How to Coach Through Fear at Work with Gerardo Segat

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In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with international leadership coach and consultant Gerardo Segat about what we fear and how to coach through that fear as leaders.

A few reasons why she is awesome  —  he is a leadership coach through his consultancy, also the Founder and Creator of Preludes, a coaching program to humanize leaders, organizations and stakeholders through creative and powerful experiences. He’s a chapter chair and founder of the Young President’s Organization in Southern Switzerland, the world’s leading community of leaders. And he’s the creator and producer of Out as Humans, an international performing arts show, an immersive experience helping organizations be human.

Connect with, and learn more about Gerardo on his…



  • Leadership through fear management
  • Pyramid of fears
  • The Bullet Train and Regional Train approaches to coaching fear
  • Transforming fear into strength
  • The necessity of psychological safety
  • Coaching with diversity in mind

“Postponing, blaming, ignoring, destroying, delaying, judging… all these behaviours… all these are harmful defensive behaviour, defensive from fears.”

Gerardo Segat


Russel Lolacher: And on the show today we have Gerardo Sagat and here is why he is awesome. He’s a leadership coach through his own consultancy. He’s also the founder and creator of Preludes, which is a coaching program to humanize leaders, organizations and stakeholders through creative and powerful experiences. He’s a chapter chair and founder of the Young Presidents Organization in southern Switzerland, the world’s leading community of leaders, and he’s the creator and producer of Out as Humans, an international performing arts show, an immersive experience that helps organizations, again, be human.

Welcome to the show, Gerardo.

Gerardo Segat: Hi everyone. Hi, Russel. Thank you for having me.

Russel Lolacher: Thrilled to have you here. I’m, I’m excited. I’m scared. I’m interested in our topic today, which we’re going to get into coaching through fear in the workplace and that’s certainly a human, very human trait, of something we need to work in at work. But before we get there, I have to ask you the question that I ask all of my guests Gerardo, which is what’s your best

or worst employee experience?

Gerardo Segat: I cannot remember that my worst one as an employee, which was a long time ago, since I started to be an entrepreneur when I was 29. So we’re talking about 25 years ago, 30 years ago. And I remember the place that I used to work before becoming an entrepreneur. And one of the things that I really hated was, all the time that I had to spend in dealing with politics in the company, really, that really frustrated me.

I wanted to focus on learning on the clients and so on, and instead I had to spend a lot of time in kind of internal politics, so that was very frustrating for me.

Russel Lolacher: How does that impact you when you’re someone that wants to go in? I’m just sort of trying to understand the negative impacts of that because you go in and you’re trying to do a job.

This is the job. This is what success looks like. How does it impact you from a mental health perspective or even a productivity standpoint when it comes to having to also deal with politics?

Gerardo Segat: You know, if you’re not, if you are somebody who doesn’t like politics, it gives you a lot of frustration that affects your productivity. Affects everything.

You wake up in the morning and you don’t want to go there. So it affects a 360 degrees, I’d say.

Russel Lolacher: I find that, and I’ve certainly heard this from many people, that when you’re in an organization and you’re, and we’re talking about small p politics as well within an organization, not big P political party stuff.

No, it sometimes can be that too. But in some small p politics, it takes so much extra time because everything’s an additional lens to it. It’s not just doing the work, it’s what’s the impact? Who’s gonna be pissed off by this? Who’s gonna be bothered by this? Who’s, who’s gonna be happy about this? And If I tell this person, if I don’t tell this person, it’s a good thing.

It’s just, it adds this extra layer of work that actually is hard for people because I just want to do my job when this becomes also part of the job.

Gerardo Segat: Yeah it’s like walking a path like this or with a big burden on your shoulder and that’s the effect. So it’s gonna be here and it’s gonna be there with you all the time.

Russel Lolacher: So I want to get into our topic today, but I have to sort of set the stage because I’ve repeatedly learned over and over on this show and hosting the show and talking to people like yourself that we need to define what we’re talking about. If we’re talking about helping people get through fear, coaching through fear, first, I think we might need to define what is and how does fear show up uniquely in the workplace?

Gerardo Segat: We do it all the time. Postponing, blaming, ignoring, destroying, delaying, judging… all these behaviours from a loud discussion in the office to pushing a button to launch a missile, all these are harmful defensive behaviour. Defensive from fears. A fear has lots of consequences behavioural consequences.

Russel Lolacher: So how can you recognize fear in others because some of the examples you provided there I’m thinking, are they fear or are they just aggression or are they just, I don’t know, being ambitious of, of trying to, to push a button or be aggressive about wanting some sort of result.

How do you tell the difference between between different behaviours at work where one is fear and one, is it? Is it all rooted in fear?

Gerardo Segat: It is all in fear. In the past, in the recent past, I kind of spent some time doing a, a work on these harmful defensive behaviors that we have at work, especially as leaders, and and continuously asking myself okay, but why? Why that behaviour, why that fear and you never stop and you get… I built up like a pyramid and I’ve ended up with four ultimate fears and somehow everything that is under there, refers to a fear. Aggression is a defensive behaviour.

All those I mentioned before are defensive behaviours. You need to ask yourself, okay, but why? Why is that? And you end up, the ultimate fears that I found is no meaning in what you do or in your life. Loneliness. So being lonely or ending up alone in the future. Uncertainty, fear of uncertainty and fear of dependency from somebody or something.

Okay, those four are the ultimate ones. Then you have all different ones underneath.

Russel Lolacher: So what is the negative impacts to leadership to the organization, if you start, I don’t know, surrendering to that fear?

Gerardo Segat: What’s the impact of ignoring somebody? Blaming. The harmful defensive behaviors have a huge impact spread negativity around the company.

All the way. And normally these things that contagious. I mean, not only we are connected and we are connected as human beings and in the work, but also things like these are extremely contagious. It’s like on the other end, say, being human, being vulnerable, is extremely contagious. Being aggressive is very contagious.

Why? Because if I’m aggressive with you, the chances that you’re going to be aggressive with me are high. So it is just a, how do you say, a kind of spiral, domino thing that, so it goes all around, and that’s, that’s the effect. That’s the bad effect.

Russel Lolacher: So you’ve been working to help organizations, humans become more human. Organizations, become more human.

And to do that, we need to walk through these difficult emotions, fear being one of them. So as a leader trying to coach others through fear, how do you know that that’s the problem? Like, do you wait for somebody to go, I’m fearful. Help me. Or as a leader, are you more proactive and going, I’ve noticed this kind of behavior. How can I help you? Like, what is the first step?

Gerardo Segat: The first step is to build up your own pyramid. So you build up your own pyramid of harmful defensive behaviors. So what you do is that from the effects of the behaviors, and then you go up and understand why. And you need to understand ultimately why is this happening?

Why am I behaving like this? The company, exactly the same. What you do for the individual, you do for the company. Okay. The company has fears. The company might have fear of no meaning as a company, fear of loneliness as a company, fear of dependency as a company, and fear of uncertainty as a company. There are two different, two different ways the individual and the company and often in what I do or so, like in board agendas, we talk about fears. At the end, you put any other matter to be discussed, any other matter okay, what do we fear and what’s the situation?

Because this way, this, this work, it’s the start of a path that can lead you to flip that fear into strength. And the first one, number one, even before accepting that fear peacefully, is awareness. So to be aware, you need to to know.

Russel Lolacher: You also need to have an organization that is okay with you sharing that information.

So I’m hearing you talk about workshops at the end going, so what do you fear? I can think about some organizations where you’re like, I’m not admitting to being afraid of anything because that’s a sign of weakness. How do you handle that?

Gerardo Segat: That’s a defensive behavior. How do you handle a defensive behavior? You behave in a way that the other person understand that there is no need of a barrier. There is no need to defend, okay? So how you do that, it is by example. Okay, you’re going to have to lead by example if you want that person, that entity to change and open up and whatever. And the only way to do it is to provide an example yourself.

Okay, so if I talk about my vulnerability with you, the chances that you open up and talk about vulnerability are very high. Okay. And people and organization, organizations are made by people. So the key is the people the way to handle these is to really create the safe space for people to understand that they no need to defend. There’s nothing to defend from.

Russel Lolacher: Now to coach through fear, how do we do that as a process? How do we do that from a, and you don’t have to go through the whole process, but just sort of an idea of where we need to look for if we’re coaching somebody going, we’re targeting a fear. We’ve identified the fear.

There’s the self awareness. There’s the psychological safety. How do we get from fear to tolerating fear? Like, what does success look like on the other end of that?

Gerardo Segat: Okay. To make things simple, I’m going to say that there isn’t a best approach. There is the approach that works for you Russel for me, Gerardo for anyone.

Okay. So that makes it difficult. Okay. Now, in general, what I’ve seen and experienced you have two approaches. One is. what I call the bullet train approach. The other one is the regional train. So the bullet train goes straight to the point. So say you have a fear of being insignificant, you go straight to the solution.

Where do we find meaning? It is the traditional coaching approach. Coaching doesn’t go into what’s negative. It just focuses on the positive and maximizes the positive. Okay, so go and find meaning. Where do you find meaning? And you work on that to find meaning and automatically the fear of no, no meaning disappears.

The original train is more focused on elaborating on working that fear. Okay. And whatever the approach is, there are for sure three stops. Acceptance of the fear. Analysis of the consequences and action towards the desired solution. The change, behind those three, I think there are even opportunities.

The first one is. before accepting it, being aware. Take a moment to be aware of the fear. Don’t intervene, don’t try to solve, don’t try to complain, don’t try to do anything. Just be aware of it. Okay. And by the way, train. Awareness of self awareness, which is, I believe, one of the fundamental skills of the future, leadership skills of the future.

Once you have accepted and you start analyzing the consequences, what’s the point of analyzing the consequences if you don’t amend them? Okay. There is a huge power amending the consequences in terms of harmful behaviors that you have done and the damage that you have caused as a huge power to unlock creativity when you look at solutions.

So you actually remedy the bad that you have done. And this will open up a huge floor where you can go and and and look for solutions. So that’s the third opportunity. Instead of running to the solution, take some time to let this creativity show you what’s around what kind of solutions are there and then you see the solution and you execute and you take action.

So this is like the, say what I call the six A’s awareness, acceptance, analysis, amendment acuity and action. Regional or bullet.

Russel Lolacher: Interesting. Do you feel like there are some different levels to fear like you’re talking about destruction of fear or how being having fear can be destructive to an organization, but I’m looking at different types of fears within an organization and thinking like things like imposter syndrome or just fear of authority or is there a range is what I’m trying to get to?

Is there a range of fear and do you treat it differently based on that range?

Gerardo Segat: No. You know what I said to you just now. Yeah. is the, the result of, looking at so many different methodologies that, by the way, do not only apply to fears because the same way the, the way that you flip a fear and the same way you flip a conflict, the same way you flip, in a negative event, traumatic event or negative event that you, in your life, so it’s the same thing, exactly the same thing, same way.

Russel Lolacher: I want to go back to the question I asked earlier to just get some clarity on it. What is success look like when you’re coaching somebody through fear? And is there an end point where you’re like, fear is gone? Fear has disappeared. Or is it just you’re embracing the fear to a level that you can tolerate it.

You can accept it, but it still sits there. What is success?

Gerardo Segat: To me, but mostly to the person or to the entity, and this is what I do. I. personally push the person or the organization to think big. Okay, what’s the best scenario? The best scenario is, a fear becomes a strength. Conflict becomes an amazing relationship.

And then you see during the process. But aim at the best and then you see what is the end result. Whatever is the result, it’ll be okay for, for the organization or the entity. That’s the best. And by the way, often when we get to the best individual result or organizational result.

There is even a better one. Okay. But once we get there, you have a completely different point of view. So we don’t start at the beginning. So what’s better than flipping a fear into strength? It is, avoiding in the future that the same fear comes back or avoiding other fears or similar fears to to get to you.

So preventing the fears, but that’s something that you open up once you reach the goal.

Russel Lolacher: Is there some fears or, or barriers that stop coaching through fear from even happening, like not everything is or has to be a success story. So what are some of the things that get in the way from people being able to be coached through fear?

Gerardo Segat: I’d say illness. Illness. I mean, when when the person is, psychologically ill. I mean, when, when there is a real issue there, and, that has caused, the, I would say impossible to get to flipping that fear. You need to do a lot of work before. Especially at the initial stage awareness, acceptance, there’s a lot of time to spend.

The process is still okay. It is just going to take longer. And depending on the time frame you have, you might be stuck on some of these stops some of these phases.

Russel Lolacher: What’s the organization’s responsibility? Because, I mean, we’re talking about it from a leadership one on one generally as a coaching exercise, but what’s the organization’s role in mitigating fears or providing an environment where these conversations can even happen?

Because not everybody, not every organization have cultures that are like, okay, with these coaching exercises because they’re just so unfamiliar with them.

Gerardo Segat: I think, it is definitely positive for an organization, to provide psychological safety, to provide a safe environment to people to be able to open up and to to share fears.

Okay. It is still a decision. Yes. Maybe there’s a cultural issue. The cultural issue can be changed. And ultimately, at the end of the day, it is up to the leaders on the top to take the decision what you want to do. It’s definitely difficult to start implementing something if you know there is no intention to do it, but I think a lot I think in the last few years, a lot of sharing of information about how beneficial it is for an organization to have this kind of environment. And what is the real impact? Because we’re not talking about only openness, cohesion, sense of belonging, all these things that are incredibly important. But all those things impact trust.

Okay, which is very important and trust impacts performance. Okay there’s a, there’s a book that, I’d like to recommend, that is it’s a book called The Heart of Business written by a guy called Joly. Joly, some years ago, used to be became the CEO of a, a big American consumer electronics group called the Best Buy.

And Best Buy was almost bankrupt. The guy came in, placed human connection at the center, at the center in the company at all stakeholder level, employees, customers suppliers, shareholders, communities, all. Okay. The end result has been stock price multiplied by 11. Okay. And this is a case.

But there are many cases, even taught at business schools like this one, where this is actually, the way today and the way forward. So if they understand as long as they understand that it has an impact, that might be a good excuse at the beginning for to, to kind of convince and change the culture and start convincing the leaders at the top that they need to do something about it.

Russel Lolacher: Now you mentioned it doesn’t really matter the scope or the… Scope is maybe the wrong word, the depth of fear that you might have, like regardless of what it is on a range, that doesn’t change how you approach coaching through fear. Now, does diversity have any impact in how you approach coaching through fear?

And I mean that through different cultures, different generations, how would they handle, cause I know there’s some older generations that’d be like, just power through, I don’t have fear, just part of work. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of Gen Z, Gen Zeds, who will be a lot more self aware, a lot more vocal about the fears that they have.

So as a coach, as a leader approaching an employee, does diversity play, play, play a part?

Gerardo Segat: Yes, it does at the very beginning in terms of how, every individual approaches, the possibility. and the desire to make this change. So for example, it is very, it happens many times that, somebody like 60 years old might come to you and say, look, I’m, I’m tired. I’m already 60 years old for me is not, I don’t have the desire really to learn or to change this thing. Okay. So it really affects the way people enter the room. Okay? If this is the room, the way that people enter the room gets affected by diversity. Okay. But somehow if people look through the door and they see certain people, they’re dressed in a certain way, doing certain things and so on, then, somehow they get say, okay, I will do it, sometimes because most of the people would be open and would be happy. Some people will be happy, enthusiastic to do it, some people will be open then things get, it’s not rare that even the most reluctant people then get used in their own way. Again, it’s a defensive behavior so you need to be okay with it.

Let it be and most important thing is what I said before. So it is by example if they see other people doing it, if they see the effects, if they see the impact, the indirect impact, positive impact, maybe on their work because that people are more productive, they’re happier, they are performing better, et cetera. With excuses, but they can come in.

Russel Lolacher: A lot of your work is around helping organizations become more human, have more human traits as leaders as as organizations. How does that work? Help create psychological safety, help mitigate those fears. From a, from a more strategic high level impact?

Gerardo Segat: Let them experience. One of the things I do is I go to a board of directors and do one hour speech on vulnerability. Half of it is talking about the effects, the positive effects on the leader and on the organization. Half is experience. And experience, I mean, I share my most intimate fragility vulnerability, and I ask them to do the same. Okay. In a certain way. I mean, not directly like this, but writing it on a Post-it note and then I take those Post-it note, I read them aloud, okay? Wherever I go, banks, small, virtual scenarios, in person not knowing whatever country is always the same.

incredible human experience. Okay. They come in. They don’t even say hello. After half an hour, they’re crying, hugging each other. Two days after, the CEO sent me email to say, thank you. We’re going to change things in the, in the company. Okay. People are just waiting to, to find themselves into a situation where they can open up. Everybody wants to be who they are and take off the mask.

Russel Lolacher: There’s so many people I talk to who just become completely different people, the minute they turn on that computer, the minute they walk through those doors, because, because exactly what you’re saying is there’s a lack of humanity in the workplace.

And that lack of humanity, I think, reinforces the whole fear. Like if I show up as myself, will anybody like me? Will it impact my work? Is it a career limiting move just by showing up as themselves? I think is a fear for a lot of people of how that might be, how that might be misconstrued.

Gerardo Segat: Yeah. And, I want to tell you one thing because it’s very important to see also what’s happening in the world.

Okay. I’ve over the past decade, I’ve been a member of YPO. YPO is the world’s largest community of CEO leaders. Okay. Do you know what is the number one reason for membership? 35, 000 CEOs in 130 countries. Number one reason for membership in YPO is what they call forum. Forum is a monthly meeting, recurring, where seven, eight, nine, 10 CEO, always the same people meet and update each other on some key areas, personal and professional, okay, where they share emotions. They talk through emotion. They don’t say, okay, this is what happened. Or they say, this is what happened and I’m feeling X. Or I’m feeling that.

And they are vulnerable. Okay. And that has an incredible value. It is number one reason for all those CEOs.

Russel Lolacher: They’re going, they’re going to that community because they’re not getting it within the organizations that they currently oversee or whatever is that they can’t be themselves, so they have to reach outside of the organization.

Is that not, that sounds what it’s like?

Gerardo Segat: Yeah, but I will go deeper than that because there is a safe space for them. Okay. Remember we’re talking about CEO. One may think, ah the guy is brilliant and so on. Okay. Of the four fears, no meaning, loneliness, dependency and uncertainty, the one that everybody has at the top maybe level one or level 10 is loneliness.

Loneliness. And the fact that YPO provides a safe environment there are confidentiality obviously rules when you do these kind of forum meetings, it’s it’s a safe space. Okay. So as soon as you find yourself in a safe space, somebody immediately, somebody else may be a little bit more cautious.

But it doesn’t matter. Everybody’s looking forward to be in a safe space. So just give it to them and it will happen.

Russel Lolacher: So I’m going to ask you a personal question there, Gerardo, is so how do you coach through fear? Considering you’re a coach that helps other people get through their fears. So as someone who themselves has to help others.

Where do you go? Ah,

Gerardo Segat: I went to a coach.

Russel Lolacher: There you go.

Gerardo Segat: I went, I went to a coach and, I actually it’s not, it wasn’t an easy process. It was rather complicated for me, but, I got a lot of learning out of it. And I have to say many of the little aspects that I’m sharing with you today come from yes, experience, active experience as somebody helping others to overcome, but also my experience in overcoming mine.

Yes, I, I, I did quite a lot of work on that.

Russel Lolacher: So if I’m someone who may or may not understand fear, or I’m still trying to figure out whether I need a coach, what advice would you give someone in the workplace of self auditing or raising their self awareness? Like, what should they do before they even know they need a coach to understand that they have some fears that need to be addressed?

Gerardo Segat: The advice I would give them is to actually don’t keep it inside. Go to somebody. I personally I’ve been like an entrepreneur, for 20 years. I was number one in my group. So 400 people, 10 offices around the world successfully are there you don’t, you don’t get it.

You don’t, you don’t get it. You need an external eye, an external mind, somebody outside that is going to see certain things and is going to share it with you and is going to take you towards that. One of the things, if you ask me what what lesson did you learn that you wish you’ve done before?

One of the things is get a coach or call it the way you want it. Mentor, let’s call it mentor, get somebody external.

Russel Lolacher: Fair, fair. I love the idea of leadership guardrails. The idea that as leaders we sit in our bubbles, we have mandates, we have things we have to do, but we don’t have those people around them going, was that the best idea? Should you have said that? Why did you do that? Like just that someone that will be that truth teller.

To you and it doesn’t need to be another colleague. It could be your kids. It could be your partner It could be a friend from another industry as long as they’re telling you the truth and not getting lost in the in the leadership of it all, and just assuming that everything is the right decision.

I love that of just go to somebody and get some feedback, some honest feedback.

Gerardo Segat: Yeah, but I’d say anyone, really anyone. I mean, as a leader, when I was CEO, chairman of the group… you just don’t see it. You think everything is, you think you’re doing things right. But you’re not and, it’s better to know than not to know.

Russel Lolacher: Gerardo, I’m going to leave you with this last question, which is, what’s your one simple action that you would recommend for people to do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Gerardo Segat: I’d say, practice mindfulness.

Russel Lolacher: That is Gerardo. He’s a leadership coach. He is a founder, creator of Preludes, and he is the creator and producer of Out As Humans. He’s just trying to make these organizations more human. Thank you so much for being here, Gerardo.

Gerardo Segat: Thank you, Russel.

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