Change management professionals know the acronym FUD well:  Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.

Most of us, in fact, are familiar with apprehension; it faces us almost every day.  Are we doing what’s right for our clients/employers?  How will we know this strategy-tactic-technique will succeed?  What will happen if it flops?

Lately, we’ve been hearing more of this anxiety in our conversations, subtly, quietly, in a hard-to-detect undertone.  Often, it’s a premature prelude to recommendations:  “I’ve only got a few people to implement this, so it’s gotta be simple to do.  Otherwise, we won’t do it.”  Just as frequently, it’s accompanied by budget caveats:  “We’ve got X dollars.  We need to make this count!”

It’s all fear-propelled, deep down.  That emotion could come from an unsteady economy, working in a volatile industry, personal concerns, new management, and all of the above. 

Understandable … yet disconcerting:  As professionals accustomed to the slings and arrows of continual crises, ongoing changes, and never-ending accountabilities, that fear-of-failure gene doesn’t inhabit our minds naturally.  It takes a great deal of courage to convince a CEO of the importance of a media interview, present a completely different brand strategy, champion a new campaign, and tell clients that this particular change won’t be easy.  Taking risks, in many circumstances, is embedded in how we earn our livelihoods; we prepare, we benchmark, we consult, we execute, and we measure.

Look at it from the corporate point of view:  In times calling for growth and innovation, overcautious, even negative-thinking employees become a distraction, if not detraction.  How do you shake colleagues out of the NIH* or paralyzed mindsets into taking calculated risks and, yes, managing possible failures?  Sure, upper management and executives can and should set the stage, even broadcast the “it’s okay to fail” message.  Is that enough? 

History gives us cues – in the form of Thomas Edison, Donald Trump, Richard Branson, and Michael Jordan (among hundreds of others).  It’s up to us, as brand and design and marketing and communications bearers, to translate those hints into a “let’s go for it” encouragement, every day.

*Not Invented Here