Change is complex, it is tough, and in many occasions unpredictable. We would like to have a set of tools that could provide the techniques and diagnosis that lead to certainty. The bad news is that, even if we had that magic box, there will also come to scene the unwritten rules of the game. Risk and ambiguity are a fact. Executives, as seagulls in a growing storm must become masterful at maximizing stability amid turbulence. Managers should be aware, and keen. They must know when to remain and when to leave their comfort zone. In order to do so, leaders have to open their eyes wide open. What is the comfort zone?
According to A.K. White, in his book From Comfort Zone to Performance Management, the comfort Zone is a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of conducts to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.
As everything in this world, the comfort Zone has its pros and its cons, and every sensible manager has to know them. First of all, let me tell you something: lately we have been categorizing it as an unscrupulous state of mind, maybe because when someone is standing there, creativity lowers the motion and the brain starts working in an automatic mode. Well, there is nothing wrong in delivering a solid performance. There are times when we hope we could do so. And moreover, the comfort zone may provide us a lot of information, about ourselves and our team workers.
An employee´s personality can be described by his or her comfort zones. A comfort zone is a type of mental conditioning that causes a person to create and operate mental borders. Such boundaries craft a sense of security and that is fine. Whenever we master whatever we are doing, it is normal to feel confidence. It is acceptable to enjoy the ground that we are setting foot on. Managers wish for result driven and lasting remedies. When they are getting the results because they are following some kind of procedure, chiefs tend to repeat it over and over again. Why will they change if things are going all right the way they are? The problem erupts when the comfort zone creates an unfounded sense of safety.
Like inertia, a person who has established a comfort zone in a particular axis of his or her life, will tend to stay within that zone without stepping outside of it. To step outside their comfort zone, a person must experiment with new and different behaviours, and then experience the new and different responses that occur within their environment. That may be scary, it may feel like risky and that sensation is unpleasant, while the other one is comfortable.
Leaders have to be careful because stepping out from the comfort zone is in fact risky and sometimes it can turn out to be unpleasant, expensive and unnecessary. Yet some other times staying in the comfort zone may cause losses, pointless expenses, and a great deal of stress. As I said before, executives have to be like seagulls in a growing storm. Some seagulls struggle to survive the waves. The most skilful ones will ride the winds, drawing on their experience and using instinct and techniques perfected in milder weather. These are the ones that will know best how to anticipate major currents, how to spot obstacles and how to respond to unexpected updrafts and downdrafts.
Any good leader knows how to profit the comfort zone. The comfort zone is like the mild weather. It is the opportunity to learn, to perfect procedures, to develop skills in order to use them whenever they are needed. It is the tranquillity space in which executives treasure experiences for the future. Somehow it is like a case in which jewels are kept. These gemstones are the know-hows cultivated during peace time that will be used when combat is on.
A non-experienced executive will exit the comfort zone for no reason, or will stay in it even if it is turning into a dangerous territory. A well-informed leader will take advantage of the time in which his teamwork operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, delivering a steady level of performance, without a sense of risk. He will also know how to anticipate changes, and will be well aware when to modify the route.
An intelligent executive knows that no one should exit the comfort zone without a plan. Not in any case. Those kinds of decisions should come right from the centre of the brain and never from deep down our stomach. There has to be a serious evaluation process. Whenever a leader leaves the comfort zone, he is already building a new one.
Comfort zone is a nice place to be at until the variables change. Working in a stress free zone is good but we have to be well aware. As experienced seagulls do, they pay attention to the signs. They know when to enjoy the stability of the seas and they are ready to struggle turbulence in order to survive. Then they fly away, searching for better winds.