Five Fears to Feed Failure

No one wants to fail. Yet all too often we let our fear of change - personal or organizational - undermine the likelihood of our success.

Are any of these holding you back?

1. Fear of tradition.

With all due respect to Tevye, just because something worked in the past doesn't automatically make it the best choice for today. The longevity myth asks us to take comfort in past performance. The longer a practice has been in place – the more established that proof is – the more comfort we're likely to take. There's nothing wrong with sticking with what works ... unless it keeps you from considering alternatives that might work even better.

2) Fear of losing face.

How many mailers (or online marketers) accept diminishing returns from an established package or approach rather than take the risk of trying something new? Or settle for an incremental change rather than test something completely different? Sure there are costs involved, and few of us can afford to "bet the farm." But, don't let the risk of controlled failure today keep you from learning the lessons that might just prevent a total free fall in the future.

3) Fear of finding out.

What you don't know can't hurt you, right? 

Wrong! In fact, it may be your unchallenged assumptions that are holding you back. Don't let a reluctance to learn (or admit) shortcomings within the current organization prevent you from exploring the possibilities. Talk with lapsed constituents, especially long term supporters, to find out what may have changed. Check in with volunteers who cut back their hours ... regular event attendees who have not yet registered ... monthly donors who cancel their commitment, etc. to find out what's causing them to pull back.

4) Fear of added effort.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? Something that requires thought, not just a rote responsibility. "I don't have the time ... the staff ... the budget ..." I hear you say. And I understand that it's true. But there's a risk:reward ratio in all of these fears. And a very real risk is the unwillingness to make the investment required to reach the reward.

5) Fear of the unknown.

This is the big one (despite the fact that we don't know what we don't know most of the time!) Our goal as managers is to be in control. But we can't control what we don't know. How often, when faced with unknown consequences, do you fall back to the safety of the status quo. 

Fear is a powerful force. It's also insidious, sometimes sneaking in almost unnoticed. Be on your guard, as they say, or it can stop you before you even get started. 

Be smart. But be bold.