We’ve all heard the phrase “step outside your comfort zone” and no doubt we’d all admit that we have one. It’s perfectly normal to feel comfortable with the familiar and uneasy with anything new or different and these, very natural, feelings make it hard for us to embrace new challenges without fear or trepidation. However, stepping outside of your comfort zone can be a very positive step, particularly in the workplace where change and development are needed for progression. So how can employers help employees to see past the fear factor and take those first, brave steps into unknown territory?
Guide and advise
It starts with company leaders and management and their attitudes towards staff. Good managers need to guide and advise, but at the same time give individuals the space and responsibility to make decisions themselves. If your team are building up to taking on challenges outside their usual remit, then they need to develop some independence. Micromanaging is definitely not the order of the day! It’s important to find a way to allow employees to weigh up options and make their own decisions, without always deferring to senior leaders. It can be scary and in itself can be a way of gaining new ground, but it’s an important step on the road to leaving the comfort zone behind.
Confidence is key
Similarly, encouraging confidence in staff is key; they need to believe that they can do it. Taking on new tasks or areas of development can be daunting and the real reason for this fear is a lack of self-belief or, put differently, the belief that they can’t do it. It’s vital to help employees realize their strengths and start to see that they can achieve more. By showing them that you believe in them, they will start to feel trusted and valued and begin to believe in themselves. In many ways this goes hand in hand with encouraging independence. By showing employees that you trust them to make a decision or to do something themselves, you are helping them to realize that they do have the skills or abilities required.
Recognise goals achieved
On the whole people work better with a specific goal to strive for, so a great way to encourage people out of their comfort zones is to allocate a particular target that they need to achieve. It could be large or small. It could be one of a number of steps on the way to a larger end goal. Indeed it can be sensible to break goals down into smaller, manageable stages so as to reduce the fear factor and make each step seem more approachable. It’s also a great idea to introduce rewards along the way to make the process more desirable for the employee. If it’s hard work and a bit nerve-wracking, then rewards for each stage achieved can really motivate an individual to try harder and want to attain the end goal that little bit more. Even better if the rewards are personalised; a good manager should know his or her employees well-enough to be able to tailor a reward to make it all the more desirable.
Mentoring and motivation
As is indicated throughout, the real key to helping employees to step out of their comfort zones is good leadership. Being able to facilitate all the steps described above and understanding what motivates the individuals in your team is invaluable in enabling employees to take the next step. With this in mind, mentoring and one-to-one attention can develop this even more efficiently. It could be as simple as training line managers to fulfil this role or looking within peer groups to allocate individuals with different strengths to help their fellow team members work on given areas. Identifying and utilising the skills you already have within your organisation is a straightforward solution and hugely effective. It also has the added bonus of helping those who are assisting others to gain in confidence and feel more motivated.
For the good of the individual and the company as a whole
As staff develop and feel able to take on new skills it can only benefit an organization. It means that more expertise will be available to you in-house and also frees up the management as teams will be in a position to take on additional responsibilities, allowing senior leaders more time to work on business development, hopefully leading to expansion and growth. Encouraging staff to step out of their comfort zones is really about maximizing your workforce, not only for their own personal development, but also for the good of the company as a whole.
We’d love to help you engage, motivate and inspire your team with our innovative Employee Recognition services. To speak to a member of our award-winning team, call us on 0370 405 2020, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or make a quick enquiry to find out how to drive your business performance today.