A Coaching Power Tool created by Jayant Vishnu
(Executive Coaching, Transformational Coaching, INDIA)
A small baby is most comfortable in mothers lap and starts crying the moment he/she is kept on the floor. If the mother keeps on holding the baby always in her lap would the baby ever learn to stand and walk?
What happens to us when we keep operating from our comfort zone and how things start changing when we move from our comfort zone to the challenge zone?
What do we mean by comfort zone and challenge zone, certainly the boundaries would be different for different people. It would also vary for the same person from time to time. The idea is to keep rediscovering ones boundaries and the rate of growth of our comfort zone is directly proportionate to the frequency at which we keep visiting this boundary.
Let’s consider the following diagram:
When we start our life the inner most circle is like a small dot, so much so that when we are put on the floor we feel uncomfortable and the journey of life begins from there. As human we keep venturing the challenge zone which is just out of our comfort zone and the small dot starts becoming bigger and bigger and we feel more comfortable for many more things in life. There is another zone beyond challenge zone which is stress zone, what happens to us when we venture in that zone – does this leave us expanded or shrunk? Would knowing these boundry help us in our journey? And how can we know more about these boundaries?
Lets understand what these terms mean.
The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk. A person’s personality can be described by his or her comfort zones. A comfort zone is a type of mental conditioning that causes a person to create and operate mental boundaries. Such boundaries create an unfounded sense of security. Like inertia, a person who has established a comfort zone in a particular axis of his or her life, will tend to stay within that zone without stepping outside of it. To step outside their comfort zone, a person must experiment with new and different behaviors, and then experience the new and different responses that occur within their environment.
A challenge is a general term referring to things that are imbued with a sense of difficulty and victory. Why some thing would appear to be difficult? Because we have never done this in past or we tend to underplay our abilities. What happens to us when we do some thing for the first time and which we thought that is difficult as it could be beyond our capabilities, be it the first time we learnt how to ride a bicycle or the first time we manage to swim. This must have left us in a mind set; do we remember that state of being?
I have been working full time as a professor in a Management college, a happy family every thing planned right from my day to the life. Was I happy? Yes till I asked myself “is this what I am here for?” what else I can do which could be much more meaningful to me and that’s when I read this:
Once there was a king who received a gift of two magnificent falcons from Arabia. They were peregrine falcons, the most beautiful birds he had ever seen. He gave the precious birds to his head falconer to be trained.
Months passed and one day the head falconer informed the king that though one of the falcons was flying majestically, soaring high in the sky, the other bird had not moved from its branch since the day it had arrived.
The king summoned healers and sorcerers from all the land to tend to the falcon, but no one could make the bird fly. He presented the task to the members of his court, but the next day, the king saw through the palace window that the bird had still not moved from its perch.
Having tried everything, the king thought to himself, “May be I need someone more familiar with the countryside to understand the nature of this problem.” So he cried out to his court, “Go and get a farmer.”
In the morning, the king was thrilled to see the falcon soaring high above the palace gardens. He said to his court, “Bring me the doer of this miracle.”
The court quickly located the farmer, who came and stood before the king. The king asked him, “How did you make the falcon fly?”
With head bowed, the farmer said to the king, ” It was very easy, your highness. I simply cut the branch where the bird was sitting.”
This made me ask “am I too comfortable sitting on the branch I have found for my self”? Since then life has started changing, today when I look back I see I have done so many things which appeared to be difficult to me at some point of time. Today my definition for difficult has changed and I also know that it would mean different after another couple of years.
We are doing very good and I am very happy with 50% year on year growth. This is what Anup, founder CEO of an IT organization, started with during our meeting. This meeting was organized by the HR department that felt it’s high time to have a Vision, Mission and Value for the organization. Anup appeared to be quite content with the achievements of his organization and felt there is no need to do any thing which is “non-business”. I was asked by the HR to convince Anup to look at things differently which people internally were not able to do.
During discussion Anup mentioned that he has a core team of 15 people and they know exactly what he wants and the things are going great as of now. So, have you ever cross checked with the entry level people, whether they are in sync with your ideas? I asked. Anup was not sure, certainly he had never done that at he same time was not sure why he should do it. We continued to discuss whether the Organization should be in sync with what the leader thinks or wants and after some time Anup very firmly concluded yes the Organization “must” be aligned and all are to work in the same direction. That’s when I asked him “and what is the direction”?
My discussion continued with an example borrowed from Armed forces, where they say that every army keeps on fighting three battles
- Close Battle: This is fought on the border, day in day out, you hear a gun shot and duck also the minute you see the enemy you fire. Keep your Army fit with the routine exercises and always active with day to day activities.
- Rear Battle: This is fought sitting in the head quarters and here the officers take care of all the background support needed by the people fighting the close battle. Here every thing is taken care of starting from arms and ammunitions to rations; this also includes taking care of the families of the people those fighting the close battle.
- Deep Battle: This again is fought in the head quarters where the Generals plan about future, how big our army would be, what arms and equipment we would need then to gain the upper hand, what all territories would be in our control etc etc.
The first reaction Anup had to this was, have I been fighting only the close battle till now? If I and my core team is also busy fighting the close battle who will take care of the other two battles? This is when I decided to ask Anup “How long do you think your organization is going to live?” Now this is a very emotional topic if asked to the one who started the organization, and its like his baby. I noticed the shift in the sitting posture and for the first time Anup was not comfortable.
What followed was a plan of action which Anup never thought about not because it never crossed his mind but because he was never too comfortable asking and answering these questions.
Today Anup’s organization is growing much faster than what he had expected and also the Core team including Anup are able to focus more on their deep battle.
- What are the five things you want to do but you are not comfortable doing them?
- What are the five activities under each Easy, Difficult and Impossible to do?
- As a coach how would you differentiate between challenging Vs leading the discussion to your agenda?
- What was the last action you did which was challenging to you and how you felt after completing it?