Our CFO was asked by the WSJ to contribute to their annual CFO Summer Read Recommendations column (WSJ, May 26, 2023 – paywall). Here we publish the review of her book recommendation in full.
Fear Less, by Pippa Grange
My summer reading choice is Fear Less. The author, Pippa Grange, is a sports psychologist who works with elite athletes - including with the England football team for the World Cup in 2018 - and business leaders. Her research and coaching apply in a range of settings and focus on how fear (conventionally viewed as a motivator) can equally stand in the way of optimal performance.
At Smiths Group two of our Leadership Behaviours - the behaviours that we evaluate our leaders against - are 'innovates for impact' and 'leads inclusively and empowers.' We're at our best when we unlock each colleague’s potential, and the science and psychology in this book made me reflect on how to do this better.
For example, one of our key priorities is new product commercialization; and while, of course, we need an attractive ROI on our investments--we also don't want a fear of failure to inhibit valuable experimentation and appropriate risk taking. Over the years, Smiths Group can count plenty of examples of how it has taken a calculated risk to drive a return, which perhaps explains why we are no longer simply a London-based maker of watches, but have grown and evolved into a truly global industrial technology business.
And from an empowering people perspective, I sometimes see colleagues hesitate to speak up in meetings for fear of saying the wrong thing. Or hesitate to run toward a new job or challenge for 'fear of failure'. We all know that we learn more from our failures than our successes, but we also live in a world that relentlessly measures us against and pressures for success. The book provoked me to consider whether I strike the right balance between challenging the team and empowering them to be their best by removing unhealthy fear. I am conscious that we need to foster an environment which encourages and enables our people to speak up and contribute – again connecting to our Smiths leadership behaviour, 'leads inclusively and empowers.’
My favourite quote in the book: 'Personal growth is often presented as linear, about ticking off set goals. But it's more useful to imagine it as a journey. It's about broadening, deepening, and expanding, rather than just improving. About growing out and not just up.' This resonates particularly with me having recently made the career move out of the banking world and into the CFO chair at Smiths.
On occasion we all need to be fearless, but more often to be our best we just need to fear less.
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