Culture and Coaching

You’ve worked hard and been focused and made great choices. Maybe you’re an expert at the top of your game and you’re doing what it takes to stay there. Well done. Now what? Could it be time to try something new?

Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be richly rewarding. And you don’t have to go far or spend a lot to reap the benefits. No matter how accomplished you already are, the limits of your comfort zone are clearly visible when you look for them, and, just like those objects in your car’s mirror, they’re closer than they appear.

If you think you’re ready to test the boundaries, the fun part is choosing what you’ll do. Look for something that requires practice to reach even a low level of mastery. Something in which you are certain to experience some failures. Something that will test your resolve and that matters enough to you that you will keep trying. That’s where the value is.

OK, that sounds like some work. You’re cruising, why would you want to put yourself back on the starting line? Here are just three of the rewards:

  1. Resilience. In successful people, resilience can be like a set of muscles that have weakened from lack of use. Trying something new, failing, and finding what you need to persevere – all of this builds those muscles and keeps you fresh for whatever heavy-lifting may be ahead.
  2. Compassion. If you know – if you deeply know – how it feels to be a beginner, your compassion will surely increase for those less capable than you in your field of expertise. If you’re a leader or manager of people, heightened compassion is invaluable for helping others do their best.
  3. Expansion. When you try something new, your world expands. You may gain new skills, meet new people, visit new places, see the world from new perspectives. When you move out of your comfort zone, even a little ways, you make your life richer.

Take a look at the boundaries of your comfort zone now. If they are static or have been closing in, it’s time to stretch them. Commit to try something new. Get even more out of the experience by journaling about it. Ask yourself: How does it feel to be a beginner? What makes you want to quit? What are you finding in yourself that keeps you going? Notice the patterns and trends as you go along.

Sure, it’s uncomfortable – it’s out of your comfort zone! That’s what makes it worthwhile.

Are you working for a boss or following a leader?

Bosses have the authority to make decisions that affect their employees. You hear them say things like “If he doesn’t like it, he can leave,” or the ominous “That wasn’t a request.” You do as the boss says, right? Sure, and you keep your eyes open for a position with a company that prefers leaders to bosses — a company coincidentally that prefers inspired employees to process-perfect drones.

Leaders are a breed apart. They have a different kind of authority: the kind that inspires people to bring their best to their work.

It’s not difficult to spot a leader. Here are six attributes that give the best away:

1. Questing Spirit

Leaders lead toward something worthwhile. They are on a mission, spurred by a deep sense of purpose, and they’re taking others on the journey with them. Their questing spirit drives them to do more, to try more, to learn more, to reach more, to develop more, to be more.  At the gala event to celebrate their achievements, they’re sketching the next idea on their cocktail napkin and are about to get a financing commitment.  The people who want to be on their crew are already queuing.

2. Net

Leaders are not alone. They have a net. Not a network. A net that is woven through thoughtful conversations with others, and countless acts of collaboration and consideration. The net is woven from genuine interest in others and from reciprocated respect. The net is not for calling in favors if push comes to shove. No. The net is there all the time and true leaders tend to it, extend it, and strengthen it with every interaction.

3. Clear-Eyed Confidence

You’ve seen athletes when they are in the zone, at the top of their abilities and knowing it, living it. I call it clear-eyed confidence. They know what they can do, and they do it. What looks effortless for them is the product of hours and hours of work, of pain, of sacrifice.

Leaders have that kind of focus, determination and ability to execute. They’ve learned from experience, they know when they have enough data to make a decision, and they make it without hesitation.  They act with the confidence of having prepared well and being attuned to their instincts.

4. Simplicity

Leaders are known for their ability to handle complexity, to synthesize information and ideas, but they are equally known for their simplicity.  Leaders are obsessed with the number one: “What is the one thing we want them to remember?”  “Which one of our competitors will challenge us most on this?” “What is the one thing we have to accomplish this quarter?” Leaders are famously intolerant of excessive data points, muddy reporting, irrelevant distractions.

5. Resilience

For leaders, resilience is a powerful bundle of agility, determination, persistence, graceful maneuvering around and over obstacles, and rapid recovery from setbacks.

6. Sense of Wonder

Leaders have a sense of wonder that is the source of their vision and the catalyst that refreshes and renews it. This is the elusive fountain of youth, fed by the springs of imagination, curiosity, openness. From that sense of wonder, leaders ask “What if …”. That simple turning of the tap is an invitation to all around to take a sip of the cool, clear waters of possibility.