The dreaded “comfort zone”
Talking with corporate leaders about the pitfalls of living in their comfort zone is nothing new. While many individuals relish the stability and familiarity of a comfort zone, any good leader knows the true dangers of staying there for too long. Sure, one could argue that you’re becoming more adept at mastering certain concepts and skillsets when focusing in your comfort zone, but once those skills become second nature, that’s when growth becomes stagnant.
The comfort zone is where growth goes to die
If you’ve been around a corporate culture, you not only know the signs and symptoms that your company is stuck in a comfort zone or a rut, but you’ll also know how dangerous it is.
Being in a comfort zone doesn’t mean that your team or organization is totally disengaged. Plenty of CEOs are in charge of companies that are “holding steady,” meaning they’re not experiencing growth, but they’re not actively declining either. Let’s just be clear: to us, holding steady is the same thing as declining.
Think of your company as a sports team. You can never stop training or coming up with new plays. You can’t let your guard down. Practice and persistence, and fresh game plans are all necessary to not only keep you competitive but to take you to that next level where only the most elite teams reside. There’s no off-season in your business.
Your company has to stay competitive
Maintaining the status quo and not experiencing decreasing profit margins or delays is definitely a good thing… until you compare that to your rapidly up-and-coming competition.
You and your team can’t stay stagnant to stay in the game, especially if your competition is hot on your heels. With increased competition comes increased stress. Increased stress will get you out of your comfort zone quickly, but not in a way that promotes healthy growth and improvement.
Leaving the comfort zone becomes increasingly difficult
The longer you and your organization spend just maintaining and staying comfortable, the harder it becomes to quickly and successfully adapt to changing environments. It becomes harder to pivot with fluctuating times and unexpected curveballs.
As the stress of staying relevant increases and your comfort zone decreases by direct correlation, you’ll find yourself wishing that you had been more proactive about purposefully moving out of that comfort zone. Experiencing growth and improvement on your terms is much more empowering and rewarding (and safer from a financial standpoint) than being forced to grow to try to keep up or, worse, catch up.
You’re either in pain, or you’re in pain
The term “comfort zone” is misleading. If you’re not experiencing “growing pains” by deliberately changing and innovating, then you’re quickly going to experience the pain of failure to remain competitive and all the headaches and sleepless nights that go with that.
So, get used to being in pain. Embrace it; it means you’re still fighting. Just know that you get to choose the type of pain you’re in, and by ignoring the fact you’re comfortable and not growing, you’re still choosing pain because you know, deep down, what the consequences will be.
5 signs your company is stuck in its comfort zone
As with most unwanted scenarios, there are obvious warning signs that you may be actively or passively ignoring, which indicate whether you are stuck in your comfort zone:
1. Flatlining results/stagnant bottom line
As we mentioned earlier, staying steady is pretty much the same thing as declining. If you’re not experiencing increased revenue and improvements in your bottom line, you’re probably stuck in your comfort zone. This is perhaps the biggest indicator of comfort.
2. Problem-solving approaches never change
When problems or challenges arise throughout the day/week/month/project, you tend to address them in the same way repeatedly. Using the excuse of, “This is how we’ve always done it” is a sure sign that you’re stuck in a comfort zone. This can also cause the same problems to keep appearing since you and your team haven’t figured out a fresh and more effective way to handle them once and for all.
It’s also a sign that you’re addressing symptoms instead of the root causes of problems. Taking a look at your issues from a new angle will help you break through the comfort zone barriers.
3. Everyone in your organization gets along great
Okay, bear with us on this one. We all want an organization that boasts a happy, satisfied group of employees that get along well, right? Yes and no. We don’t want a company made up of cookie-cutter employees who never dare to think outside of the box. We want an organization full of engaged people who can respect each others’ opinions and differences and communicate them in a healthy way. A great explanation of this is Radical Candor by Kim Scott, where teams interact by caring personally while challenging directly.
As an aside, just because you have an organization full of people who get along doesn’t mean they don’t disagree. It usually just means they’re too “nice” to bother speaking up. That’s the start of the decline of your livelihood… encourage your people to bring fresh ideas to the table and challenge you and others respectfully. Encourage active engagement, even if those ideas or feedback aren’t necessarily what you like to hear.
4. Acceptance of the status quo
Again, it all comes back to the “This is how we’ve always done it” mentality. It is also a sure sign that your company is stuck in its stuff and mired in the comfort zone.
5. General unhappiness
Another less obvious sign that you or your team are stuck in a comfort zone is a general feeling of unhappiness or disinterest. If you are showing up at work each day and just going through the motions but are mainly unmotivated, disinterested, or unfulfilled – you’re stuck in your comfort zone.
It’s time to promote the pain of growth and constant, never-ending improvement. Motivation and inspiration are two of the biggest factors that drive an organization out of the comfort zone. As the leader, that inspiration has to come from you first and foremost.
Fresh perspectives drive innovation
We worked with a start-up company that was trying to build two new manufacturing plants simultaneously. Unfortunately, they were running about six months behind schedule with one of the plants and almost nine months behind with the other.
As an added obstacle, the company had already successfully built one plant on time, so the people were determined to following the same design and execution plan on these next two plants that had supposedly worked well for the first one. “Copy exact” was the mantra. But it wasn’t working so well this time. They couldn’t give up the idea that doing the exact same thing they did before would work for this next go-round, even though it so clearly was not working. They were focused on the outcome of the previous project instead of the process it took to get there.
This is when having a fresh perspective, an outside, third-party evaluation paid off. At first, the company was hesitant to get help. Still, by offering up an entirely different set of eyes, ideas, and recommendations, we were able to get not just one but both of the plants back on track in regards to construction timelines. Both plants were completed on time.
We presented the team with different options that would allow them to get back on track. They recognized that the “This is the way we’ve always done it” mentality was crippling them since it limited the possible solutions available to them. Once they let go of “copy exact,” they engaged to creatively problem solve and decided on taking a risk-based approach. This not only paid off in a big way, but it also blew them out of their comfort zone at the same time.
Break through the comfort zone barrier
Quit stalling. You know if you’re stuck in your comfort zone and how truly uncomfortable it is to be stagnant and unfulfilled, so don’t waste another day putting up with less-than-stellar energy and results in your business.
If you have a significant initiative that’s behind schedule, or you’re struggling to develop new and innovative approaches to your same old procedures and policies, we are here to help. By getting to know you and your team, your wins, challenges, and corporate culture, we can help you think of new and creative approaches to problem-solving and company growth.