As a kid, Scott Simon loved singing … until his fourth-grade choir teacher yelled at him in front of the class for being off-key — and even told him to silently mouth the words instead. His passion for musical performance turned into a lifelong fear of it.
Until 35 years later when Simon forced himself to sing in front of strangers at a busy restaurant. It helped inspire his Scare Your Soul self-improvement program and a new book based on it — Scare Your Soul: 7 Powerful Principles to Harness Fear and Lead Your Most Courageous Life.
Simon spoke with b. about how bravery in business is more necessary than ever.
b.: The pandemic was one of the scariest events of our lifetimes, but it’s also led to business leaders taking major new leaps and risks.
Simon: When we are forced into new and uncharted territory, as we all were during the pandemic, innovation explodes. The typical fears that keep us status quo [like] the fear of [the] unknown … are mitigated by the overwhelming nature of the crisis. And so, yes, we saw business leaders taking new and bold leaps.
The key question, however, is this: Now that the “crisis” nature of the pandemic has abated, how do leaders continue to lean into the discomfort of embracing risk?
In my mind, it is a mindset shift. It is about business leaders embracing, publicly and in operational policy, their employees’ taking educated risks with new ideas, new initiatives, pilot programs. … Embracing new models of hybrid working, teamwork, and decision-making. It’s hard and it’s scary, but great things will grow from the fertile ground of uncertainty.
b.: Avoiding uncomfortable conversations can keep individuals and organizations complacent. How can we overcome this?
Simon: It is easy to sweep those interactions under a rug, and that happens too often. … Accept that you will feel discomfort before having the conversation. Sit with that emotion, feel it, validate it. But don’t let it stop you. Role-play or visualize the conversation, focusing on the emotions you are feeling when doing so …
Don’t fill awkward moments with words. Believe it or not, that silence can foster ideas, reflections, and shared perspectives.
b.: What scares Generation Z employees might be different than what scares older workers. Is the process of overcoming fear different for various demographics?
Simon: Gen Zers were set to inherit a strong economy and record-low unemployment, only to have those beliefs dashed with the pandemic. … And while the cause of their fears may be different, I believe that grappling with those fears is no different than for any other age cohort. … We can all practice positive interventions to harness those fears.
b.: Some risks don’t pay off. Is fear ever useful?
Simon: I believe that risks “paying off” is a misnomer. … If we consistently and boldly push our comfort zones in the service of growth, innovation, and connection, I believe the right outcome will eventually arrive. … If you can just do it enough, that discomfort becomes normality, then you’re going to be in the space of an open mind.
Scare Your Soul is available now.