It’s a familiar sensation to us all: those “first day of school” butterflies in your stomach, that anxiety of being a stranger in a new place without a good idea of how to fit it. The classic image is the lunchroom on the first day of school as the new kid – where are you going to sit? Or more importantly, who’s going to let you sit with them?
Even if you don’t have that literal “lunchroom” experience at a new job or fulfilling a new role, the sentiment and feeling is still quite common, and it’s something we can all relate to.
As leaders, we have to remember that this phenomenon happens every day! When new employees come in for the first time, when seasoned employees take on new responsibilities, or even when veterans deliver presentations or address large groups – those nervous feelings can still be present, and it’s our responsibility to show support and inspire confidence.
While we can’t (and shouldn’t) take away anxiety completely, and we can’t simply “do it for them,” we can try to create and environment that accepts new people with open arms, is forgiving of embarrassed and anxious behavior, and functions to offer the “new kid” a seat in the lunchroom.
It’s important for people to get through these experiences because they are necessary for growth and overcoming fear, and they have to do so “on their own” to a certain degree. This does not mean, however, that leaders can’t offer guidance in this regard when preparing people for new careers or new responsibilities.
Offering support works wonders for minimizing feelings of nervousness. With a little encouragement and a vote of confidence, people will feel, even though they may be afraid, that they have what it takes to succeed. Confidence is the principle lesson here, and people gain much needed assurance when they know someone has their back.
A true leader isn’t afraid of admitting to weakness, and showing the would be “new kid” that you (and nearly everyone else) has experienced this kind of “first day” anxiety will help put them at ease – or at least understand that it’s perfectly normal, fairly expected, and can be overcome.
Are you that kind of leader?
Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.
Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.