Motivating employees to step out of their comfort zone can benefit you as much as them, we hear from Ruth Skelton, senior manager business support and accountancy and finance, Morgan McKinley about how you can best help your employees do this.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. This mysterious and much talked about “comfort zone” is not a treat filled retreat, scattered with luxurious cushions and never ending fields of flowers. It is a much discussed “anxiety neutral” psychological state in which steady performance is delivered by using a set regular of behaviours that involve no risk. The comfort zone has become the focus for many when it comes to career progression, personal growth and life fulfilment.
So when it comes to your career, why does society, and specifically your boss, dictate a need for you to push yourself out of your comfort zone? And does doing so really lead to greater satisfaction and career progression?
To take the leap out of said comfort zone, it is pertinent to understand your own desires and boundaries: what exactly is it that you feel is worth achieving but you are afraid to do so:
● Expressing your opinion in a business meeting?
● Implementing a new work process?
● Taking ownership of a presentation?
● Attending, or even hosting a networking event?
What is one person’s comfort zone, will undoubtedly be another’s zone of dread. But the question is, what are you really afraid of? Yes the primary emotion is that of fear, but what ignites that fear? Are you afraid of expressing your opinion in a meeting because you don’t want to be ignored, or you don’t like the sound of your own voice? Are you afraid of taking ownership of a presentation because you don’t want to be criticised or because your PowerPoint skills aren’t up to scratch?
Once you have identified the real reason for remaining in your comfort zone, it’s time to start addressing it and creeping out. There is certainly no need to parachute out. In fact, research would suggest a slow and controlled exit to just outside the boundaries of your comfort zone to be the most effective space for optimal performance. It is really important to note that too far from your comfort zone and anxiety heightens, leading to stress that can negatively influence performance. Don’t feel it is necessary to step too far away, and remember you can always go back!
So how do you get there, to that space of optimal performance? There are several tactics you can employ:
● Take baby steps: If your goal is to implement a new process at work, don’t try and do it all at once. Perhaps trial a small part of the process, with a small group of people – if this is successful, then look to expand it.
● Practice makes perfect: Be prepared. If your goal is to take ownership of a tricky presentation, before committing to boardroom delivery, prepare and practice; take every opportunity to flex your PowerPoint skills, you could even take a training course, and perhaps put yourself forward to assist with other presentations first.
● Embrace failure: “Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness”. What really is the worst thing that can happen? If your goal is to express your opinion in a business meeting and the first time you try, nothing comes out, don’t worry, it doesn’t matter, just try again next time.
● Hang out with risk takers: Quite simply if you want to become better at something, you must buddy up with the people already doing what you want to do better. If your goal is to attend a networking event, start hanging out with people who go to such events, they will be able to not only show you the ropes, but their ability will rub off on you.
● Stop making excuses: Stop saying you don’t have time, start admitting the task is outside your comfort zone and follow the simple steps above to work towards achieving it.
To really embrace stepping out of your comfort zone, the final motivation might come from understanding some of the many ways it really will positively impact you:
● It will open opportunities to progress: If you are keen to climb the career ladder and perhaps earn more money, demonstrating you can achieve results outside your usual remit will really help. That area of “optimal performance” (just outside your comfort zone) is the proven location of great results. The added bonus is that once you start stepping out of your comfort zone, momentum is gained; marginal gains begin to mount up.
● It will increase your happiness and self-confidence: When you finally have that new business process implemented, you will be filled with confidence from what you have achieved. Proving you can push past your comfort zone will do wonders for your confidence in all areas of your life, and ultimately it will make you happier.
● You will become more resilient: Ego’s heal, and the healing process will make you more resilient and make you realise that when you fall at one of those hurdles, it doesn’t matter. If your opinion expressed in a business meeting is overlooked, it might feel a little embarrassing, but it really doesn’t matter and the process of trying again will increase your resilience 10 fold.
The benefits list is endless; you will have better relationships, your zest for life will increase and your career prospects will grow exponentially.
In summary, you should do it – step out that comfort zone and watch the rewards trickle in!