Have you in your leadership role been faced with something that is beyond your comfort zone? Something that you know has to be done, but everything within you is screaming NO!

I often meet leaders who have this feeling before meetings with their employees if the message they have to convey or the circumstances behind the meetings has to do with disciplinary issues, correction, or delivering bad news of some kind. Another common scenario is approaching an employee who is in crisis.

Procrastination oftentimes takes over or finding excuses to not do what has to be done. Delegating it to someone else is also a way of not having to do things that we find uncomfortable. Another common practice is to bring someone else with us to the meeting. Hence, creating an imbalance that makes the employee feel inferior before anything is even said.

We are good at coming up with long lists of excuses to avoid uncomfortable tasks.

I do a lot of coaching of leaders when it comes to stepping out of their comfort zones, especially in my core areas of crisis leadership, motivational communication and dealing with conflicts in the workplace.

Last summer as I stood at the edge of a canyon, looking straight down at the rapid river below, I drew the parallel of how I often coach and instruct leaders. I was about to go way beyond my own comfort zone. My coach was a Mountain Guide who was giving me instructions on the do’s and don’ts in rappelling. Yes, I was going down the steep wall with the river under me hanging from a rope. People who know me are fully aware that this activity is a huge step for me.

I wanted to do it because I so often challenge others to do things that they are uncomfortable with that is part of their leadership roles.

I had decided to do this rappelling no matter what. As I looked down the cliff all my defense mechanisms kicked in. Procrastination, excuses, you name it, it all surfaced.
This is where the support from my colleague and the very competent Mountain Guide was totally necessary. They were incredible in their supportive way of not only encouraging me, but also giving me detailed instructions so I knew exactly what to do and what to avoid.

This reminded me of my own coaching of leaders as they are about to communicate difficult things with an employee for example. This support is necessary and needs to be available. How often are not managers expected to perform difficult and sensitive tasks without first getting support or the right competence and tools to do it right?

My first lesson in this rappelling endeavor has to do with just that. Make sure that you have support and knowledge BEFORE climbing down the 90-degree cliff.

For some managers a difficult conversation with an employee may be equal to the feeling I had. They keys I want to leave us with are: Support, knowledge and good instructions.

Have a brilliant day!

Ulf Lidman

Beyond the comfort zone!