Nothing is going to change until you change. If the things you usually do had worked, there would be no need for leadership!
A key dimension of the leadership competency Manage Self is pushing yourself to experiment more actively and effectively. To make more progress on our most important challenges we can all experiment with doing more of what is needed and less of what is comfortable.
A Four-Step Path out of Your Comfort Zone
First step: Acknowledge (to yourself is fine) that progress on our most important challenges (the ones we call adaptive challenges ) requires (yes, requires) us to do things that are uncomfortable and outside our typical way of operating. Leadership is risky. The beauty of it is, you get to choose how much risk to take. But understand that sticking with your default behaviors won’t get you any farther than you already are.
Second step: Have a strong and compelling purpose. Identify your leadership challenge. Know what you care about and what your aspirations are. Know why the challenge you have in mind is so important. It makes no sense to exercise leadership, let alone deal with the discomfort (and risk) that comes with experimenting beyond your comfort zone, if you don’t have a good reason.
Third step: Define the current limits of your competence, confidence and comfort related to leadership on the challenge you care about. Then, make a list of all the things you’ve already tried or think you’d be good at doing to make progress on the challenge. List the ways in which you typically attempt to lead or make progress, the things you’ve tried already, the situations you tend to feel comfortable in, the people you’d quickly volunteer to talk with.
That’s your comfort zone.
Get out of Your Comfort Zone
Step three has two parts: So right beside the list of what’s in your comfort zone, make a list of the things you dread doing. List all the people and factions who have a stake in your challenge whom you don’t want to have a conversation with. List the situations you tend to avoid because you’re afraid you’ll screw up. If you’ve tried some attempt at leadership once and said, “Never again,” put it on the list. This is a list of all the possible leadership interventions that are beyond your comfort zone. This second list is pure gold. It’s full, full, full of possible experiments!
Fourth, choose something from that golden second list. Think hard about the risk of taking that particular action, talking to that person, or putting yourself in that situation that’s just beyond your comfort zone. Remember your purpose. Remember why you wanted to exercise leadership in the first place. Remember your adaptive challenge. Then, decide if the discomfort of experimenting in this out-of-comfort-zone way is worth the risk. Is it worth the possible reward?
Leadership starts with you. There’s no way around it. Change happens when you get uncomfortable.