Redefine Your Comfort Zone For Breakthrough Results
“Before anything great is really achieved, your comfort zone must be disturbed.”
– Ray Lewis
Have you ever struggled to get out of your comfort zone? At one point or another, we are all acutely aware of our comfort zone – usually when we’re bumping up against it head first. We know we need to do something but sometimes, we’re held back by a seemingly invisible force. Sound familiar? Our comfort zone is actually a set of protective boundaries we construct over time to protect ourselves. Over time, these boundaries become coping strategies personally designed to keep us safe. You can probably identify some of your own comfort zone boundaries, but have you ever thought that your organization might have comfort zones too?
Surprise: Organizations have comfort zones. We become very aware of these comfort zones when adaptive challenges enter the scene. When faced with new challenges that do not present a simple solution, we begin to see the protective boundaries our organization has built over time to keep us safe from the unknown.
Organizational Comfort Zone
It is important that we recognize these comfort zones, name them and call them out. We can’t break free of patterns we are unaware of and organizations cannot solve problems they aren’t talking about. If an organization has a purpose that lies outside of its collective comfort zone, achieving it will require discipline and effort to recognize the boundaries of the “known zone” and mobilize people to do something differently.
Identifying Your Comfort Zone
Organizational comfort zones tend to be pushed when faced with an adaptive challenge. Can you think of something your organization has tried to do that was outside of its comfort zone?
Here are a few examples of how adaptive challenges push organizations to break free of their comfort zones.
- A diverse manufacturing company made up of a portfolio of different independently run businesses, realizes it needs to find economies of scale in a shared service model where support functions like HR, Finance, and IT are centralized to serve the entire company versus being duplicated in each business unit. This organization’s comfort zone is keeping support functions close to the business. Until they begin to think about support functions differently, they will never find economies of scale in sharing services.
- A company that viewed IT as “overhead” suddenly needs to come to terms with technology as a key driver of their new strategy if they want to stay competitive. Building a technology strategy and relying on it to differentiate them will push them out of their comfort zone.
- A company in Latin America where accountants are used to yellow ruled paper and pencils with pink erasers, suddenly find themselves needing to implement enterprise financial software. Imagine training that begins with how to use a mouse! They will need to build computer and software expertise to get out of their comfort zone and see efficiency from the new system.
Mergers & Acquisitions
- A merger where two cultures are deeply embedded and the new leadership team must determine what the new organization will stand for. It is likely that aspects of the new culture will be outside the comfort zone at least part of the organization.
- A small entrepreneurial startup, bought by a Fortune 10 company, needs to integrate into the parent company while maintaining the differentiated customer value proposition that was built through innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset. Inevitably, they will need to get comfortable presenting business cases and delivering results in collaboration with their new parent company if they want to deliver the same value.
- A cost-driven, penny-counting organization realizes they need a culture of high-touch customer service. They will need to get comfortable making investments in service they never have before in order to meet that market-driven mandate.
- A relationship driven sales team is suddenly up against a competitor with weaker relationships, but a lot more data that is useful to their customers. They must leave their relationship-based comfort zone, embrace digital transformation and shift their perception of how they add value if they want to keep customers with a new expectation.
Any of these scenarios sound familiar? All of these examples are adaptive challenges LeaderShift® has worked on that require an organization to make trade-offs in what has been valued or how they have acted in the past. Many of those trade-offs require loss, even if it is just the loss of how they’ve always done something. It is only through making those trade-offs that these organizations will be break free of their comfort zone.
How To Break Free
Organizations are pushed outside their “known zones” every day when they face adaptive challenges. It is most important to recognize when this happens because there is only one way out: Alignment around purpose. An organization and its leadership team MUST be in complete alignment with a clearly articulated purpose if they are to make the kinds of shifts required in today’s market. They must very quickly be able to identify when they are approaching the boundaries of their comfort zone, so they can “double down” and focus on what they need to do to break out of it.
If your leaders or organization need to break free from your organization’s comfort zone, call us. It’s what we do!