We’ve all heard (and said) the sayings, “Growth happens outside of your comfort zone.” “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” “You must get comfortable with discomfort.” Everyone who says it (including me) says it with such authority that you would think they spend every moment of their lives in discomfort.
It’s funny how coincidences occur (although I believe there really are no coincidences… people, events, experiences, and opportunities show up in our lives exactly when and how they are meant to show up.). I intended to write about getting out of what makes us comfortable so we can re-connect with the world around us, and take a temperature check on how we are doing in relation to others. I wanted to guide others on the process because of what’s happening in my client organizations. What happened on Wednesday is that I was unexpectedly pushed WAY out of my own comfort zone, for the first time in years. I’ll share my experience and what resulted.
But first, the column’s original intent.
I have several CEO clients that are REALLY comfortable in their offices…too comfortable. It’s what they know. Even if they know their company isn’t running optimally, it’s safe & familiar. It’s very easy to get comfortable with what’s not working, because change is so painful. So we stay with what we know even when we know it limits us.
What happens is that these CEOs who started these now multi-million dollar companies have evolved into very expensive, highly paid overhead resources. Their titles may say CEO, but they are operating at a much lower level. They are spending days writing proposals, putting out fires, chasing certifications, managing HR functions, and many other administrative or operational tasks that can be outsourced or delegated.
This stems from a lack of self-confidence, and a mindset that they aren’t qualified to be “out there.” I’ve been pushing 3 phenomenal CEOs out of their offices. I’ve been holding them accountable to attend a specific number of events outside the office. I’m forcing them to delegate tasks to other workers. Results have been amazing.
“I had no idea how far along we have come, and how much we have our act together.”
“There are so many other business owners facing the same issues just like me.”
“When I get out of the office, it really makes the challenges I am facing a lot less daunting because I am not focused on them 24/7.”
“I actually know a lot about our industry!”
“I’m seen as a leader.”
“There are so many teaming opportunities with other CEOs.”
When CEOs step away from the office, it gives the office team an opportunity to bond and collaborate in a way that is very different from when they are under the watchful eye of the CEO. They are more empowered to make decisions and solve problems.
As I spent time with one of my clients this week architecting their project management platform, one of the Vice Presidents asked me how the executive team can change employee behavior so that they don’t go straight to the CEO every time they have a question.
I explained that it is the CEO’s job to help current and prospective employees understand that they are not working for the CEO; they are working for the COMPANY. This means the CEO empowers others to do the hiring, and ensures every employee has a boss that is not the CEO. This is one shift that occurs when companies evolve from the initial start-up phase to a more established model.
A CEO-centric business is a business in which the CEO often operates as a highly paid overhead resource. Processes, systems, and other leaders are essential to empower the CEO to spend time away from the office, and serve as the company’s “brand ambassador” or Chief Evangelist Officer. This is what turns a solopreneurship business into an organization.
I know from experience this is uncomfortable. But this is how companies grow beyond the CEO.
Speaking of discomfort, I was unexpectedly pushed WAY out of my comfort zone this week and it was AWESOME! I’m a Founding Member of DC-Based CADRE, a community of high-achieving professionals that have an insatiable thirst for learning & self-development.
Cadre hosted NYT best-selling author and renowned speaking coach Michael Port for a 3-hour workshop. Cadre founder and close friend Derek Coburn (author of Networking Is Not Working) reached out to me to ask if I would be open to being coached in front of 50 attendees. “No thanks, Derek. I’m in more of an observation mindset, instead of a participation mindset.” This was code for, “ARE YOU CRAZY?? NO WAY!! NO way am I getting up in front of 50 members and making a fool of myself.”
At the workshop, Derek approached me. “Marissa, I really would like for you to volunteer to be coached so Michael can do some higher level coaching.” The session starts again, and Michael says, “Marissa I understand Derek asked you to volunteer.” And then 15 seconds later, I am standing at the front of the room with this legend, completely unprepared.
What transpired over the next hour inside and outside of me was electric. Not only did I completely reshape one of my favorite speeches, I was BUZZING from adrenaline. My heart was racing. My palms were sweaty. I was shaking. I was 200% uncomfortable. I was completely vulnerable in front of my peers. I received 60 minutes of “constructive feedback.” I also had a taste of speaker GREATNESS. My friend Jen said, “Marissa, you SHINED.” Michael told me after that I have “it.” I have what it takes to be a great speaker. I’ve always loved speaking for the impact I can make. My own insecurities have held me back. Now that I have looked them in the eye, I’m yearning for more. I’ll be joining Michael in his public training in February.
There is nothing like discomfort to remind you that you are alive. But we can’t experience the thrill of discomfort unless we find the bravery to be vulnerable & open, and to put ourselves out there.
How can you commit to discomfort? What will you do in the next few weeks to push yourself to the limits of your comfort zone?
Please drop me a line and let me know what you do.
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“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”