creates opportunities to pull ahead of the competition," Setili says.
2. Get in sync with your customers. Your customers are a powerful yet often underutilized source of ideas for new products and services, improved current offerings, and new ways to do business. In fact, they're often willing to contribute by providing product improvement ideas, technical support for other customers, videos, reviews, referrals, content related to your products and other items of marketing value—all of which help you to stay in sync, mitigate risk and remain prepared for whatever the future might bring.
3. Partner, borrow and share. In the past, businesses needed to own or take responsibility for every aspect of their value chain, from research to development to operations to sales and marketing. Not anymore. Today, businesses that grow fearlessly crowdsource, outsource and make use of freelancers, bloggers, microbusinesses, individual innovators and myriad partners to achieve far more than they could on their own.
4. Connect and strengthen your ecosystem. When you create the right ecosystem for your company, it will take on a life of its own and grow itself. "Figure out who's already in your company's ecosystem and whom you would ideally like to have there," Setili writes. "Then determine what value you would like each member to both give and receive. Consider creating a technology platform to enable richer interactions between the ecosystem members and facilitate and nurture their real-life relationships with each other as well."
5. Open the floodgates to employee creativity. Employees want to be engaged in their work and want to contribute to something greater than themselves. Too often, however, employers squander their talent by over-measuring, micromanaging and failing to inspire. They may even punish employees who get too far ahead of company management, instead of rewarding them for their initiative. By giving employees the freedom, knowledge and network they need, you will unlock vast power.
6. Learn fast and fearlessly. Fast learning, coupled with an "experimentation mindset," is the most valuable competitive advantage a company can build. "Keenly observing the business environment, taking action before you feel fully ready, and incorporating what you've learned immediately into your strategy are all tickets to playing in today's fast-paced global economy," Setili says.
7. Build trust into all you do. Trust is the ingredient that enables the growth of relationships with employees, business partners, customers and those in your work community. By trusting that your colleagues will do their part, you can set more-aggressive goals, place bigger bets and have a bigger imagination about what may be possible. "To begin building trust, work to neutralize fear in your organization, making it psychologically safe for employees to voice their ideas and opinions, make decisions, take action, gain new skills, and try new things," Setili writes.
Putting practices in place that help employees conquer their fears sets organizations on a growth trajectory.
Desda Moss is managing editor of HR Magazine.