Inaction IS Action: Part One


Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.     — Dale Carnegie

In all my years of working with business leaders, one of the quintessential issues many leaders face at one time or another are the consequences of their inaction.  Dale Carnegie’s quote rings true for me, as I see the effects of inaction at the top of an organization trickle down as doubt and fear to its people.  The fear comes from that natural human reaction to not having enough information, which is to fill in the blanks with the most negative assumptions.  “Why hasn’t my CEO responded to my email, or returned my call?  Is he mad at me?  Did I do something wrong?  Am I about to get fired?”  The doubt comes from questioning the leader’s confidence.  “Why hasn’t he decided?  Is he capable of making tough decisions?  Should this be the leader I follow?”  Inaction is always a choice- it’s avoidance, and it’s an indication of a leader’s priorities.  And when your people feel that they’re not a priority, they suffer.

Believe me, I understand competing priorities.  Leaders have so much on their plates, and so many people vying for their attention and direction, that it’s hard to get around to everybody in a timely manner.  Oftentimes we know what we need to do, we just have to get out of our own way and do it!  Here are some tips for overcoming inaction:

  1. Be self-aware- understand what triggers your inaction, and listen to the voice inside your head telling you to take pause. When you can identify the cause (perhaps it’s avoiding a difficult conversation), you can better deal with it by acknowledging your hesitancy and committing to yourself to work through it.
  2. Set deadlines- give yourself time to reflect on and vet important decisions, and time to practice and prepare for difficult conversations, then set a deadline for you to act.  Oftentimes, the act itself is less daunting than the agonizing anticipation.
  3. Focus on the positive outcomes- many times, we don’t act because we fear the worst. When in actuality, we can mitigate the worst possible outcome when we address it head-on, and then be able to focus on the more probable, positive outcomes. I found the TED Talk below to be especially poignant, about the benefits of “Fear setting” instead of “Goal setting.”

We all have the key – it’s just a matter of using it to unlock our potential to lead effectively.  So I challenge you to spend some time thinking about these tips this week, and then take those first steps away from fear.  Your actions will show your people that they are a priority, and your confidence and courage will be contagious.  Action, no matter how small, is always worth the effort.

Action is the foundational key to all success.      — Pablo Picasso

That’s our spark, what’s yours?