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What's the worst thing that could happen?

Every manager has to deal with an employee who screws up. According to executive leadership coach John M McKee, the smart ones know how to handle it and move ahead, but others get stuck. In this blog, he provides advice on how to deal with being stuck.

"Yes. I do need to tell him about this. But I can't."

Ever had something very important to discuss with someone, but didn't?  Whether it's a job issue ("If she finds out about this, she'll blow her stack..") or in a personal one, there are times when we resist "sharing" even though know we should.

Therapists, consultants, and coaches usually agree that this inability- being able to have a courageous conversation with someone important - is a major reason behind failure in relationships.  It can result in divorce, separation, lack of a promotion, even a termination.

Interestingly, when you talk to someone who is stalled, they'll usually tell you that they "know" they should talk to the other person about the issue at hand, but they can't bring themselves to do it.  I've found that the principal reason behind that stall is fear, pure and simple.  The fear may be valid (it involves a possible job loss or end of a personal relationship). And the fear may be imagined, such as fear of reprisal (you're going to pay for this) or disappointment (how could you?).

So we avoid facing it, or we postpone having the difficult dialog.

And that's about the worse thing you can do.

Great leaders, like great people in general, face up to issues.  As a result, they have more success than the rest of the world.  If you think about that, I'd guess that most would agree with it.  Yet, most people don't face issues because of fear.  That fear is deadly. It leads to a lack of career success and often, personal dissatisfaction.

My advice

When facing a tough situation where you know that the right thing to do is have a courageous conversation; but you're held back because of fear - ask yourself this question: What's the worst that can happen?

Then, give yourself a few minutes, about five, to write down all the worst outcomes you could imagine. After that, go for a walk or do something that takes your mind off that list for a while.  Come back to it.  Go through it and apply a "likelihood" rating of 1 to 10 against each issue you've noted, from low to high. For example, "I could get fired," may be not be that likely so you give it a 2.  Or, "I am going to look like I messed up," may be higher so you rate it 8.

After that, take the highest rated items and ask yourself what is the worst outcome that can happen. It's probably an outcome that you can survive.

Usually, when we take a few minutes to thoughtfully and rationally face these things, we will move ahead and become stronger and more successful.  It's when we don't allow the light of day to shine on them, ignore them or postpone them that they make us less powerful and less successful as a result.

Here's to your success.


Leadership Coach


John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

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