Are You Building or Coasting? Not Much Gets Built in the Comfort Zone
We all have those moments of being "in the zone." It's that perfect time of leading your team when all cylinders are firing.
But there's also being "zoned out." That is, resting in your comfort zone while opportunities, value and talent start to evaporate.
The challenge is finding the balance of tried and true, and scary and new. Years ago, I had the great experience of attending a father/son camp with my youngest, Sean, sponsored by Young Presidents' Organization. He was 13 years old at the time, and today has a great position at Taylor Corp. The workshop taught dads and their sons about the three "zones" we live in: our Comfort Zone, our Learning Zone and our Panic Zone.
I've used these learnings ever since, most recently last week at our Alliance Franchise Brands Marketing & Print Division's annual company meeting.
The Comfort Zone. The Comfort Zone is where you are an "unconscious competent." This zone is stress-, risk- and discomfort-free. Some of the "comfort" comes from the learnings of prior experiences which allow us to confidently tackle situations that may have been difficult in earlier days. But let's face it, too much time in the Comfort Zone can make us lazy and sluggish leaders. When is the last time you took on a challenge for the sake of expanding your skills or relevance? Time spent in the Comfort Zone is just that—comfortable!
Our industry is riddled with time-consuming activities that can delude us into feelings of "busyness" and "importance," but the activities do little to protect us from the melting iceberg known as our legacy, old-school business. To address these, we need to get into our Learning Zone.
The Learning Zone. This is where growth happens. Much like a new workout involves some pain and awkwardness, time spent in the Learning Zone can also be painful, awkward and life changing! Organizations and people that "ooze" vitality are the ones constantly looking for new ways of saving time, killing unproductive habits and actively seeking new ways to be relevant to those they lead, those they serve and those with whom they work.
One of the many great things about time spent in the Learning Zone is that it’s a real confidence builder and expands your Comfort Zone as you master something new. Whether it’s a tough staffing decision, or a choice to start a new service or kill a legacy one, these learnings all serve as preparation and the building of a more solid and expanded Comfort Zone.
The Panic Zone. I’ll bet you’ve had plenty of time in this zone, either by personal choice or by the "scare" this industry can give you from time to time. This is the scary place. It’s full of unfamiliar things that we actively avoid doing. For some, it’s public speaking. For others, it’s jumping out of an airplane. While many only visit this zone when absolutely necessary, it isn’t impenetrable.
It takes confidence to approach the unfamiliar. While mistakes may be made, it’s the attempt and the lessons learned that allow us to grow our Comfort and Learning Zones while shrinking our Panic Zone.
Pushing our limits helps stretch ourselves and what we think we are capable of doing. We gain confidence, feel accomplished and become more comfortable taking on the unfamiliar more often.
Not sure where your Comfort Zone ends and your Learning Zone begins? Take a few minutes to visit this scientifically proven online tool. Answer a few short questions about your comfort levels in professional, lifestyle and adrenaline-related events to receive a score of your Comfort Zone as compared to the more than 24,000 people who’ve completed this survey. You can also access additional tools to increase your comfort level in each of these areas. You may be surprised by your results.
One of the main things I’ve learned in my years in the printing industry is that we need to get comfortable with change. During the last 20 years, our industry has seen dramatic shifts and will only continue to experience change. The best way to make sure we’re heading in the right direction is to stretch our sights to get a better of view of where we're headed.
I welcome any comments or practices that you may use to ensure that you and your organization stay on course. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin Cushing leads the Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, KKP, Speedy Printing and Zippy Prints brands as president of Alliance Franchise Brands' Marketing and Print Division.
Alliance Franchise Brands LLC, the parent company of Allegra Network LLC and Sign and Graphics Operations LLC, is a world leader in marketing, visual and graphics communications, linking more than 600 locations in North America and the United Kingdom. The Marketing and Print Division is headquartered in Plymouth, Michigan. Franchise owners in this division offer one-stop marketing and print communications services. Its Sign and Graphics Division, headquartered in Middle River, Maryland, includes Image360, Signs By Tomorrow and Signs Now brands of sign, graphics and visual communications providers.
Cushing has owned and operated award-winning franchise locations, was inducted into Epicomm's Soderstrom Society, and was named Print CEO of the Year in 2011 when he served as CEO of AlphaGraphics Inc.