managemnet company management Thriving When You Are Out of Your Comfort Zone

Thriving When You Are Out of Your Comfort Zone

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Step Up When You’re Out of Your Comfort Zone

Step Up When You're Out of Your Comfort Zone

IIN MY thirty-plus years as a business coach, I’ve seen thousands of bright, charismatic, and driven thinkers reach their dream senior leadership positions and thrive there. While they all have very different career paths, they all agree on one thing: The path to success is getting out of your comfort zone.

At some point in their career, all the top-level executives I’ve coached have had to take a risk and accept an assignment, team, or job they weren’t completely comfortable with. The risk in their career paid off – but not always. So, when you take your own leap of faith, how do you make sure you stick the landing? Here’s what I learned.

Perceived Deficiency: Confronting Imposter Syndrome

When you step out of your comfort zone and into a position where you lead a larger team of people with different skills and responsibilities, you can’t solve every problem with your technical skills alone. And when you’re out of your depth, it’s easy to feel like an impostor sometimes.

Imposter syndrome means feeling inadequate and unqualified, and not good enough. This is often paired with a sense of irrational fear and the constant worry that one day everyone will find out that you are a liar and not really as capable as you pretend to be. This feeling can inhibit your potential as a leader, impair your ability to see a problem objectively, and lead to stress at work – and yet, it’s a common issue: Between 70 and 90 percent of adults experience imposter syndrome when they push themselves out of their comfort zone.

What can be done to overcome it? First, recognize that the feeling is normal. If you don’t feel a little insecure every now and then, you can become overconfident or even arrogant – and that’s a very dangerous path to go down.

Second, use the resources around you to gain additional skills. Ask yourself: “Who do I know that has a piece of information I need?” Get advice from peers whose expertise you can trust and adjust your own vision accordingly. While you shouldn’t ignore your own experience and gut feelings, don’t be afraid to bring in someone who may know more than you about a certain topic.

Focus on Contributions: Your Unique Value-Add

There is a third, even more powerful antidote to imposter syndrome that involves understanding what you uniquely bring to the table. Once you know your primary value addition, you can worry less about what you don’t know and focus more on what you do know.

Even if you’re creating something new, you’re not starting completely from scratch. Some of your knowledge and experience can be applied and transferred to this new domain.

And no one expects you to know everything. There are many other ways to add value: Think about people you’ve worked with in the past whose leadership you admire. Think about how they’ve influenced you – the words they’ve said that you’ve found inspiring and encouraging, the time they’ve taken to listen to you, the ways in which they’ve given you advice and taught you. What makes you appreciate them?

Good leaders who span multiple functions and areas are not hired to be experts in every single field. They are valued for their ability to see the big picture, to connect across domains, and to inspire others to do their best work. Your job is not to know everything, your job is to enable everyone to make their best contribution.

Nurturing Networks: The Power of Relationships

Your ability to tap into people in your network and beyond, to inspire them and persuade them to join you are key parts of how you manage the risk you take. To be successful you need to have the right kind of conversations with many different people.

You’ve probably heard this advice before, but it’s the hardest to follow. There is a reason why it is called the art of leading people and not the science.

Why are people following you now that your content knowledge is no longer your defining quality? They may want to work with you because they feel you believe in what you do. They may follow you because they like you. They may respect you as a person and appreciate how you treat people. And they may follow you because they are excited about the team you have put together and look forward to working within this group of people.

Additionally, people want to work with you because they are confident in their own ability to help predict the future, define the problem, create solutions, and plan the course. That will make you lose knowing all the answers. Your skill now is to bring that group of people together, encourage them to take ownership, and find the best in each of them.

Motivational Climate: Taking Your Team to the Top

In your new position, you still own the decision about direction. You still own the results. But that doesn’t mean you’ll succeed by dictating the steps to get there. Your ability to bring people together will come from your understanding of each person on your team and how their individual goals and strengths align with the interests of the company.

What do people on your team care about? What are they individually motivated by? Where are they at their best? Where are they at their worst? You take your team members to a new level by creating the conditions that enable them to realize their dreams and allow them to be their best.

Entering a New Comfort Zone

When you step out of your comfort zone, you enter an unknown territory full of possibility, but also full of unfamiliar roadblocks. To once again feel comfortable and thrive in your position, you need to fight your own feelings of insecurity and understand the new kind of value you bring to the table. In addition, your success will depend on how well you can bring people who are eager to discover the path to a better future with you.

That’s the secret to getting out of your comfort zone.


Leading Forum

Dr. Wanda T. Wallace, managing partner of the Leadership Forum, coaches, facilitates, and speaks on leadership development through better conversations. He hosts the weekly radio show and podcast “Out of the Comfort Zone” and is the author of You Can’t Know It All: Leading the Era of Deep Skills. Learn more at,,


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:42 AM

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