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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Scare tactics: keeping the adrenaline going

No one would dispute an undercurrent of fear continues to run through our current economic climate. Yet fear, as it relates to creative tension, can be a valuable tool for motivating high performers.

Nothing innovative or truly cutting-edge is born of complacency. Leaders need to motivate employees by inspiring them to achieve their maximum potential. To be sure, the balance between fear and creative tension is a fragile one. But when this balance is achieved, its payoff will be a high performance culture.

In a sense, high performers thrive on fear. They are inherent risk-takers who have little interest in playing it safe. As such, they operate best in a culture where creative tension is the norm. They bristle at the idea of being micromanaged. Yet, born decision-makers, they also have no qualms about being held accountable. Rather than shy away from responsibility, they embrace it. Rather than walk away from a challenge, they meet it head-on. Leaders need to find a way to effectively stimulate these high performers while simultaneously affording them the freedom they need to succeed.

Of course, creating a culture of fear benefits no one. Creativity cannot thrive in an environment where fear — a fear of failure, primarily, and its dreaded consequences — is prevalent. Leaders need to be sensitive to creating a culture in which the creative process, often in the form of risk-taking, is not simply tolerated but actively supported and sustained as a means to achieving success.

And to that end, a little fear can go a long, long way.

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