Is FOFO the real reason you’re underachieving as a leader?

By Heather Campbell

How’s 2023 going so far? I’m sure you’re already striding forward to achieve many of your goals, but I’m not focussed on success today.

No, because life brings us failure too and we need help to turn the tough times around as well as to celebrate results.

That’s why I want to dig into those areas where things aren’t hitting the mark for you right now.

  • Maybe you’ve been overlooked for that sought after promotion…again
  • Or your boss seems to be cutting you out of the big decisions and you don’t know why
  • Or you’re struggling to deliver on a major project but can’t get the support you need
  • Or you have to introduce a major change but you’re holding back because you’re worried how it will land
  • Or you’re overwhelmed and are struggling see a way forward

For each of us, even while we enjoy success, chances are we’re also stuck in a holding pattern with some of our goals and really don’t know how to change things.

Well, if you recognise yourself in this, I’d suggest FOFO is a likely cause.

FOFO stands for Fear of Finding Out and originates from the medical world. It describes the psychological barrier individuals experience when they have health problems but refuse to find out what is causing them because they fear the diagnosis.

FOFO isn’t limited to health. It’s a major reason for people not achieving their goals.

FOFO wastes time and energy because we avoid truly understanding what’s wrong, we cover up, kid ourselves on and get frustrated when nothing changes.

FOFO causes blame cultures in business because, if we can blame others, we don’t have to risk looking at the part we had to play.

Listen, it’s only natural that FOFO gets in the way because human beings are driven by fear of failure more than by desire for success. It is, however, a big problem. Unless we have the confidence and courage to explore what is causing our lack of success, we cannot take meaningful action to change the right things.

Overcoming FOFO doesn’t mean we suddenly have to look everything squarely in the eye and plumb the depths of every little failure to understand what’s gone wrong. Ignorance can sometimes not only be bliss, but also a way to keep our sanity.

But if those goals that you are failing to achieve really matter, wouldn’t it be wiser to take a long hard look at what is truly stopping you reaching them?

Five questions to ask that will help you do that right now:

  • What information do I need to collect so that I can compile the most complete and honest view of what is holding me back from achieving my goals?
    It’s often easiest to record these as a list of questions that you need answered. Our brains can become more creative and open when we think in questions rather than in statements.
  • Who is best placed to answer these questions honestly, warts and all.
    Select someone whose opinion who trust and value, and who will still be considerate in how they share what may be a tough message to hear
  • How can I make it easy for them to share information honestly
    Others may feel uncomfortable about speaking honestly so pay particular attention to the next point!
  • How can I avoid becoming defensive and instead stay open to hearing the message?
    If you show defensiveness, the other person is almost certain to hold back and you’ll be left acting with an incomplete picture again. To avoid this, breathe deeply if you sense that you are tensing up and remind yourself that this information is helping you achieve your goals.
  • How can I ensure that I still feel okay afterwards if I hear a message that is tough to deal with?
    You may need someone who can help you make sense of the information you hear, and to ensure that you don’t end up with your sense of self damaged as a result of getting feedback.

I know some of these points may seem a bit dramatic but it is important to protect yourself, and others, when you are preparing to get information that might not be all that palatable. After all, your FOFO has developed for a good reason – to protect you from hurt.

The great thing is that, when you overcome FOFO, you can replace it with CACA – Clarity Aiding Confident Action.

CACA is my very own made-up acronym – you may have one of your own that you prefer. But, whatever, the impact of stepping away from the fear of finding out and replacing it with the clarity that aids confident action is both rewarding and achievable.

If you’re struggling to achieve some of your goals and you’d like support to get back on track, you could benefit from my virtual programme which will give you the clarity and confidence to act. It’s designed for senior leaders and directors and will ensure you overcome the most common barriers to success at top levels. Just email ‘Tell me more’ and I’ll get in touch.

Otherwise, I wish you success in moving forward with all your goals for 2023. There’s a lot to be excited about!

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