Fear and Collaboration

Author: Karen Copeland

I came across this tweet the other night….

Now I have no idea of the context of the comment or what the tweetchat was about, but what I DO know is how much those words resonated with me, and how they fit with what I have been thinking about for the better part of a few weeks now.

Why are we so afraid of change? In fact, we can be so afraid of it, we do just want Mr. Smeaton indicated above. We check in with a small minority, then duck back inside.

Who is the small minority we are checking in with? And what are we checking in for? Validation? New ideas? Do we view that minority opinion as indicative of a larger group? So many questions, but my biggest question is about why we duck back in, why do we continue on with how we have always done things?

What drives this? FEAR.

Image via Piktochart
Image via Piktochart

We all have it. We all carry it and it emerges in situations where we begin to feel uncomfortable. It is a brick wall that prevents us from looking beyond ourselves.

There is no more opportune time for fear to build up those walls than when it is time to collaborate, especially when processes are not particularly clear or well defined. Everyone walks in meaning well, with ideas and thoughts and curiosity. Each of us also walks in carrying a vision of what the collaboration will look like, what we would like to see accomplished. You don’t join a collaboration to dig your heels in, but when clarity on process is murky at best, this is what ends up happening.

I shared this in my presentation with Chris Wejr last week:

We all have a vision of what our day, our week, our life is going to look like. So when something comes up that is unexpected, we stand up and take notice. Because it makes us uncomfortable. That’s why it is so easy to see the challenges and focus on the negatives, because it interferes with the idea we have created for ourselves of what we want things to look like. But like the iceberg, we can’t just take those challenges at face value, we need to go below the surface to truly understand the why. When we do go below the surface, what is it that we might be looking for?

Karen Copeland – Start with Strengths, October 15, 2015

I was reflecting on this last night, thinking about how it didn’t quite capture the true extent of what I was trying to say. And I think I came up with more.

Because when we come up against those challenges that interfere with the vision we have for moving forward, we become uncomfortable. If we don’t understand or know how to dig deeper, we begin to create reasons for why we feel uncomfortable and often these reasons make us feel better about ourselves. If we do not take time to reflect, we might find ourselves becoming angry about the interference in our overall plan we have created for ourselves. We become defensive, we might begin to shut people out…or worse, lash out at others.

But if we take the time to reflect on those feelings, to look at them from the lens of the Four C’s (that we all want and need to feel connected, capable, count, courage) we might discover what it is we feel like we are missing. And when we know what we are missing, we can then take steps to try and figure out a way to achieve this! For example, if I discover I am feeling disconnected in a process, then I can take ownership of that. Have a discussion with a trusted member of the team and devise a plan on how I can become connected. Sometimes that means I have to set aside things I want in order to feel this.

Sometimes it means that I have to figure out a way to sit with some very uncomfortable feelings and choose to reflect versus make assumptions. This is HARD, especially when many of your thoughts are screaming “Run! Run away! You don’t need this!”.

I’m going to tell you that you CAN kick down that wall, move beyond that fear and create amazing opportunities. I’m also going to tell you that you might not always be successful at it, and that’s okay too. Perhaps it just wasn’t the right time. But it is always, always important to try to move forward before making the decision to stop.

Change is hard and it doesn’t happen overnight. We move back and forth between doing things the old way and then doing things the new way. We need to remain committed to the process, reflect on when it is not going well, and then have the courage to embrace our fear and continue moving forward.

I choose to continue to try.

Shortly after hitting publish on this post, I came across this tweet. I think it describes perfectly the message I was trying to convey.





  1. The reminder that “it wont happen/change” overnight is so important. Even behaviour plans take time – and like so many other “new plans” often go through an implementation dip where things will get worse before they get better. But they will get better (when done right)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Another great post Karen. Really like how you described breaking through the ‘wall’ of fear and the rewards this can bring. Also loved the 4 C’s….I think parents are too worried about what others might think after so often unfairly having to take a defensive position. Breaking through fear is possible and necessary to generate change 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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