Leaders are human and surrounded by temptations to be comfortable.
What happens when work friendships become so comfortable they become a clique? It can impact your growth, your credibility and the growth of your organization. How do you know when your comfort zone is holding you and your organization back?
A few years ago my sister adopted a 3-year old little boy that was born addicted to meth. He had been in and out of foster homes, diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome, had abandonment issues and could not speak.
That sister lives in another state and I don’t get to see her often. When we spoke about her new son’s challenges, the challenges the family faced, and the special moments they were beginning to experience… I found myself wanting to I understand more.
Shortly after the adoption, I moved to a new city and met a family with an adult daughter with cognitive challenges.
It was at that time that I realized that although I was always mentally supportive of families and children with special needs and nice to them, I was also uncomfortable simply because I did not know how to fully engage with them. Was it okay to ask questions? Or would that be offensive? What behavior did you need to accept and love and what behavior should you coach and correct?
I talk a lot about the importance of leaving your comfort zone and the growth that can happen when you do. Most of the time I emphasize the BENEFITS of doing so.
Recently I’ve been reminded of how DANGEROUS comfort zones really are when:
- A group of expats got too comfortable navigating the land we live in and found ourselves in a situation we could have avoided.
- My husband witnessed a friend’s motorcycle accident and recognized how comfortable, carefree and careless he has become on his own Harley.
- I visited with an executive that has been in his position so long he is struggling to see how complacent and ineffective he is becoming.
Each scenario caused me to reflect on how winning sports teams lose their edge, how wildly successful businesses stop growing, and how governments and countries rise and fall…
Linger too long in a comfort zone and you risk…
If we know each other, or if you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know that I deeply believe in the benefits of living life outside of your comfort zone. I can tell you endless stories about why that is the case, but you might not have that much time… So here’s one:
A few years ago I went on a business trip. At the end of a day of meetings we went to a video arcade, where we were divided into teams. The goal was for each one of us to play the same games and at the end of the night, the team with the highest score would win.
Instantly a tornado of emotions and thoughts began to spiral:
- The first one was RAW FEAR, fueled by the historical pain of gym class. I was as “girly” as they came and was great at avoiding pain, sweating, and dirt! So I was frequently one of the last to be chosen for any sport that involved those three elements. (Big ouch!)
- The second was a deep desire to add value to the team, fueled by a fiercely competitive spirit.
- The third was a conscious choice to turn this into an adventure, fueled by my husband’s repeated requests to learn to enjoy some of this world.
Some people and organizations hate conflict.
- Judgmental words
- Explosive behavior
- Relationships struggling or ending
Then they allow that fear to drive their results!
- Some feel victimized by the past and hold so tightly to those emotions that they experience less joy and less productivity.
- Others have rumbling fires of anger burning about present issues. Occasionally smoke seeps out as they vent to those closest to them. As those fires continue to grow everyone is at risk of their eventual eruption.
- Some are unwilling to learn an alternative way of dealing with conflict.
- Others don’t realize there is an alternative.
- And none realize that their choice to wait for the other party to change, is spreading growth-eating bacteria throughout their organization.