Given the ongoing uncertainty and challenging nature of today’s business conditions, I often find it helpful to remind myself of the saying, “what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you!” As CEO of a leading commercial skills training company, I believe the secret to being a great leader is empowering others by helping them move out of their comfort zone and into their stretch zone, so they are able to challenge the status quo and achieve the extraordinary.
Helping your team move out of their comfort zone can often be easier said than done. It’s called a comfort zone for a reason – it’s the mental space in which we feel emotionally secure. This is not always a bad thing, as it can protect us by helping us feel cosy and safe. However, it can also lead to low self-esteem or feelings of boredom and frustration. In either case, staying in your comfort zone will eventually prevent you from achieving your commercial personal best. It’s only by working with your team to help them push the limits and move into their stretch zone that they will reap the rewards of greater confidence and increased results.
How To Help Your Team Move Into Their Stretch Zone
It’s important to remember that everybody’s stretch zone is different, so don’t presume it’s the same as your own. Great leaders harness their EQ skills – such as empathy and social skills – to build strong relationships with the people in their team so they can understand what truly makes them tick. It is only by being empathetic and actively listening to the other person that you can identify where their stretch zone begins. For example, if someone on your team has a genuine fear of public speaking, suggesting they present at a conference in front of 400 people could have them running for the hills in panic, whereas asking them to give a 5 minute update in front of a group of twenty would move them into their stretch zone where they feel confident enough to face their fears.
As a leader it’s important to use your self-control – another key EQ skill – so that you don’t wade in when things go wrong. As business author Brian Tracy, said, “You can only grow if you feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” Your role as leader, is to offer continuous support when people on your team are feeling uncomfortable as they face these new challenges. This could be helping them break their goals into manageable chunks or giving them permission to make mistakes as they take on new responsibilities. By empowering your team to move out of their comfort zone and into their stretch zone in this way, you will benefit from increased levels of engagement, motivation, and commercial performance – for as leadership expert John C Maxwell so wisely said, “Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.”