How to Deal with Doubt and Fear

Leaders are constantly forced to deal with immense challenges.  Budget decisions, personnel issues, developing staff, hiring and firing as well as dealing with their own bosses, customers, equipment failures are just some of the “routine” obstacles thrown in front of today’s business leaders.

However, the biggest challenge is often our own selves.  Namely those pesky fears and doubts that can stifle us and stop us in our tracks.  How many dreams are never realized, goals not pursued – all because of fear of failure?

Those worries that create the butterflies churning in our stomachs are caused by two different factors – fear and doubt.  They are often connected and seam similar, but are actually very different.  Truly successful people know the difference and are not held back.

We’ll start with fear.  On the whole, we value bravery and courage and those are what help us overcome fear in many cases.  But fear is natural and plagues us for good reason.  It is a true warning of something dangerous and harmful.  The fear of falling when standing at the edge of a precipice is obviously nature’s warning that falling off could seriously affect your well-being.

Doubt, on the other hand, is fear’s evil twin.  Doubt is not a warning of disaster.  Rather, it is the negative thoughts and needless worry about the impending doom that captivates our imaginations and will likely never happen.  Doubt holds us back from reaching our potential.  Doubt is the worry about failure.  Holding back or putting off giving a speech, as one example, due to worries about not being smart enough or “good” enough is doubt, not fear.

Successful leaders, ones who inspire others or accomplish their major goals, have found a way to evaluate the fears and ignore the doubts.  Fear is a warning sign of potential risks and setbacks.  Good leaders pay attention to the risks and decide the best way to proceed.  Good leaders recognize doubt for what it is – an unconstructive, even destructive, worry.

How do we tell them apart when doubt can so closely mimic fear?  Perhaps the best way is an internal gut check.  Analyze those feelings to find out what has our stomachs in knots.  Ask what is the real impact of failure or this fear occurring?  If it is the idea of losing your investment, your home, your life savings, then that may be a very real danger and time to reassess your plans.  On the other hand, if it is worry about not being good enough or worry about looking like a fool, then you are dealing with doubt.  Time to inject a sense of self-confidence and more forward and focus on the rewards rather than the doubts.

If we can eliminate those doubts that act as anchors holding us back, then we will sail forward and our true potential is unleashed.

Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense.  He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management.  Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces.  To learn more email


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Preventing Active Shooters with Everyday Security

Once again, we find ourselves trying to deal with the aftermath of another active shooter.  This one was the largest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history.  In this case, the shooter walked into a crowded movie theater and shot 70 people, leaving 12 dead (13 if you include the unborn baby who later miscarried when the mother was shot). 

Of course, the question heard the most is “why?”  Why did this happen?  Why did the shooter do this?  We may never really understand exactly what thoughts were going through the suspect’s mind or what rationale he used to justify his killings.

From a security perspective, the more important question might be “how?”  How could this have been prevented?  Or, at least, minimize the number of victims?  For more information on dealing with active shooters, check out How to Handle (and Prevent) Active Shooters.

Looking at past mass murder cases, there are basically two types.  One is the ‘disgruntled’ individual who targets a specific individual, group or organization after a long history of disputes and building anger.  While mass murders are rare, this is the more frequent form of active shooters and often involve an employee attacking his or her workplace.

The second type is the high profile shooter.  This is typically motivated by terrorism in an attempt to accomplish some political goal.  The shooter in Norway last year more closely fit this category as he claimed this was in response to political decisions on immigration from Eastern Europe.  The Colorado movie theater shootings fall under this category and are probably the toughest to detect and prevent.

A ‘high profile’ shooter will be looking for a large number of victims, especially if confined to a limited space.  In Norway, the shooter used an island; in Colorado, a packed movie theater.  In another Colorado incident, the shooter was heading into a crowded church service and could have potentially harmed as many or more people, but was fortunately stopped by armed security.  Often, suspects will carry multiple weapons, explosives and even carry out attacks at several locations.  In Norway, a bomb was detonated by the suspect in the heart of the government district.  In Colorado, the suspect booby-trapped his own apartment hoping for even more victims.  All of these elaborate steps mean careful planning and surveillance.

As happens so often, there is both good news and bad news.  The good news is that some basic security measures could actually chase off the suspect during the planning phase and cause him or her to pick an easier or softer target.  The bad news is that there is no guarantee that these could prevent a tragedy like the one in Colorado.

One goal is to limit surveillance and interrupt planning.  Many terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda train their operatives to engage in careful scouting and planning before an attack.  The most obvious one to watch for is people taking photos that seem out of place.  Tourists may take photos of each other in front of interesting locations, but the photos will not be directed at security systems.  Terrorists will take photos of security officers, video surveillance cameras, door locks and the like in preparation for an attack.  There could be strange questions asked of the employees about the building or security procedures.  Sometimes, bomb threats or suspicious calls are made to test and observe the response.

Staff members should be trained to be on the lookout for some of these pre-planning signs.  The training also needs to include telling employees how to respond when something does seem odd.  At this point, few details are known about the scouting leading up to the Colorado theater massacre, but it is evident that the shooter planned out the attack ahead of time.  He clearly visited the theater ahead of time and had learned that the back door could be opened without an audible alarm.  He also knew to park his car in back in order to retrieve the weapons and body armor that he wore.

In addition to signs of surveillance, employees should know what kind of body language to watch for.  Some clues of increased stress can help employees deal safely with aggressive or disruptive individuals who may just be unhappy customers, not necessarily a budding murderer.  Agitation can be displayed through clenched fists, sweating, eyes darting around the area, distracted when spoken to as some examples.  This should attract attention to the individual right away and alert employees.

Another basic security measure is to control access points.  Emergency exits should be alarmed and the alarms monitored or at least are able to trigger an alert to on-site staff members.  Security video covering all entrances and exits and tied into alarms provides an excellent way to track unauthorized access or egress.  Just from a loss prevention standpoint, it is surprising to learn that theaters would allow patrons to open a back door to the outside without triggering any kind of alert.  One person in the theater could let in a score of friends without paying.

All organizations should have one person who is specifically responsible for security in their written job description.  Too often, basic security measures are ignored or overlooked and making sure that there is a responsible person with sufficient level of authority to make changes can help address any potential gaps in the workplace security program.  Another function of this role would be to track any suspicious incidents or violent/aggressive behavior and adjust the response as needed.

Sadly, following basic precautions cannot guarantee that something horrific will not happen.  However, the reality is that attackers will go for the easier target so you may deter them enough to protect your organization and your customers and those to whom you have a duty to protect.  With luck, you may be fortunate enough to detect the planning and that could result in an arrest and truly stop the attack before anyone is hurt.  Given the choice, security should always be part of the everyday business consideration.

Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense.  He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management.  Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces.  To learn more email


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