comfort zone As a line manager it can be very easy to talk  about a member of your team needing to “get  out of their comfort zone”. I believe this  phrase is overused as it doesn’t suggest what  really needs to happen. It can also put people  into a defensive frame of mind and come  across as patronising. Here are 3 questions  you can use to help set up the situation to  achieve success.


1) Is there clarity on the thing you’re looking to achieve?

A lack of clarity on what is expected can cause an individual to procrastinate. Determining the next physical action becomes a whole lot easier when you know what you are looking to ultimately achieve. Don’t underestimate this, as investing time here will pay dividends.  It’s an obvious component that’s missing from many of the development plans I see.

2) What specific development support is required?

If a person understands the goal they need to achieve, determining the development actions becomes more straightforward. A recent example of someone wanting to improve their influence in difficult conversations resulted in 3 clear actions in a 30 day plan:  1) have coffee with three senior managers to understand their handling approach, 2) get and read the book Crucial Conversations and 3) develop a meeting approach and talk it through with a trusted third-party for a particular meeting the person needed to attend.  Of course the actions will relate to the goal. The point here is they are very tangible. Previously the person had relied purely on putting themselves into situations to ‘develop’. With mediocre results. That could be akin to a non-swimmer jumping in a pool and hoping for the best. Your role as the manager is to ask the thought provoking questions that establish the actions.

3) How will I manage myself if things do not work out?

This is a fairly critical point and is backed up by neuro-science. If people feel threatened by the consequences of failing, they will stand a good chance of not realising their full potential. As the line manager you’ll have a big part to play in setting the tone and response when things do not go as we would hope. This takes increased effort as we manage our own emotions. Get it right and you genuinely create a learning environment. The results of that will be significant.

So the next time you find yourself talking about someone needing to “get out of their comfort zone”. Stop and consider your part in making that a real success.

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