Fear: Does it Motivate or Paralyze You? (DC-MD-VA Marketing Services)

The football team of my alma mater, Virginia Tech, had a big win over the weekend.  It was significant not only because they beat their top rival, Virginia, for the ninth consecutive time, but the Hokies also captured a sixth win for the season which qualifies them for a bowl game and keeps a twenty-year streak alive.  Still, it has been a challenging season for a team that has grown accustomed to a much greater level of success.  I’m almost certain that the Tech coaches used fear in an effort to motivate the players heading into this final game on the schedule.  Fear of losing in-state bragging rights, fear of letting down the “Hokie Nation”, and fear of allowing the bowl streak to come to an end.  Quarterback Logan Thomas was quoted after the game:  “We don’t want to be ‘those guys’…we don’t want to be that team that doesn’t make a bowl and we don’t want to be that team that breaks the streak against U-Va.”  The fear of failure can be a great motivator.

Former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson drove this point home during a recent interview on The Dan Patrick Radio Show when he spoke of the problems with the current team in Dallas.  He said, “The No. 1 motivator (in the NFL) is fear. Fear of maybe letting down your teammates or being embarrassed or chastised or fear of losing your job.  Where is the fear in Dallas? There is no fear in Dallas. It’s a country club where everybody is buddies.”  That hurts.

I’ve always been fascinated by the similarities between the worlds of business and sports.  Many of the techniques and strategies used by coaches of sports teams are also utilized by our leaders in the workplace – especially in the areas of sales and marketing.  The marketplace is seen as the venue where competitors slug it out for victory in terms of revenue and market share.  We often see the office as an arena where our co-workers are “teammates” in the battle for business and the boss is a “coach” who might employ a management style where fear is used to motivate the “players”.

But fear can also paralyze.  While some may be moved to action, others are frozen and unable to take the risks necessary to reach the level of success that is expected.  How does fear influence your job?  Are you motivated to explore the latest marketing strategies in order to grow your business or find new members for your association?  Or does the fear of a program’s possible failure prevent you from thinking outside the box or switching vendors to reach your goals?  We strive to make decisions that will allow us to tell a story of success, and we must depend on our “teammates” (both co-workers and outside business partners) to “win the game”.

In today’s economy, we certainly cannot allow a “country club” mentality to set into our businesses.  Now is the time to take an honest look at our marketing “playbook” from 2012 and see what improvements can be made so we can be in the best position to reach our team’s goals in the coming year.

Mike Petrusky is an Account Executive for Kayrell Solutions.  He has been offering marketing products, services and solutions to clients for over twenty years.  His favorite TV show used to be “Fear Factor”, but that really has nothing to do with this blog post.  You can also follow him @MikePetrusky on Twitter.