3 Ways Anxiety Impacts Your Team

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Anxiety can impact your team as it can develop behaviors that our counterproductive.  Anxiety is the feeling of uncertainty, unrest or overwhelmingness that can flood our being.  Anxiety emerges from the tiny amygdala in our brain, which governs emotion.  Many times anxiety occurs due to a trigger or can be acute because of a strongly held belief.

Here are three ways anxiety impacts your team:

1.) Lack of Vision:  Anxiety can take away our ability or the individual’s ability to be an individual.  William Friedman describes this type of leader as  a ‘well differentiated’ leader or one that is able to stand strong, clear about their goals and vision in the midst of an anxious system. It is amazing what happens when a team stays focused on their cause or their goal.  This allows them to imagine something better than what is there currently.  If the team remains in anxiety, the team focuses on what has not been obtained and this can lead to reactivity.

2.) Lack of Creativity.  The American addiction with certainty can stifle our ability to be creative and enjoy the process of venturing into the uncertain.   Certainty can be enhanced by having large amounts of data.  The more data you have the more supposed certainty is created.   The problem with this approach is that today’s business climate is far from certain. In fact, it is tumultuous and therefore requires a strong adherence to the fact that uncertainty is something to be embraced.

As Jeffrey Immelt from GE stated, “21st Century leaders will need to be systems thinkers who are comfortable with ambiguity.”

3.) Stifled Leadership:  A leader cannot be neutral.  If you are afraid to speak your mind and offer your true opinion or observation, you remain neutral.  Your leadership and credibility can be eroded.  Instead, focus on speaking your mind and offering your opinion based on data, experience and your instincts.

Jerry Harvey in his book the Abilene Paradox indicates: “The fear of takings risks that may result in being separated from others is at the core of the Abilene Paradox.”

“Organization members take actions in contradiction to their understand of the organization’s problems, because thinking about acting in accordance with what they believe needs to be done makes them intensely anxious.  That intense anxiety can cause people to act incongruent with their beliefs.” Jerry Harvey

To know whether your business has a chronic anxiety, Friedman lays out the following 5 characteristics:

1.) Reactivity: Instead of staying the course with the vision or the plan, the reactive organization reacts internally to each others positions and has no real clear compass.

2.) Herding:  Just like in the Abilene Paradox, herding occurs when larger group members fear for their exile from the team.  They hold onto each other in pairs or in other groups to avoid the feeling of ‘detachment.’

3.) Blaming:  Instead of owning the mistakes made in the uncertain climate, leaders blame others both for their heightened anxiety and for the apparent failure.  Keep in mind that most mistakes are repairable, yet in the anxious culture they are perceived and considered catastrophic.

4.) Quick Fix Mentality:  As a leader moves to reactivity, the quick fix temptation becomes natural.  Quick hires, quick initiatives or immediate sales only temporarily solve the anxiety issue.

5.) Lack of Leadership: A leader’s job is to create relational cohesion.  If the leader lacks differentiation and perpetuates anxiety this can cause followers to derail, resign from your business or be exiled.

Which of these five are more prevalent in your business?