Hilary Gallo set the enquiring tone right from the start at his thought-provoking Fear Hack Brown Bag lunch for Meyler Campbell alumni.
Hilary explained how his exploration of the worlds of coaching, leadership, legal negotiation and beyond had led him to place fear at the heart of his current work. He reflected that the behaviours he had observed around stuck or unproductive negotiations seemed to be driven by fears around uncertainty, reprisal and the like. Now, as a coach, he heard about those same stuck, positional behaviours in clients’ lives more generally.
Why, Hilary wondered aloud – to many nods among the audience – did clients continue to duck difficult conversations and fail to tackle their most pressing issues beyond the coaching conversation, despite their apparent desire to do so? Because of fear. And if fear was the source of reluctance, then clients faced a double whammy trying to move forward: both the fear itself and the fact that when we feel fearful we are unable to think expansively and see possibilities.
Opening into a discussion about the fears that may be stopping all of us from progressing, Hilary invited us each to write a fear on a post-it. Gathering round our ‘fear wall’ it was immediately instructive to see how many of us had basically the same fears, such as imposter syndrome, fear of rejection, and fear of failure. For many of us, it was comforting to realise that we’re not alone. What’s more, the commonality of experience provided a potential platform for normalising fear and discussing it more openly.
Hilary then introduced us to the concept of the ‘Fear Hack’: ways to reframe our fears and our understanding of power so that we can release ourselves to move forwards. What followed was a wide-ranging dialogue of ideas and insights, as we explored strategies and implications both for ourselves and the clients with whom we work. These included:
- Acknowledging that fear can have a positive impact, provoking us to develop coping strategies and behaviours that actually help us to progress – “what scares us, makes us”;
- Tapping into our fears as sources of valuable information. For example, imposter syndrome may be a helpful indication that we’re out of our comfort zone, which is exactly where we need to be if we are to learn and grow;
- Deepening commitment to intrinsic purpose as a means to put fears into perspective;
- Exploring, if we feel able, the sources of our fears. By understanding the past, we may diminish fear in the present and be better able to find strategies that help.
For our clients, the discussion underscored the importance of making coaching sessions psychologically safe so they can explore their fears and go towards the danger signs. There may even be another hack involved if we can re-paint the signs to “All that can grow and enhance you lies here”.
Having started out possibly fearful of talking about fear, by the end of the event it was clear that we had all developed an appetite to talk about it a good deal! Hilary’s “Fear Hack” book is the obvious place to explore the topic further. And, like all good coaches, Hilary also gave us some questions to reflect upon: What is stopping you? What will you do about that? And (for those wishing to take things to the next level) what is fear in today’s systems and societies? Having already had some fresh insights for myself, I’ll be fascinated to hear what emerges for others.
Katie Driver, 4 February 2019
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