In a recent post, I wrote about the downsides of using fear (or greed) to fuel your organization.  I still think a hunger for great things trumps fear (almost) every day.  But another reason recently came to mind.

A while back, I was working with a leader in a really challenging role.  The company she works for tends to use fear as fuel for its workforce.

My job with this leader was to pilot a new approach to working with customers.  We had a hypothesis that there was a better way to help customers see the value of this company’s services, and we needed a smart, respected leader to give it a try.  She volunteered even though her existing way of doing the work had helped her perform really well already.

Midway through the pilot, I could see that something was getting in my client’s way.  During a break in the action, she said – almost to herself – “I can see how this approach could help me perform better, but with all of the performance pressure, I just don’t know if I can afford to try something new.”

Fear has consequences, but maybe the most significant is the way it stifles innovation.  When people are afraid to try something new because it might cause a temporary performance blip, your organization is consigned to the rut it’s in.

Smart organizations realize that failure is part of learning – and they create an atmosphere where that kind of activity is valued as one more step toward the great things they’re all pursuing together.