Push people outside of their comfort zones

Richard Rosenblatt

This is the seventh rule in my series of 10 Rules I’ve Learned and Live By to Motivate People and Organizations. The last rule I shared was about how personalized incentives are much more motivating than cold, hard cash. I was talking about how personalized rewards can be motivating, and they are important. However, nothing will drive a person more than them doing things they didn’t think were possible, and that’s what today’s rule is all about.

Rule #7 is to push people outside of their comfort zones. You will learn very quickly that your team can accomplish much more than you think IF you push them and support them.

Did you ever wonder why people hire personal fitness trainers instead of working out on their own? It’s simple. The trainer pushes them beyond their comfort zone and can get them to do much more than they thought was possible. Why do people need someone to motivate them? I am not sure, but when it’s done right that person can do much more. While it’s the same body doing the same exercises someone is putting them in a different mindset. The trainer is telling them they can do it. They believe it and that belief allows them to achieve much more. This is also effective at work. People can meet tighter deadlines. They can add more features. They can build a better customer experience. They just don’t believe they can do it because it would require them to be uncomfortable. Get them comfortable being uncomfortable with EVERYTHING they are doing.

How do you do this? You understand their specific role and their particular set of skills. Ask yourself: what else can they do that is a step beyond what they are doing today that leverages those skills? Is this person tapped out in their capabilities or is the project not big enough and THAT’s what tapped out.

I do this frequently at Demand Media. For instance, we had a very successful young general manager who was responsible for one of our smaller web sites. He showed that he could think outside of the box and manage differently than our more seasoned executives. What did I do? I took a chance and told him he was now running our largest property (5 times as big), and he was a little taken aback. I told him I believed he could do it and why (remember always be specific and metric driven) and that I would make sure he was successful. He was hesitant, but I kept pushing and telling him I would support him and provide the resources he needed to do it his way. He accepted and within six months, I was asking myself how I could push him more.

Push and push hard. Most people don’t want to stretch beyond their skill set if it involves risking their existing position. Encourage them to “lean in” to the opportunity and discover what else they can do beyond the status quo.

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. ~ Michelangelo

Most people, when left to their own devices, will choose to stay inside of their comfort zone. However, there is nothing motivating about someone doing the same thing they’ve done before, and long term they will be unhappy. So, do them a favor, do yourself a favor, and push them where they are entirely uncomfortable.


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