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Fear setting vs goal setting: A technique for making good business decisions

Siân Hurst

October 29, 2020

Halloween marks four months in my new role, so an apt moment to talk about fear, but don’t be spooked, read on…

A few weeks ago, I discovered a Ted Talk by Tim Ferriss on how defining your fears, rather than your goals, could help make good business decisions. As a self-confessed perfectionist wanting to make an impact in my new role, it appealed to me. It also appealed to the agency, as CHC is in a period of growth following three consecutive pitch wins. My job is to ensure that the business grows happily and healthily for our team and our clients, and making good business decisions is central to that.

As an experienced agency leader, I’m used to setting goals. But fears, well that’s a bit different and sharing them with the whole agency… it was a first for me! Anyway, I went for it. I sold it in to Jeremy our MD who loved the idea and we then ran a session for the whole agency where myself, Jeremy, Nadine our finance manager, and Candice an Associate Director shared our fears about growth.

Now, the key thing about this exercise is to surface the fear and then focus on the solutions, which can all be captured on one simple slide using the headings below:

1. Define your biggest fear in relation to your business right now

2. Identify how to prevent it happening

3. Identify how to repair things if it does happen

4. Consider the benefits of success

5. Consider the costs of inaction

The results were amazing. By talking about our concerns alongside our ambitions for growth, we were able to re-distribute responsibilities, agree some ground rules, make some important hiring decisions and prioritise refreshing our agency benefits package and training programme. All this will ensure that we continue to keep our current and new clients happy, and that our wonderful team feel happy, healthy and engaged in the journey as we grow.

The key learning for me and other members of the senior team, was recognising that what we fear doing, asking or saying, is very often what we most need to do to achieve success and avoid bumps in the road. Next week, the rest of the team get to reveal their fears and solutions to us.

So, don’t be spooked. Fear setting isn’t a trick, but a practical technique to help you make good business decisions. Watch the 13 minute video here and see if it could help you. We’d love to hear if it was successful.

“It was a brilliant training session. Initially, setting our fears sounded like an odd concept to me, as while I’m used to setting goals, I’d never thought about it from the other perspective. It was eye-opening and reassuring to hear the senior team share their fears and see how simple the solutions could be. Doing this exercise showed trust and transparency and boosted team spirit as we continue to work from home. These things will become even more important as we enter this new phase of growth, and I’m excited to be a part of it!” – Georgie, Junior Account Executive