Momentum Podcast: 643
Anxiety Can Be Useful
by Alex Charfen
When I was younger I did not want anyone in my business to appear anxious. If they showed up to a meeting or to one of our huddles and we're expressing anxiety I would be irritated with them and want them to stop. I'm the type of person that my irritation shows whether I say something or not, so they often would stop. Are used to think that this was a win. I got them to stop acting anxious and making everyone else anxious.
What I know now is that by stopping them from expressing their anxiety, I was actually cutting myself off from information in my business and making everyone else more anxious. Anxiety that goes and expressed makes everyone more uncomfortable and slows everything down.
This morning a member of my team expressed anxiety, and now I'm actually excited by it. Let me explain why…
Full Audio Transcript
This is The Momentum Podcast.
Entrepreneurs are hesitant to let anyone know when they feel anxious. Most entrepreneurs get nervous when they have team members that show up with anxiety. If they show up to a meeting expressing anxiety, you might feel irritated with them and want them to start. In this episode of The Momentum Podcast, Alex is going to show you the story of someone on our team who expressed their anxiety and how he's learned to lean in and allow that anxiety to create momentum for our business. Now Alex is actually excited about our team sharing their anxiety and he's going to tell you why.
I'm Alex Charfen, and this is The Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few, who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future and instead of daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent positive human evolution, and we always will be.
I want to do a quick check-in on something that happened in our huddle this morning that kicked off like a series of thoughts for me and really gave me some insight into how I used to work with people and how I work with people today. So the title of this message is anxiety can be useful and let me make it very clear what I'm talking about. You know I think we live in a world today where when somebody says I'm anxious or I feel anxiety or I feel a little bit frustrated, that we get maybe defensive or maybe we immediately want it to stop. I know that's how I was. Let me share with you what happened today.
We were in our huddle and we have space in our huddle for critical issues like what's going on that is challenging in the business so we want to know anything that's happening that day and also where were you uncomfortable or where are you feeling uncomfortable. Nicole, one of our team members, value her like crazy, this morning was talking about how she felt really anxious and she said she felt anxious around the fact that in one of our coaching programs, we're bringing people in, our retention rate isn't where we want it to be, it's better than most and we're doing very well but it's not where we want it to be and she was like, "I just want everyone to know I feel anxious about this, I want to fix it, I want to be involved in fixing it."
It was interesting because when I heard her talking, I was actually excited. I'm like, "Yes. This is awesome." I'll tell you why in just a second but let me tell you how I used to react to stuff like this. I'm actually kind of embarrassed to even bring it up. So when I was younger, in my twenties, I ran a pretty large company, had about 60 people, 14 offices in the U.S. and Latin America. We were responsible for over a quarter billion dollars in sales for major corporations. We were a multimillion dollar company and when somebody showed up in one of my meetings and said, "Hey, I'm anxious," I would try to do anything I could to get them to stop. I didn't want to hear it. I felt like they were interrupting my meeting. I didn't want them expressing anxiety, I didn't want them throwing things sideways.
It was incredibly frustrating back then and so as a result I created this culture where people did not talk about anxiety in meetings and you know what, I thought I was winning. I had clean meetings, they didn't feel like they had friction. People didn't talk about anxiety, people didn't bring up as many problems.
What I didn't know was that was basically like walking myself up to the edge of a cliff and jumping off. Because what I did with that team and the culture that I created in that business was that people did not share where they were uncomfortable, they did not share where they were anxious, they weren't honest about what was going on and what they were trying to do is fix problems before they even talked about them. Or they would try not to bring up problems so that they wouldn't get bad energy from me or get clear judgment from me.
This morning when Nicole was talking about her anxiety, I remembered having those feelings. I remembered having those feelings of like I want that person to stop, I wish they weren't doing this in my meeting. Don't make other people feel anxious. I can't believe how absolutely 100% backwards I had it. Like I was so wrong about trying to get people not to talk in meetings and trying to get people not to share where they're uncomfortable. "Hey Gideon, thanks for being here man." In fact today, in our huddle, not only did we have critical issues like tell us any issue there is, once a week we have tell us where you personally are uncomfortable. We do everything we can to create an environment of transparency where our team members will tell us what's really going on.
So here's why this morning I was so excited when Nicole brought up that she was anxious. She's anxious about a process she's involved in. She's anxious about something going on in her business that's really uncomfortable for her and she actually said, "I'm really anxious, I want to be able to help, I want to be able to fix this," and that's why I get excited.
See when I was younger, I didn't want to hear about anxiety. I wanted us to just go achieve our plan. I wanted people to just kind of do what they were told and do what we were doing in the business. Actually when I was younger I did not want a lot of feedback from my team. I felt like, "Hey I hired you, you got a job, go do it, quit causing problems."
It's embarrassing for me to say that now. That was probably almost 30 years ago that I would act that way. I still today can feel how dramatic the ramifications were. I created a culture where people didn't talk. I created a culture where people didn't share. I created a culture where we didn't take advantage of anxiety. This is what I mean by anxiety can be useful.
So when Nicole showed up today feeling anxious, immediately after the huddle, I got together with my leadership team and I said, "Hey, let's use that anxiety." Here's what I know. When somebody's feeling anxious, when they are plugged in to the business and they are feeling the physical effects of issues that we have in the business, that's the person that should go fix the issues. So today, when somebody shows up as anxious, I am immediately saying, "Hey, let's take that person and assign them to the issue. There's anxiety already there. They're already thinking the right way. They're already uncomfortable with it. They already have a vested interest in it," so my immediate move is, "Hey, if you're anxious about this, help us fix it."
Here's what I mean by anxiety can be useful. See anxiety is a feeling of discomfort, of frustration of the unknown, of feeling like something is out of place or the right things aren't there. All of those things or a combination of them can be present. So when a team member presents with anxiety about something that isn't going right in our business, I use the anxiety to fuel the solution.
So Nicole, if you're feeling anxious, here's what we're going to tell her. Nicole, you're feeling anxious, help us fix this. Like how do you think we should fix it? You're seeing issues here, you're feeling the anxiety, so that anxiety, that feeling of having that excess energy, that cognitive dissonance, that feeling of wanting to do something about it, we're just going to take that and directly transfer it to create the actual solution.
So it's interesting being 47 years old and being a coach and having a podcast and sharing information and sharing content all the time because I feel like what I share often is I used to make this really huge mistake and today I was reminded of just how far I've come and how far I've grown and I think what's really interesting is that so often what I did when I was younger that still created success by the way, I want to make it very clear. Like I was still successful, but I now know that what I did when I was younger so often was the opposite of what I should have done. I was still creating success but in so many ways my reactions, what I did with people's reactions, were holding me in place or working against myself. So today, we create an environment of radical transparency. We actually have a spot in our huddle, like I said, tell us any critical issues that are going on. We create a spot where you can tell us where you personally are uncomfortable and we've had people share about their personal life, about their relationships, about things that are going on with the crisis that we're in with money issues, with whatever it is, we want them to get it out there.
You know what? If they share something that's uncomfortable, maybe somebody on our team has a suggestion for them. Maybe we can support them even if it's just by knowing what's going [inaudible 00:08:38] maybe we will support if it's just by knowing what's going on.
Here's what's even more interesting. Just by expressing something out loud in our huddle and saying this is where I'm uncomfortable, we can help them dissipate that and get past it. When somebody shares something like Nicole did today where there's an issue in the business I know is there, where she says, "Hey, I'm anxious," we're just going to turn it around and use it as the tool to cure the problem.
So in my early career, I didn't want my team to express anxiety or frustration or irritation of any kind. I actually took offense when they did. God. I can't even believe that I'm saying that out loud. For the last 15 or 20 years, like really in my late twenties, I started realizing, "Man, if I create an emotionally safe space for my team, if I can create a place where they can tell me what's really going on they will and we get things done way faster. If I let people express anxiety and then have them help me fix it, things in our business improve like crazy." The more that I actually hear what's going on from my team, the better I'm equipped as a CEO to go make things happen and fix it. That was a massive shift for me and completely changed the way that I lead teams.
If you're in leadership or if you run a business and you have a team member that's anxious, here's what I know our initial response is. It's discomfort, it's frustration. We want to get away from the anxiety. We don't want [inaudible 00:10:00] anxiety to infect us, right? We don't want to catch it. I have a different suggestion for you. When a team member presents as anxious, start asking questions. Have a dialogue with them. Take a few deep breaths with them. Let them tell you all the reasons that they have anxiety about what's going on in the business. Let them tell you all the reasons why they feel like something's not going right and here's what you'll find nine out of ten times, that anxiety is actually massively useful and can be translated into discovering issues in the business, what the solutions for those issues can be, and if that person can be involved in helping, you can have them take that feeling of discomfort, that frustration, that anxious feeling, and drive the solution in your business and get it done.
This is a massive game changer in managing people. When someone shows up anxious, let them express their anxiety. When people are having feelings in your business, let them express their feelings. Then ask questions, understand what's going on, and use the situation so that you can move your business forward, make things even better and go forward like crazy.
By the way, I want to just thank you for being a listener of The Momentum Podcast. I record these podcasts online and then we upload them and we just found out this week some amazing information. I just got a new program called Chartable that showed us that we have been as high as #46 in entrepreneurship ... No sorry, #46, yeah, high as #46 in entrepreneurship in the United States, and right now this podcast, out of over 800,000 podcasts out there, I don't know how many are entrepreneurship, we're like #170. I have a favor to ask of you. If you've listened to my podcast for any period of time, if you would be willing to go to iTunes and leave a ratings and rating and review. I would really appreciate it. We just looked at this new reporting system and we haven't had a rating or a review on this podcast for over 30 days which significantly lowers our popularity and lowers how often Apple is showing it so if you're a podcast listener, I have one simple request. Go over, if you're so inclined, give us a five star rating and a review. Just any type of written review really helps our search engine optimization through iTunes.
I've got a new goal here. I want to see if I can get this thing into the top 100 in the next few weeks and I would love your help so thank you in advance and I appreciate you listening to The Momentum Podcast. I appreciate you in advance. I just want to thank you now for the review you're going to leave. Thank you.