Is your team using fear-based intelligence?

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It is often easier to spot the impact of fear than the fear itself. In a meeting when you start to notice silence, over-agreement, complacency or frustration, use the lens of fear to understand what is going on. Is fear causing people to retreat or attack? It won’t be the right lens all the time...or will it?

I think that often our teams, our conversations, are operating on what I call, fear-based intelligence. It’s like our communication has to travel through a maze of fear to reach the other person. Our communication becomes complex as it negotiates around the maze walls and corners created by our own and the other person’s fears. The message the other person receives can be confused, and what they take from the discussion is often not the original message intended. The communicators both end up feeling disconnected from each other and from the task at hand.

In contrast, courageous conversations maximise collective intelligence. When the message has to go from one person to another, but it doesn't have to travel through the maze of fear, the journey becomes clearer, more direct. When the walls are dropped, the message doesn't have to deviate. We build greater connections and greater achievements.

Here are some questions that help to see if your team are operating using fear-based intelligence:

  • Do you see polite but not constructive conversations?

  • Do any/all team members struggle to step up for new tasks or solution finding?

  • Do you see unequal contribution/airtime across the group?

  • Do you see any behavioural signs of the intention to dismiss or diminish others’ contribution?

  • Do the conversations have an emotional charge that seems inappropriate to the task or conversation at hand?

  • Can you see some team members who are able to contribute more but don’t?

Feel free to use these in your team as conversation starters to bring the conversation up and above ‘what are we doing’ and into the ‘how are we doing’? Just for your info, a ‘yes’ too many times in answer to these questions probably indicate it would be worth exploring fully.


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Amy works with teams to drive courageous collaboration for remarkable achievements through her program The Safe Space. Contact us via the form below for more information or to make sure that your team or Division are booked in for 2019.

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