Thursday, September 8, 2011

Breaking the Fear Barrier - How to Bust Corporate Barriers

Breaking the Fear Barrier is a book by Tom Rieger published by Gallop.  The article printed on Gallup Management Journal on Aug 18, 2011 explains "The biggest threat to an organization's success: the fear that lives within its own walls."

As I read the Q&A with the author about how this fear is developed throughout organizations and how leaders are responsible for eliminating it, I realized he had not considered the one human factor, perception,  present in all human experiences regardless if one is a leader, manager or a follower.  Perception is what gives power to any type of feeling, sense of urgency or lack thereof.  
Last night, during the third session of my Mindfulness at Work Class, I presented a model of how perception is developed and how perception is almost always faulty, not factual and a root cause for stress, dissatisfaction, mistakes and failure.
As it turns out we are constantly forming perceptions.  Perception is formed when an event happens and combines with the way we feel about the event. Perception can be faulty or true.  In the case of organizations, and Rieger's perception that fear is the underlying factor for a lot of issues in organizations, while I might agree I would have to add that our relationship to the way we experience phenomena has precedence over the impact of fear itself.  Fear alone has no impact on anything.  It is the way we experience fear and generate more of it that is the issue.  Consider the following process as faulty or true perception is formed.  First,  Faulty Perception because it is much more common.
Faulty Perception:
  1. An event represents any ordinary or extraordinary phenomenon that happens every moment of the day. This could include receiving an email, witnessing an accident, taking a walk, breaking a dish, watching a movie, talking to a friend, finishing a project,  counting inventory, signing payroll checks, etc.
  2. The first thing that happens after the event occurs (which could change from moment to moment) is that a category of feeling or a mixture of feeling categories arise: Pleasant, Unpleasant or Neutral. Based on our relationship to the present feeling thoughts immediately come up to explain it. See the diagram above.
  3. When thoughts come up to explain the feelings they change the actual event from its pure form to the version of one's own understanding or better yet, one's own liking. In this way Faulty Perception is formed.
  4. When this happens the original event is contaminated and one's reaction or response in that moment is no longer to the original version but rather to the version one has created, the Perception.
  5. What's more harmful is that the perception about the event goes on to be stored in the memory system as fact, which one draws on at later dates.
  6. Hence, one is constantly responding either to a faulty perception one forms in the moment or the faulty perceptions one has stored in their memory system.
True Perception:
  1. True perception is created by acceptance. Acceptance means not being in conflict with any event as it arises no matter the feeling tone that arises with it. It does not mean one has to agree with it and it does not mean not to feel anything. And it doesn't mean not to do anything about it. It simply means responding directly to the event and not to the interpretations of the event.  Which there may be many interpretations depending on how many parties are involved.
  2. Of course, this is easier said than done, because perceiving happens so fast it is hard to notice what is true and what is an interpretation of the truth. This is why Rieger's view that leaders could eliminate fear is not realistic. Perceiving happens as fast as if one were falling off a tree. During the fall the person is not able to notice how many branches they passed, or how many leaves they might have seen. All they notice is one minute they're up and the next minute they're experiencing contact with the ground and really bad pain in parts of the body that hit the ground first. However, it is possible to cultivate the skill in the mind to be able to catch it at the feeling tone and not add to the event. This cultivation requires cleansing the mind by teaching it to settle down so it can see more clearly what is going on before rushing into interpretation, opinion and judgement.
  3. The way to keep one's perception clean and truthful to the actual event is to practice developing a non-judgmental mind through Mindfulness Meditation.
  4. As one practices mindfulness of the breath meditation their mind becomes more and more accepting and less and less argumentative about what is happening in the moment. In my consulting and training work I always include mindfulness training. There is no better way to retain the learning gained from training and sustain changes made through strategic planning.
  5. The practitioner of Mindfulness Meditation builds the skill to recognize the feeling tone before their mind has a chance to contaminate the event via the ego's attempt to explain and own it. As soon as the feeling is recognized and acceptance is present the ego lets go of taking ownership of the event and handling it. Thus, managers, leaders and department heads become more attentive, more wise and less reactive to the underlying fear that drives their decisions.
  6. As a result of True Perception, appropriate response is given to reality as opposed to what's made up by the mind.
  7. When one is in acceptance they are realistic rather than idealistic. The view is "It is what it is," and the question is what is the one best solution that takes into consideration the benefit of all involved towards accomplishing the mission of the organization.
If you are a human being, you are constantly forming perceptions and must evaluate or have the skill to detect how accurate you are in your perception. Otherwise, your response could cause a lot of waste in resources, time and money. This explanation about perception can be helpful for organizations to understand why there may be so much misalignment between departments, leaders and /or between members of any department.
For more information on Mindfulness visit:
For team and individual training and classes on Mindfulness visit:
Dr. Manijeh Motaghy, PsyD. OMC is an Organization Management Consultant who is a Mindfulness practitioner and trainer.  For her full bio visit:

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