Today is Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year. It’s not surprising that many people return to their desks after the festive period struggling with a lack of motivation and low energy levels. So as a manager, what can you do help your team beat the January blues and feel motivated to achieve great things in the year ahead?

As the saying goes “what doesn’t challenge you, doesn’t change you’. Your role as a manager is to help your team move out of their comfort zone and into their stretch zone, so they can challenge the status quo and achieve the extraordinary. This can often be easier said than done. It’s called a comfort zone for a reason – it’s the mental space where people feel emotionally secure. However, it can also lead to low self-esteem or feelings of boredom and frustration. 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 in 2024.

Helping your team move into their stretch zone:

Everybody’s stretch zone is different, so don’t presume it’s the same as your own. As a manager, you need to harness your emotional intelligence to build strong relationships with the people in your team. It is only by being empathetic and actively listening to the other person that you can identify what really makes them tick and 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 tip them into their panic zone, 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 the graph above shows, by moving out of their comfort zone into their stretch zone, they will enter their area of best performance where they can achieve great things.

As a manager it’s important to draw on your self-control – another key emotional intelligence skill – so that you can provide your team with the appropriate level of support as they move into their stretch zone. This doesn’t mean wading 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.” It’s about offering the people on your team the right type of help 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 taking practical steps to empower your team to move into their stretch zone in this way, you will motivate your team to go the extra mile in 2024 and benefit from increased levels of engagement, motivation, and commercial performance.