I just came back from a speaking engagement. I had tailored the talk a bit: first, because I had less time than normal and second, because it was a new, special market.
Even in the short time I presented, I found myself talking more than usual about our comfort zones.
It didn’t occur to me how important a topic it was until several people came up afterward to thank me and when asked “what touched you the most?”, they replied quietly and thoughtfully, “the comfort zone part”.
I looked up the definition of a ‘kill zone’ and found it to mean “the area of a military engagement with a high concentration of fatalities”.
So, based on this premise, your comfort zone has created, swept under the rug and buried “a high concentration of fatalities”.
Think about it. Your comfort zone is a vast wasteland of…opportunities you let slip by, dreams you didn’t pursue, relationships you were afraid to develop, jobs you didn’t take, dead-end jobs you didn’t leave, calls you didn’t make, gigs you let someone else win, important conversations you stuffed, trips you didn’t go on, stands you should have taken but didn’t, differences you could have made but ignored, fears you let dominate and prevail, personal growth you didn’t experience.
Have I said enough? Are you squirming yet? I am.
We all have a comfort zone. We often don’t even notice it. We delude ourselves into thinking it’s a happy, safe place.
And at some level, it is. But at what cost?
If you could trade that safety for deeper relationships, being fully expressed, earning more money, being seen and making a bigger difference in the world, living a thrilling, fulfilling life experiencing what might seem like magical serendipitous moments, creating the life you dream of, would it be worth stepping out of that comfortable, dream-killing zone?
Here are 7 ideas to break you out of your kill zone comfort rut.
1. Find something on your bucket list and do it this week.
2. Call the person you’ve been avoiding, have the conversation you’ve been afraid to have and do it in a way that honors both of you.
3. Commit to a goal so big and public it scares you.
4. Be more controversial on important issues that matter to you.
5. End any relationship that is no longer serving your greater good.
6. Stop waiting for permission.
7. Stop waiting to feel ready or confident. Take the action you’re dreading; confidence and readiness will appear as a result.
Do any of these and feel your power. Do all of them and expect a miracle (or two or seven or more)!
I’ve been helping many of my clients lately figure out how to position themselves so they stand out in their marketplace or workplace like the true expert they are.
It can be quite a challenge, particularly when there are a lot of people who know much of what you know and do basically what you do.
The key to success though is having the right people recognize that YOU are the undisputed expert. The ‘right’ people include your boss, your prospects, your colleagues, your clients and your referral partners.
When any of those people see your true brilliance, your value goes up dramatically.
Here are some simple steps you can take to make yourself stand out, get seen and get recognized as an expert.
1. Know your audience
Resist the urge to try to be everything to everybody. Pick the people or groups you’re best suited to serve and focus on getting to know everything you can about them. Be particularly focused on the problems they encounter on a regular basis.
2. Speak their language
When you’re an expert, it’s easy to default to using jargon, technical or quasi-technical terms that perfectly capture the nuance of the issue for you and other ‘geeks’ like you, but may not resonate with the people you’re trying to help. Talk to them with words they use.
3. Know your strengths
It’s tempting to believe that you are multifaceted and brilliant in every dimension. You might even be brilliant in many dimensions, but being a jack- or jill-of-all trades will minimize the sense that you are an expert and lower the perceived value of your worth. Pick a few things you’re masterful at that you enjoy doing and focus on those.
4. Articulate your process
Whether you know it or not, you have a particular approach to solving problems. When you can explain it in simple terms, you’ll seem like more of an expert than people who don’t have their process spelled out and look like they’re ‘winging it’.
5. Understand their goals
When I attended coach training school over 15 years ago (how can that be?!?!), our coach and trainer would often say “People are always on their way someplace”. What he meant was that most people are working on some goal, whether it’s a short-term to-do, an errand, a duty of some sort, a project or a much longer-term aspiration. Unless they’re a couch potato, they’re trying to get somewhere even if their ‘where’ isn’t entirely clear to them.
We show up like some intrusion into their daily life and the things that fill it. When you help them see where ‘where’ is and position yourself as a key ingredient to getting there, you’ve just raised your value dramatically.
When you implement these 5 keys, you’ll stand out as an expert eligible and worthy of higher fees and bigger paychecks.
The workplace is a web of communications between individuals and teams.
When things don’t go well, we tend to blame the other person or group.
If you’re ever tried to change anyone, you probably realize how pointless that is.
Our highest salvation and sense of peace is to work on ourselves, rise above the commotion and lead the way from a place of groundedness and authenticity.
Maintaining presence of mind in the midst of chaos is the way to accomplish that.
So, how does one maintain that presence when the world seems to be caving in on you? It is possible but takes concerted effort.
Here are the 5 skills that are critical for maximizing your effectiveness:
1. The ability to discover the things you do that other people notice but that you don’t know you do
We all have habits, patterns of behavior that seem to run themselves. We also all have blind spots. Things we do but are unaware of. Rarely do we seek them out and even less frequently, do we do anything about them
If you’re striving for maximum effectiveness in the workplace, you MUST know the impact you’re having on people. It takes courage to uncover them, but shining a light on the areas of your blindness will help you become more likeable, respected and influential.
2. The ability to calm yourself when your reptilian brain has just thrust you into Fight or Flight
When tensions mount, our instinct is to protect ourselves or annihilate the threat. Before you commit that career limiting move, take a moment to get ‘present’. That means calming yourself briefly before you lash out or duck and cover. Put your attention on your your physical body. Take a few deep breaths. Notice the pressure of your butt on the chair or your feet on the floor. Taking these few precious seconds will give you a chance to collect your more grounded thoughts and respond from a more centered place.
3. The ability to notice and objectively address the process you or a group are enmeshed in
Communication is a process which includes not just the words that are said but the underlying subtext of the conversation as well as what’s NOT being said. In a group or family, people fall into ‘roles’ they play in that community. When those roles can be brought to light in a way that is nonjudgmental the grip of the role is loosened.
For example, when a group is led by a powerful and directive boss, they may be reluctant to speak up if they have a different opinion than the one that is not being proferred. This is what triggers water-cooler conversations).
As the boss, it’s critical that you get the feedback you need in order to accomplish your goals. Notice that your staff is hesitant to be forthright with you. tell them you need their input AND THEN LISTEN AND TAKE IT INTO ACCOUNT.
As the staff member, it’s critical that you voice your perspective, not in a combative way but as another point of information that is valuable and key to moving forward on the right path.
4. The ability to quiet our inner critic
To be human is to have a voice that tries to protect us from harm. Unfortunately, it usually stops us from taking ‘risks’ that would actually be helpful to our personal growth. Notice what your inner critic or judge usually says to you. Then when it pipes up (in your head) in various situations, notice it and say ‘Thank you for pointing that out’.
Then imagine that there is a miracle awaiting you on the other side of whatever fear it raised and take some action toward bringing that miracle into fruition.
5. The ability to cultivate the Sage within you
There is another voice within us that knows what’s possible on a grander scale than what our human persona normally perceives. It is the voice of intution, Spirit, knowingness, God (or whicheve deity enlightens your world).
It whispers to us to take action. It’s suggestions sometimes scare us and that’s almost always a signal that growth or transformation is right around the corner if we go there.
Cultivating the Sage means creating quiet time and space for it to speak to us during periods of restfulness,
meditation or prayer. It means listening to the voice and honoring it by taking action on its suggestions. It’s a discipline and practice, being quite and taking acion. Ant it is a practice, that if done consistenly, will pay off in really big ways.
So, be aware then be courageous. Release the judge that condemns yourself and others. Invite the Sage to take a larger role in your life and the power of this new presence will dramatically improve your personal effectiveness.
“What do the Oscars have to do with business leadership?”, you may be asking. There are five things I believe Oscar nominees and winners demonstrate that land them the preeminent recognition for their artistic achievements.
Having a clear vision is almost a cliché attribute of a leader. However without it, it’s hard to give an outstanding, authentic performance as an actor. In the absence of ‘where am I going with this character?’, the actor would likely amble around, missing opportunities to clearly define what defines him or her. How would they know how to respond in certain situations?
When an actor is able to do this, we find ourselves watching a scene unfold that evokes powerful emotions within us riveting us to the screen and the characters.
A lack of vision would make directing a film equally a challenge. The director must communicate the vision for the overall project so that the players can find themselves and clarify their roles in the film. The players are then able to bring their best into the role and forge a path toward the vision that is theirs uniquely to make.
This ability to articulate a clear vision advances any kind of project, whether it’s being played out in Hollywood, Boise or Philadelphia.
I researched the dictionary for the definition of ‘intention’ because although I know it when I feel it, I wasn’t sure how to describe it.
Here’s part of what I found: An act or instance of determining mentally upon some action; purpose or attitude.
The definition that was most revealing however, was that of the word as used in a medical context: “a manner or process of healing (as in the healing of a lesion or fracture).
This brought a whole new perspective to that which occurs in acting, directing, filming and leading. Imagine that the intention one brings reflects the healing and fusing of two (or more) disparate entities, goals, purposes, personae, people.
In this way, it reflects a sort of will to bring together that which might not have happened that leaves the new ‘whole’ greater than the sum of its parts.
When you’re leading, isn’t that exactly what you’re doing?
3. Going all out
You may have heard the phrase, “Leave it all on the floor”. Oscar nominees put everything they have into their
performance. They completely ‘spend’ themselves. I’ve heard actors say they actually abandon their own personality and dive as deeply as they can into their portrayal character.
That kind of energy, passion and commitment serves a leader as well. Think about people who have deeply inspired you. They didn’t give up their own personality, but they probably did give what they were at work on, everything they had.
It was this demonstration of going for the gusto, that probably had you step up and excel in your own performance.
4. Attention to detail
Think about the mountain of details that must be involved in films as visually complex as Inception and Avatar.
Even the characters in Inception were focused on keeping every detail of the dream levels as realistic as possible.
When you’re a leader, you don’t need to attend to all of the details, but you must keenly care about them and communicate that care to the people whose job it is to attend to them.
5. Challenging the bounds of reality and ‘what’s possible’
It’s a delicate trick to balance reality and possibility. Films need to have some semblance to reality or else they won’t be understood.
However, if all they reflect is reality and don’t challenge the edges, we’ll be bored watching them.
Successful screen writing requires some sort of break with the predictable; some dichotomy or unexpected crisis is needed to keep the plot interesting. Great actors are able to take ordinary people (even in bit roles) and make memorable characters,even heroes out of them.
Exemplary leaders are able to stand in the reality of where things are now, both the circumstances and the people. They are equally able to articulate what’s possible and galvanize people around getting there. They don’t succumb to ‘it’s never been done before’. They’re actually challenged by that and rise to the occasion. As they rise and light the path ahead, they elevate us all.
Imagine what it would take for you to bring the traits of an Academy Award winner into ‘playing’ out your leadership role, whether at work, at home or in your community.
How might you behave differently? What would you and those around you be able to accomplish? Think about that the next time you step onto your ‘stage’.
Many people think that leaders are born, not made and that if they aren’t officially a Manager, Director, Executive Directory, Vice President, President or CEO, that they are really a leader.
I beg to differ. Leadership is a set of specific behaviors that can be learned.
Here are seven keys I believe are critical to transforming ordinary people into extraordinary leaders.
1. Evoke the emotions of others
True leaders inspire people. They touch their hearts on issues that are important to them. They raise hope while acknowledging and accepting the human frailties we all possess. Leaders make people connect the change they are striving to cause to their own needs and desires.
2. Believe in people
It’s hard for us to see skeptics or critical, negative people as leaders because they don’t do anything proactive to make us feel good about ourselves. On the other hand, leaders see the rough diamonds buried in our hearts and bring them to light so that WE can see them too.
3. Have a compelling vision and be passionate in expressing it
Great leaders see a future that is dramatically different than the present we live in and they don’t keep it a secret. They articulate that future and tell us WHY it’s important that we move toward it. They know they are on the right track even when the rest of the world is still asleep to or in denial about the problem.
4. Never give up but stay flexible
Leaders with big visions are often seen as crack pots or zealots before the masses catch on to the imoportance of their platform. Expect to encounter some resistance at the beginning, but don’t give up on what you believe in. Do however, stay present to new developments and trends and what’s on the minds of the people in your burgeoning ‘tribe’. Find common ground with them an incorporate what you can into your vision, but don’t dilute it too much by trying to please everyone. You won’t.
5. Be an exemplary model
The increased visibility that your leadership will generate will put you in the spotlight. Keep your hands clean. Don’t be tempted by your growing power and influence. Also, don’t avoid leadershp if you have a shady past. If you have truly repented, take ownership for your humanity and mistakes. Share what you’ve learned from your errant ways and promise to stay on the straight and narrow. And then stay there.
6. Demonstrate integrity
Keep your word. Be consistent in your actions. Do what you say you’re going to do. Tell the truth. Make decisions your mother, spouse, children, grandmother would be proud of. Live as though your life will be played out in the media because it might actually end up there.
7. Ask for input and help
Don’t try to get to ‘the promised land’ alone. You can’t. And even if you do, it won’t be very gratifying. As you enroll others in your vision, identify key people in your cause and solicit their opinions and help. The more people you have actively engaged and on the bandwagon with you leading others as well, the easier your road trip will be.
Do these things consistently and you’ll find yourself living a fulfilled life, making a difference and leaving the world in a better place than you found it. That is your purpose so go live it.