An apple a day keeps the truth away…

How fear influences the decision-making of leaders.

What if I told you that inside your own head, lives a little guy – an imposter? He is called fear, and often he is lying to you. He will say that he means well, but often he is keeping you from achieving remarkable things. He also lives inside the head of leaders.

In 2017, European Network Analysis Summit predicted that by 2018, 70% of leading organizations would pilot Organizational Network Analysis. Today, 3 years later, I do not know the exact number, but it is risk-free to say that we are far from 70%…

The gap

Whenever I talk to someone about Organizational Network Analysis, and the value it can bring to an organization, they are always excited. That also goes for leaders. They find it fascinating and have no difficulties seeing the possibilities it brings.

They all nod their heads in recognition to the fact that up to 90% of the work that goes on in an organization, runs through informal channels and connections, not visible to management (Source: CEB by Gartner (2015) and The Work Foundation (2012))

When I phrase it on an overall basis as: “We connect you to the real organization, not the official version – that never applies to what is actually going on anyways” they all say, that makes perfectly good sense!

And finally, they agree that success has bad prospects if management tries to run an organization based on a theoretical structure, that does not match reality.

Nonetheless, still many of these leaders choose not to engage in doing an analysis of their organization.

Why is that!?

Well, it is not budget, we know from experience. And it is not because it is a lot of work. We/the consultancy does almost all the work.

Of course, there can be many reasons why a leader chooses not to do an Organizational Network Analysis. However, my guess is that in many cases, it comes down to fear. Often on a subconscious level.

Fear of gaining knowledge. Once you have the facts on the table, you can no longer pretend that all is perfect, or at least fine – if it is not. Let me state very clearly that I am not saying, that all analysis will show serious issues to be dealt with. But you do not know before you investigate it. The mere fear that something might not be optimal, seems to be enough to inhibit action.

To me, there seems to be some resemblance to the stereotypical ‘strong man/woman, who does not want to go to the doctor for a checkup. What if they found that something was wrong…

Me personally, I know this avoidance behavior very well. For example, when I have been ‘living the good life for too long – I feel that my jeans are tighter, but if I can avoid getting on the scale, I haven’t gained the weight. Stupid right…

We are only humans

This is human nature, in a not very beneficial manifest.

A study shows that people avoid seeking medical care, even when their intuition tells them to do so. Basically, I believe that this behavior, no matter if we are dealing with medical attention or organizational matters, dates back to the same basic fears.

Fear of unknown

Our fear of the unknown, and our fear of receiving unwelcome news overwhelms us and keeps us from seeking facts. Very irrational, and very human.

Fear of change

Some people don’t go to the doctor – or step up on the scale because they fear that the result will require them to make changes in their life, that they either don’t feel like doing or are afraid that they will fail to implement.

This again also applies to organizations. The fear of what follows the diagnosis, the fear of change. It seems difficult, insecure, maybe even still unnecessary. It is so much easier to just keep up business as usual.

Fear of obligation

And finally, the fear of obligation. To do an Organizational Network Analysis you need to engage the employees, and once they are engaged, they will expect action. Again, so much easier to just not ask…

We all do it, and we do it often. Let our (unconscious) fear take part in our decision-making. Whenever something MIGHT bring an unwanted result/reply, we tend to put off doing it, for as long as possible… But afterward, we always think “why didn’t I do it sooner.” Actually, that is one of the most used phrases by our clients after we deliver the results.

So yes, we are only human, but isn’t it time to challenge our nature?

Be brave – don’t assume, find out! The potential benefits are massive!

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