Zoned Out in the Comfort Zone

A client asked me to design and deliver a workshop as part of a staff training programme. During one of the sessions a participant said she didn’t think the ideas presented would work, because that’s not the way she’s accustomed doing things. And anyway, “My manager has not complained. In fact, I scored quite well on my latest assessment.” A few others agreed with her.

Without compromising my confidentially agreement with the employer I explained that in today’s constantly shifting market-space, the company wanted to make sure it had the flexibility and agility to handle whatever might be ahead. A staff training programme was set up when managers recognised it was time not only to upgrade skills, but also to explore new ways of thinking and doing. I later realised that breaking the ice would have been much easier had the employer communicated this to the staff before the training began. But that’s a whole other subject.

If it’s not broke don’t fix it

That’s a familiar quote that has all but become a mantra in many businesses. In today’s world such thinking can lead to inertia. Okay, there are occasions when it can be useful to maintain systems just the way they are, but too much time in the comfort zone can cause you to zone out. With concern in recent years over the level of risk exposure in the financial sector, it’s no surprise that many businesses feel justified in playing it safe. But playing it safe can endanger progress.

There was a time, not too long ago, when a business would undergo major change followed by a long period of stability. The pattern would repeat after a number of years. In successful businesses these days, there are likely to be several changes taking place simultaneously with little or no gap between major change initiatives.

One of the points I remember from an intensive week-long manager’s training course some years back was the importance of flux. The course was “Managing Organisational Transformation.” The trainers explained that if you want to walk you can’t keep both feet on the ground at the same time. You are always in a state of transition if you are moving. Successful businesses adopt a similar model. While having one foot steady and grounded, they make sure the other foot is ready to lead off in the direction of the most favourable opportunity. Such enterprises, the trainers told us, are never static, always in transition they keep a close eye on trends and are primed to take advantage of a new wave and ride it.

Richard J. Leider, founder and a partner in The Inventive Group, says the core of the change process is listening and hearing. “Listening is absolutely essential to change” says Leider. That may explain why change is such a hit and miss undertaking for many organisations.

Listening is not an easy art to develop and if managers do listen, are they willing to actively encourage staff to speak up and contribute ideas for improvement?

Employees tend to be more productive when they feel involved in what’s going on and not just a cog in the machine. If they know their managers are open to new ideas, there’s a good chance the workforce will not just be following orders, but actively thinking about more effective, efficient ways of working. That has to be good for everyone, especially the customer.

However, employees often complain that original thinking is neither welcomed nor rewarded. If you question the system you are likely to be branded a troublemaker instead of an innovator. Discouraged from displaying a questioning attitude or developing critical thinking, employees are instead encouraged to maintain the status quo and not rock the boat. This may be particularly relevant in an organisation enjoying a period of relative success. Change is unwelcome as it may upset the formula.

But if you have been doing things one way for many years, that doesn’t mean you’ve been doing things the best way. Is it possible that your way could be made a little more efficient?

It’s often said that the biggest enemy of change is success. The more you think you know the less open you are to new information and ideas that could really take you to a new level. Dr. Robert Kriegel, one time athletic coach and author of “If it ain’t broke… break it”, says it’s sometimes useful to think like a beginner. “Experts tend to rely on yesterday’s solutions to solve today’s problems. Beginners don’t have such preconceived notions; they approach new situations with curiosity and open minds” says Kreigel.

Regardless of how far ahead we may think we are, it’s vital to keep our eyes open and welcome change when required, otherwise we may slip into a coma of false security as the competition glides past.

First published in Business Journal Magazine

By saying, “that’s just the way it is” – nothing changes

It’s quite appropriate to accept the things beyond your control and not get overly upset about them, but it’s something else entirely to resign yourself to situations because of fear or laziness.

Most circumstances that cause conflicts for human beings are created by human beings and therefore can be changed somehow. But you will wipe out the possibility for change if you convince yourself there’s nothing you can do because you believe that’s just how things are.

By realizing that there is something you can do, all sorts of exciting alternatives open up. You’re then in a position to take action and make things happen.

Many psychologists suggest we are the products of what we choose for ourselves and we each have the capacity to make healthy choices. This can be done if we change our mind-set to what many describe as “creative aliveness”.

If you can improve your attitude and expectations about yourself, circumstances will likely take a turn for the better. Instead of simply reacting, you develop the habit of taking the initiative and getting down to business.

Don’t let someone’s bad mood make you moody

cinemaI went to the movies recently. It was a public holiday and the young woman collecting tickets obviously didn’t want to be working that day. I said something to my wife about the service at the place and the young woman started to quarrel with me as though I had been talking to her.

It caught me off guard. I tried to keep it together and told her that what I said to my wife was my opinion and there was no need for her to get involved.

The young lady turned up the heat and the volume. I told her thanks for her excellent customer service and walked into the cinema.

As I sat down I was still upset at the way she behaved. In fact, I remained fuming for about ten minutes before I realised… “Wait, I’ve paid to see this show. Yet I’m sitting here and allowing the woman’s hang ups to spoil my enjoyment. That can’t work. It’s like I’m paying money to get upset!”

Was I really going to allow this stranger to raise my blood pressure, tighten my neck muscles and crease my forehead? No way. I would not allow her bad mood to make me moody. I decided that her frustration belonged to her, not to me.

By the way, it was a great movie.

How do you deal with the darkness?

Chatting with some friends recently one said, “Have you noticed these days the world is moving in two directions? The negativity or darkness seems to be increasing, while humanity’s thirst for peace, love and harmony, the positive, is also increasing.”

Another friend said, “Supposing if all those seeking peace, harmony and things positive could cooperate and work together. Supposing if all those tiny lights realise they are not alone; that they have power; what would happen to the darkness?”

We fell silent as we embraced that thought and considered our personal responses to those not so illuminating periods in life – the times we felt the darkness closing in and forgot the power of our own light.

Occasionally we may feel as though we are in a tunnel with no possible way out. But a tunnel, by its very nature, has two openings. Therefore, there must be at least two ways out. The end of the tunnel may be a long way off, but it will eventually come into view.

When we lose hope, we also lose sight of the tiny speck of light way off in the distance. Why not focus on that glimmer of light up ahead. Even though it may be barely visible, as you continue to move towards the dot it increases in size, becoming more real with each step we take.

The more light we see, the more fuel is added to the fires of faith and hope. Protect the flame. Don’t let anyone blow out your light of hope and enthusiasm.

Humour works on so many levels

Some people take life so seriously they’re not able to see the natural humour and joy in what sometimes appear to be hopeless situations.

Students in my training sessions are often surprised with the laughter that accompanies the learning. I tell them that I enjoy what I do and am genuinely happy in sharing what I have learnt. Plus, learning often goes down easier when it’s fun.

A sense of humour is vital to all aspects of life. It doesn’t always involve laughing or being funny, but reflects an acceptance of life in all its weirdness. And you know things can get pretty weird at times.

We all seek out humour and laughter because it’s the one natural cure always available to us for removing boredom, depression or even panic. Laughs are free and don’t require a prescription from a doctor.

Have you laughed at some of your silly little mistakes recently? Try it. It will help you to lighten up and see things more clearly.

It makes good sense to develop and maintain a sense of humour.

How do you claim independence?

s ibisWhile we are happy to get some help from others now and then, we all appreciate independence.

Most people like to know they can help themselves. Life has proved to us that there are very few people on whom we can depend. But life has also shown us that no one is an island. We have to take and give assistance.

Could it be that true independence is being in control of yourself and your habits? If it is, then independence could enable us to break free of those thoughts, words and actions of others that may negatively impact our lives. We may even be able to free ourselves from the slavery to material things.

In today’s world it is easy to be seduced by the promises of an easy life that can be ours without having to make any real effort. There is the “have it now pay later” mentality. What we often forget is that later comes with a heavy price tag.

Systems are set up to keep us tied to the idea that possessions are everything; that our value is linked to how we look and how much stuff we have. With that mindset, can we really claim independence?

We don’t realise how fast we’re going until we hit something

A few weeks ago I walked into a solid glass door. It was thick and it hurt. I was left with a mild concussion.

At the time of the incident I had been working some long hours and no doubt in need of rest. As painful as the bang was, maybe there was something for me to learn, maybe even a warning. Could the glass have been like a mirror? If it was, I had been moving too quickly to see and assess the reflection.

Sharing the news with a friend he made the point that I had been pushing my self a bit too hard and I really needed to have a better balance between work and rest. Advice I’m comfortable giving out, but not often good at taking in.

He said we don’t realise how fast we’re going until we hit something. The force of the impact and the damage done usually indicates the speed at which were moving. That applies equally to travelling in a motor vehicle as to journeying through life.

Surely it’s better to stop voluntarily rather than crash into something.

Growing older and it’s cool

Earlier this month I celebrated a birthday. Feels good to be around. When I was a teenager, the numbers associated with my age today seemed massive. It was like science fiction thinking so far ahead.

Well there’s a lot of science these days and with the internet it is indeed difficult separating fact from fiction, but that’s for another day.

Last week a friend sent me an email about an 87-year-old woman who went back to college to study for the degree she’d always dreamed of getting. You may have come across the email yourself.

When she finally graduated she gave a speech in which she told her fellow graduates that to stay young, happy and successful, you have to laugh and find humour every day. And you’ve got to have a dream.

The elderly woman said there’s a huge difference between growing older and growing up. She said anybody can grow older, that doesn’t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change.

So I had to think. I’m growing older… yes… but am I growing up? Well, I’m working on it.

Speed does not always get the job done

Image035“I just don’t have the time.” When did you last say that to yourself? Last week, yesterday, earlier this morning?

Because we feel time is tight, life becomes a rush as we try to do many things at the same time. Even when we want something to change for the better – perhaps a relationship, our work or our community – we often rush into it with our eyes and minds closed, biting off more than we can chew. Instead of managing the change we are overwhelmed by it. The result? Lots of words and superficial actions, but no improvement.

We don’t know what tomorrow holds. But if today we explore more efficient methods of doing whatever we do; begin learning improved ways of coping; then at least we will be preparing ourselves for whatever comes our way.

Being prepared helps you cope with change, allowing you to respond to unforeseen events with minimum panic and with the determination to succeed.

The world is changing fast, but speed is not always what’s required, often we need to create the time and space to exercise wisdom. And these days wisdom needs the exercise in order to regain health and strength.

Patience can be a powerful act

stand at sunsetIn this fast-paced world, who has the time to wait? There are some people who, if you tell them to be patient, respond as if you had insulted them. But patience is a valuable quality to develop.

A patient mind calmly awaits the unfolding of circumstances, and in that patience, acquires the knowledge and insight to handle situations more effectively. Then, rather than a knee jerk reaction, we act from a position of thought and vision, often leading to better outcomes.

On the other hand, impatience can be like trying to eat unripe fruit. It may satisfy your hunger for a few minutes, but then comes the upset stomach and… well, you know the rest.

Patience reminds us that the world does not revolve around us and our desires; we are part of something larger that has its own timing and flow. If we are patient, we observe the movement of life around us and get a better sense of the right moment to act.

Patience is not about doing nothing, but rather allowing time and space to get yourself together, so that when you do something, it really is something.