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Feeling uncomfortable at work isn't always a bad thing

Helping your employees reach their potential is a sign of a good leader. Credit: Stockbyte Helping your employees reach their potential is a sign of a good leader.
Credit: Stockbyte

When describing their dream position, job-seekers often speak about finding a company in which they feel comfortable. In the provocatively titled new book “The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations Into Breakthroughs,” management coach Marcia Reynolds argues that feeling too comfortable can stop employees from evolving.

“We don’t learn anything if we don’t allow ourselves to be uncomfortable, so we stay stuck in seeing things and doing things the same way,” Reynolds explains. “I always say that in the moment of discomfort, where we become uncertain of who we are and how we see the world, is the opportunity to grow.”

Reynolds says that taking someone out of their comfort zone is also key to breaking the patterns and defense mechanisms that often stop people from reaching their potential.

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We asked Reynolds to share more about how managers and employees can get the most out of her techniques.

Treat yourco-workers like they’re your equals


Taking criticism is tough for anyone, so it’s important to stay focused on tasks rather than personalities. “When I criticize you, your brain shuts down automatically, so that doesn’t work,” she says. “You’re working with people who are your partners; they’re not your children.”

The way to create lasting change, says Reynolds, is to ask questions, get to know the people you work with and build a deeper level of trust. “If I can ask you the right questions and you can discover yourself, not only do you learn but actually in the brain it embeds and you commit to any change or behavior,” she explains. “It’s more efficient leadership. I want to help you think differently — that’s the approach.”

Realize what it means to be a leader


“A lot of times leaders do the right thing but they don’t have the right feelings — and people can see through that,” says Reynolds.

She adds that everyone wants to feel respected and valued in the workplace. Taking the time to get to know your co-workers and helping them move up the ladder goes a long way.

“If you think about it —
in your life, the people who made a difference for you are the ones that made you see yourself and the world differently,” says Reynolds.

Speak up


Junior employees in particular tend to hesitate to speak up for themselves, especially when they are upset. Although it might be nerve-wracking to think about, Reynolds encourages everyone to share their feelings with their bosses.

“Sometimes people have no idea what kind of impact they have until somebody tells them,” she says. “It’s really the courageous person that goes to the boss and says, ‘I don’t like when you talk to me like that.’”

Although it may be hard to believe, Reynolds says most bosses she’s advised say they were ultimately glad for the feedback. “They’re human too, and they want to know the impact they have on people.”

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

 
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