Leaders: Two Tips to Move Out of Your Comfort Zone

Move out of your comfort zone.  You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.  ~Brian Tracy

comfort zoneWhat is a comfort zone?  I discovered a number of similar definitions, and here’s the one I like the best.  “A comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance.”

For most of us when we think of our comfort zone we tend to think of our routines, what’s familiar, what we know how to do, etc.  I want to stretch that thinking a bit and focus on our “behavioral state” as the definition suggests.  One of the behavioral states that I frequently observe that causes leaders trouble is a dimension that ranges from being task-oriented to relationship-oriented.  We all fall along that dimension somewhere and it’s an “anxiety-neutral condition,” or where we feel most comfortable.

Leaders who are highly task-oriented are great at giving instructions, directing, telling people what they need to do.  Leaders who are highly relationship-oriented are great at inspiring others, creating dialogue, encouraging people regarding how they need to act.

If you find yourself at one end of that dimension (task or relationship), and you want to grow as a leader, then you need to be willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable and adapt to those who are at the other end of that dimension.  Great leaders know how to be both task-oriented and relationship-oriented.

I’ve had numerous leaders dispute this suggestion saying that leaders need to be genuine and if they try to be something they naturally are not, then they aren’t being genuine.  Let’s look at that word: genuine.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, it means sincere.  I would argue that any leader who is trying to adapt their behavioral style to those they are leading is being quite sincere.  In other words, I don’t buy this rationale for not going out of your comfort zone.

If you’re highly task-oriented and are willing to go out of your comfort zone try this:

  • Take the time to ask someone a personal question, in other words, be more socialable than you typically would be.
  • When someone describes a challenge, frustration, or problem, instead of immediately going into problem-solving mode, empathize first. In other words, acknowledge how that person feels about the situation before you make suggestions how to fix it.

If you’re highly relationship-oriented and are willing to go out of your comfort zone try this:

  • When addressing a problem or challenge, start with the facts instead of starting with how it feels.
  • Instead of being quick to accept ideas, question and challenge them first.

As Brian Tracy told us, “You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable…”

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