How to manage fear of failure successfully

Considering fear as a factor pays off when YOU are the one offering the kind of social safety people need. Managing the fear factor will boost your performance and that of those you work with.

Interestingly, we mostly hesitate to talk openly about fear as factor in the professional environment. However, as we all know, it is very much a factor of daily life. It can take the form of the fear of being passed over, fear of underperforming, the fear of giving a presentation, fear of losing a client, or fear of confrontation.

Fear of failure or fear of being not good enough is actually the skeleton in most professionals’ cupboard.

manage fear of failure

What if you could help others conquer their fear of failure?

What if you were the one who gave people the confidence they need to be able to perform without fear of failure? You’d be offering people something they really need and usually fear (!) to ask support for.

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Start with your own fears

To work with the fear factor the logical route is to start with first understanding your own fears, and then graduating to dealing with the fear of others. They are of course essentially the same as yours. They are just disguised in a particular personal shape, manner or mental model.

Beginning with yourself is the logical route because it will teach you something important about fear. Conquering fear is only possible when you know where your safety lies. 

Fears are inside the mind. That means that the safety you need to conquer your fears will be found there too.

It’s all in the mind

First, look at the particular shape your fear of failure takes. What exactly are you afraid will happen? The shape of this question is a clue to where your fear resides. What you are afraid of usually has not happened, yet. You are just expecting it to happen.

Remember this: you expect what you invited. You invited the idea of what will happen in your mind. This means you can change the invitation. This is even true when what you fear will happen already happened before. Historical precedent does not have to be a predictor of future performance.

Just look carefully at what you fear. Now look at what you would need to feel safe enough to act with confidence. True safety lies inside. It is not found by ignoring your fear, but by looking at what you do and exploring what you need to change and feel sufficiently secure.

(It is usually helpful to have someone do this with you who can help you distinguish between what is real and what is not, as we discussed in The only way to overcome fear of failure. A good coach is able to do this with you).

Give to others what they need

When you have diagnosed your own particular fear of failure and your anxieties, look at what you would appreciate other people doing for you. This will be a start in your quest to help others conquer their fear of failure and allay their anxiety.

People like you will probably appreciate the things you need from others.

Other people might need other things. While the underlying need for security is the same for everyone, the expression of it might be different.

Some people need reassurance. They need to be told they can do it, and why you think so. Others need knowledge and a roadmap. They need to know how things work and how they can follow the exact steps towards getting a predictable result. Other people need an overall strategy of how they can deal with the situation. Everybody needs a form of relationship with you.


The only way to deal with the fear factor is to bring it out in the open. Remember: fear of failure is in the mind. It’s usually enough to talk about the situation and think of ways of dealing with it, in the manner that people need. Bringing fear out into the open is only possible when there is sufficient trust between you. That’s why managing fear of failure with others is an essential soft skill.

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

Knowing how to manage fear of failure in others is an essential soft skill. That’s why we offer coaching you along the lines that we sketch in this article. We help you discover the form of your own fears and what you need to perform excellently. Then we advise you on what you need to manage the fear of failure of others successfully. Please look at our coaching offer for more details.

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