Tom Rieger, author of Breaking the Fear Barrier: How Destroys Companies from the Inside Out and What to Do About It, joined the show recently.
- You can listen to our conversation here
You can read the interview here:
From Tom's profile page at Gallup:
Mr. Rieger is a Senior Practice Expert for Gallup, has pioneered the study and science of organizational barriers. Rieger is an expert in applying behavioral economic principles to uncover how complex systems self-destruct -- and how to correct those problems. Through this work, he has become a recognized leader in developing methods and frameworks to identify and remove barriers to organizational and societal success.
Rieger joined Gallup in 1994. In addition to his work as the leader and chief architect of Gallup's consulting on organizational barriers, he is an expert in international research and polling methods and developing and applying statistical models to complex organizational issues.
Tom's book is imminently readable and includes imminently doable tips and steps you can take within your own organization to reverse this rising tide of fear that only serves to threaten your organization's sustainability. He's pulled the company's global research across a dozen countries spanning six continents to identify the "fear barrier" and to show how and why fear destroys companies. The book explains how to transform a fear-plagued organization into one that is courageous and unstoppable.
Fear seems to grip our country right now, particularly in businesses and jobs and the economy. So, it made sense to ask him how can we address this problem. I asked him:
We've reached the imagination moment in our show. It's not that big a leap. Fear is an emotional response to a perceived, often imaginary, threat. Let's imagine President Obama is on line two in your office. He’s on vacation, but he’s listening in. He leaves you a message.
Tom, he says. This is President Obama. I think our national conversation is dominated by fear and its manifestations. What are three things we as a nation can do to break the fear barrier? Can you come up to the White House or over to Martha’s Vineyard and share your thoughts?
What do you say to him?
Well, first of all I’d say:
“Yeah I would love that opportunity to come. I’m essentially a patriot at heart so anything I can do to help my country I’d love to do."
But to answer that question...
First I’d say we need a mission to rally around. We need a place to plant a flag in the ground and stand behind. You look back at the ’60’s and the space race. Look at what happened in this country. You had industry of all different types and people all around all working together trying to achieve something important.
The side benefits of that were huge. If you look at the innovations and the manufacturing, especially in the world of micro-processing and computers. But, the sleeping giant needs to be awoken; it needs to be focused on accomplishing something. This country can accomplish absolutely incredible things when it’s aligned with and around something and we’re all on the same page.
That’s number one.
Secondly, I think we need to shift the paradigm. We need to start thinking about:
“Well, how can we remove the barriers that exist to job creation. “
Every job you create creates more and more people paying into the system rather than draining it. When that happens you have a lower deficit, you have a more prosperous nation, without having to just focus on who’s giving up what to whom. And that, I think, is what leads us to the 3rd thing.
There’s way too much focus on that. We gotta stop acting like a couple of dogs fighting over a bone trying to think about well who’s going to have to give up something. If you look at the whole concept of fear of loss, there’s some great work by a Nobel Prize winner named Daniel Kahneman that showed there’s twice as much pain with loss than trying to gain. What that means is people will fight twice as hard to avoid a loss even if that means forgoing a gain because there’s so much pain in that perception. If all we focus on is what we’re giving up and nothing else, then that fear of loss, I guarantee you will lead to barriers and those barriers will bring any hope of progress right down to a screeching halt.
So, if we can align around the mission, focus on removing barriers to job creation, both for private companies and public sector, and then stop focusing so much on who has to give up and what and instead on what we can achieve together, then I think we can actually make some progress here.
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Some may say this is inappropriate.
This is politics! And you never discuss politics at Thanksgiving Dinners, backyard barbecues and on a business radio show.
I disagree. As long as only politicians can discuss solutions for our country then those solutions and their interested audiences will remain off-limits, political, for those who make this brand, our country, run. And only politicians, these days that's only career politicians, can discuss those ideas and spoon-feed solutions to the public.
I see our times as an all hands-on-deck opportunity and not a crisis. That opportunity is for each of us to lend our hands, our conversations, our ideas to find and share solutions. In our absence those challenges are left to ideologues, vested interests and politicians of all stripes and partisan persuasion. We...are the only ones with vested interests. And now we have, with social media and the urgency of today, the opportunity to reclaim our place at this table and discuss our ideas to solve our challenges. At the very least, we can listen to a discussion until we are ready to speak up.