We all like to spend time there: the Comfort Zone. It’s the place where we are the most in control, we know our strengths, can minimize our weaknesses, it’s clear what’s coming around the corner, and we’re the experts on how to handle it masterfully.
Imagine, that before work every day, you eat the same cereal for breakfast for an entire year. You love it; it’s your absolute favorite cereal. It tastes good, it’s healthy and you know just the right amount to pour into your bowl even with your eyes closed. The funny thing is, after a while, even your favorite becomes boring. I hate to say it but maybe it’s not the cereal that’s become boring, but instead it’s you, living in a rut, that’s boring.
I may not have eaten the same breakfast cereal everyday, but my life in the Washington DC suburbs was definitely a predictable routine. It was a busy cycle of kids, work, family, friends and I was constantly on the run as I made a daily valiant effort to get it all done. In mid 2012 everything changed when I moved to the Australian Outback. Talk about leaving my comfort zone! The move enabled me to see life, work and leadership with fresh eyes.
Good news! You don’t need to be radical and move to the other side of the world to break out of your leadership comfort zone and move beyond the status quo.
Create Some Shake It Up Inspiration
It may feel awkward at first, but variation in your work “uniform” will actually give you, and your team, new energy. Put on some silly socks, a bright tie or a vibrant shirt that you love. Even small shake ups, when intentional, act as touchstones for our intention to be more open-minded, collaborative or just bring some lightness to an otherwise predictable routine.
Change Your Routine, Change Your Perspective
When we’re really stuck, the range of solutions available to us from inside of our comfort zone is limited. Instead of staying in your routine, take a walk, drive a new way home from the office, go somewhere new for your afternoon coffee or hit the gym. Focusing our attention outside of our heads and outside of our routines frequently shakes loose the inspiration we’re seeking.
Surprise Your Team
Leaders set the tone for their team and you may be unintentionally holding your team in the comfort zone with you. Meetings are the perfect opportunity to surprise the team with new approaches to facilitate group discussion, brainstorming and decision-making.
Move beyond the status report to true interaction where people step up, share ideas and are accountable for collaboration. ~ Alli Polin Tweet this!
Action a Book
There are some amazing books on leadership out there – too many to read this week or this year. For busy leaders, a great way to shift perspectives and grow their leadership wheelhouse is to read a book. However, reading and having tons of ah-has are not enough to spark change. Change happens when the ideas and approaches are put into action. Stepping outside of the comfort zone and into new skills will mean failing along the way too. Marry the failure with learning and the book has transformed from words on a page into leadership with impact.
Trade in Boring for Innovation and Adventure
Risk can be a scary word when we’re deeply entrenched in the comfort of the status quo. As a leader, why should you foster innovation if you and your organization are successful today? There are 100 companies right behind you and ready to undercut you on price for similar products and services. Clients eyes glaze over after a while when the only differentiator is price. Break out of the comfort zone and start with doing something different, not just making incremental improvements to today’s processes and products.
Create a Vision that Sparkles Like the North Star
Every leader needs to have a clear vision for what’s possible, the collective “why” for everyone’s hard work and effort. Instead of sharing a vision that is bottom-line driven only (increase revenue) create a vision that connects to both hearts and minds. How do you connect to hearts? Leave the bullet points and PowerPoint at home and tell a story. Stop hiding behind the comfort of statistics and charts! Stories are the bridge to enroll, engage and inspire people to be a part of a compelling future.
Give yourself permission to still eat your cereal, wear your favorite tie and grab a cappuccino at your favorite Starbucks; just mix it up for some extraordinary leadership results.
How has the comfort zone held you back from being an exceptional leader? When have you been pushed outside of your comfort zone and what did you discover?