Do you have projects that you keep postponing in your leadership role?
Are there important conversations (with your colleagues, boss, or direct reports) that you know you should be having but keep de-prioritizing?
Are you reluctant to experiment with new approaches even though you know it could lead to a breakthrough for you and your team?
In Executive Coaching, I always talk to my clients about two key concepts that can have a powerful effect on their leadership impact: Self-awareness and Comfort Zones.
Building self-awareness is crucial to making the sustainable behavior changes needed to increase your effectiveness and contribution as a leader. To make changes, you must be in tune with yourself and make choices that will enable the new behaviors. I call making those choices, “exercising self-management.”
You also need self-awareness to understand your leadership comfort zone and how it’s affecting your performance. Most of us unconsciously work and live within a comfort zone, out of habit and lack of introspection. One of the benefits of Executive Coaching is figuring out where that line is and getting yourself to move beyond it.
Defining the Boundaries of Your Leadership Comfort Zone
Do you have a sense of your comfort zone? Think about those areas of your leadership job where you are not taking action. Those areas signal the boundaries of your comfort zone. The thought of going beyond them can often generate fear and overwhelm and that’s not something most of us are eager to face.
One safe way to increase the circumference of your leadership comfort zone is to take risks and chances or be vulnerable in circumstances where the consequences and impact are small (in any area of your life, not just in your role as a leader). This can give you the confidence to work up to the bigger challenges that you tend to avoid, the ones that can really stand in the way of you taking your leadership success to the next level.
The Ripple Effect of Pushing Yourself Outside Your Comfort Zone
Here is a recent example of how a low-risk push outside of my comfort zone is having a ripple effect in other areas of my life.
I started working out at a gym recently because I have gained weight and am not in good shape – certainly not the shape I used to enjoy in younger chapters! I have been doing one-on-one training with some terrific, young male trainers who are in excellent physical shape. At 60, I feel awkward, slow and embarrassed at my appearance and ability to replicate the moves that the cool trainers ask me to do. Yet each day that I work out with them, I smile within, as I know I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone and moving toward a healthier body.
(by the way, adding a picture of myself at the gym to this post is very much outside my comfort zone!)
The positive sense of self at the gym has carried over to other parts of my life:
– On the home front, I hired a nutritionist to give me better eating suggestions for my physical needs and I am now making better food choices.
– On the business side, I noticed I am working more boldly, taking on projects that I would have been afraid to tackle in the past.
It is energizing to see that pushing myself outside of my comfort zone in the gym has contributed to my increased confidence and willingness to expand my professional comfort zone as well.
Working Yourself Up To Bigger Challenges
Since then, I have committed to keep pushing my limits and work myself up to embracing bigger challenges.
Case in point: During the holidays, I went to London with my family. One day, they got tickets to go up in the London Eye. I am terribly afraid of heights and almost never go on amusement rides or even hikes where there might be a steep drop-off, so my first inclination was to stay on the ground as I normally would. Instead, I pushed myself to go.
It took much courage and I had to steel myself once we entered the capsule. I created a safe space for myself by putting on some calming classical music using my son’s earbuds and looking at my phone for a good amount of time, while my family happily frolicked by the windows. By the end of the ride and upon exiting, I felt really proud of myself.
How about you? What are smaller risks you are willing to take to up your bar in other areas of your life? It is energizing. Have fun with it and let me know about the shifts you are making.