Thursday, October 8, 2015

Make Sure You're Challenged

I've left positions when they became too administrative. My personality is such that when an organization is running smoothly, without many challenges, especially new challenges, I get bored. When I get bored, I cause problems--sometimes so that I have a challenge. That's not good for the organization.

On the other hand, too much challenge can cause the organization to break. You've all seen the rubber band illustration. You need some stretch but not too much. Some stretch pulls you forward. Too much and it snaps and you fail--i.e. fall down, fall back, start over, etc. A speaker at a leadership summit encouraged us to maintain some tension through challenge in our leadership roles. Wiseman described veteran comfort zones--caretaker (protecting), local guide (advising), marathoner (maintaining slow steady pace) and settler (being comfortable). We've probably plateaued if we define our role in any of these terms. If we also think things are running smoothly, we have all the answers, we're mentoring (and not being mentored), only receive positive feedback and we're busy but bored, we've hit the plateau. We need to find a mountain to climb. As she says, we need to regain some rookie smarts.

Rookies ask questions. They don't have notes to rely on that allows them to solve a problem the way it's been solved a hundred times before. They approach problems in fresh ways. They admit what they don't know and don't do well. They let others lead and disqualify themselves if a challenge appears for which they don't have experience.

Leaders need to regain some of that rookie-ness. Let others lead. They might innovative approaches to completing the project, solving the problem, creating an irresistible offer for the customer. Leaders who regain a rookie attitude are like backpackers (unencumbered), hunter-gatherers (alert and seeking), firewalkers (quick and cautious) and pioneers (hungry and restless). They're looking for new horizons, new territories (markets!), new trails (rather than the worn down paths that everyone takes and all the berries have already been picked).

Problems with Comfort Zones has been known for a long time. Wiseman quoted Kahlil Gibran who said Comfort comes as a guest, becomes a host and eventually the master. If you're deciding and doing things in the name of Comfort, you could be in trouble.

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