Whether you’re a manager, team leader, or the head of an organization, there are essential steps you can take to not only change yourself, but promote positive change in others:
Step 1. Become brutally self-aware. How do you describe yourself to people? Do you automatically limit yourself with comments like, “Oh, I am an introvert. I don’t do the social scene.” Or, “I am not techy–you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” As soon as you say, I am…, you’re limiting yourself. The truth is you may be an introvert, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t put yourself out into different social situations–no matter how uncomfortable they may seem. And no one is born with a laptop or cell phone fused to their hands. Everyone who uses technology has to learn how to use it at some point. True, some people are fast learners or more adept at it, but most technical skills can be taught. The reality is you might not feel comfortable learning those skills–so you never do. Once you pinpoint your very own “I am” statements, you’ve just identified your comfort zones. Knowing it and admitting it is half the battle. Now, be prepared to step out of it.
Step 2. Evaluate your strength areas, too. If you break a leg, you have to rely on just one to get you around. What happens to that leg doing all the work? It gets stronger, while the muscles in the broken leg atrophy. Too much strength in one area can causes weakness and deficiencies in others. When you become so adept at talking or presenting your argument, what area do you think might become atrophic? Perhaps your listening abilities? If you’re adept at hustling through projects and moving at rapid speeds to get things done, how is your patience level or your attention to detail? If you figure out your areas of strength, it won’t take you long to find your areas of weakness or opportunity. Once you discover these, you’re well on your way.
Step 3. Don’t accept that you (or anyone else) can’t do something. Once you’ve pinpointed your comfort zone and your areas of opportunities and weakness (or someone else’s), don’t accept the notion that it can’t be changed. If you’re a manager, and you have employees who say to you, “We can’t speak in front a large room of people,” don’t give them a free pass. They can do it. They may need some more guidance, a bit more of your patience, coaching and mentoring, but they can succeed. And if given opportunities to practice the skill, they may even become comfortable at it. The same goes for you, don’t let “I can’t do it,” statements get in the way of your success. Instead say, “I can learn it.”
Step 4. Take small, methodical, well-paced steps to move outside your comfort zone. Every good runner knows when approaching a steep hill to climb, the best strides to take are not long galloping ones, but rather it is best to take small, well-paced steps to push yourself to that seemingly impossible summit. So if you hate giving presentations, it’s probably best not to volunteer for a thousand-seat-arena TED talk as your first venture out of your comfort zone. Try talking to a roomful of peers–maybe even just one or two at first. If you can’t possibly imagine undertaking a huge project, but someday you would like to become a project manager, ask your supervisor to give you assignments that lend themselves to understanding basic project management steps. And remember, even expert runners trip and fall going uphill. But the ones who finish the race are the ones who get up, brush off the dust and keep at it.
Step 5. Enroll in at least one self-improvement class, seminar or webinar a year. The world we live in is shifting as you read this. What is new today will be old tomorrow. Every day new phones, apps, and life-changing inventions are being rolled out and becoming a part of our everyday lives. To say you “can’t keep up” is no longer an excuse. It’s a requirement in today’s 24-7, global workplace that you stay on top of trends, inventions, new technology, business practices, strategies and methodologies. It’s more important than ever that you look outside your current job, position, “cube” or corner of the world to see what others are doing. Sure they may be a few small steps ahead of you on their way out of their comfort zone, but it could mean all the difference in the world if they get to the finish line–the next invention, the next job, the next success story–before you do.
Step 6. Do something a little uncomfortable every day. Whether it means taking a different route to work, sitting in a different chair in the cafeteria on your lunch hour, or talking to someone you don’t know, trying out a new app, or learning a new skill, you’ll be surprised how the tiniest deviation in your everyday routine can have a lasting and real impact on life and well-being.
What are you waiting for? Go get uncomfortable.
Some upcoming open enrollment programs that may help you move out of your comfort zones:
Learn how you can become the kind of leader who can inspire, engage and empower others to achieve results and unleash individual and organizational potential.
Express your thoughts and ideas with clarity and impact to achieve desired outcomes.
Learn how to engage others, manage interactions and shape outcomes so you can become a more effective manager and leader.
Create productive day to day interactions and alignment so that everyone achieves their maximum potential …and you attain your desired outcome.
Learn how to connect with your audience and present content in an engaging way, to achieve your desired impact and outcome.
Learn how to apply the principles of project management to your own projects and contribute to the success of project teams.
Understand finance, the language of business, so you can contribute to conversations and make appropriate decisions.
Lead more effectively by analyzing specific individual or situational needs and choosing the best leadership approach for your goals.