We have a comfort crisis in our organizations.
We’re not having the kinds of conversations at work that bring out the best in our collective performance. We’re not having them with our employees, our bosses, or each other. Surprisingly, these are not the conversations highlighting positive reinforcement – those are very needed as well (keep having them) – but they don’t move the needle in the same way deep, disruptive, made-you-think conversations and feedback do. We are having fewer and fewer of these necessary conversations at work.
Why? Because it’s uncomfortable.
Social media fills our heads with the many achievable ways we can craft our lives to meet not just our needs, but overcome vulnerability; attending to our desired level of emotional and physical comfort. The perfect 15-minute work-out for your body type (because 30 minutes might take too long). The best way to organize your home based on your life style (so everything is in finger-tip reach). I can have meals delivered to my door that make me feel I’m living my best life without the distress of learning how to cook them (or at the very least, having to shop for the ingredients).
We now have ways to make our lives predictably comfortable in many dimensions. There is a “hack” for everything; there’s no need to suffer a moment of unnecessary discomfort. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating anyone deny themselves pleasure in life, we need it (now more than ever). But somewhere along the way we (as a society) decided that feeling vulnerable, uncomfortable or unsettled was “bad” and to be avoided. This is having an adverse effect on employee experience, AND organizational performance.
In our workplaces, there is now an unmistakable aversion to disrupting the thinking of others (or ourselves). We value comfort so much that we don’t initiate the constructive, disruptive conversations needed to ensure our teams and organizations are high-functioning. Yet, without this valuable skill, teams and organizations are at risk of group-think, mediocrity and stale judgement. And that deeply impacts individual performance as well as the performance of teams… all of which hit the bottom line of company performance in hidden, but intrusive ($$$), ways.
What exactly does this call on us to do more, and less, of at work (particularly as leaders)? Here’s a list to get you started (it’s not exhaustive – add to it based on your experience):
Contrary to belief, open conversations that invite debate don’t take that long (5-10 minutes is usually all it takes). But it does take courage, and this is perhaps where we lose heart in doing this more consistently in our organizations today. People doubt their own ability to debate well (and not make a career-limiting move or create personal conflict). When it’s not modeled for them by their leaders, or believed to have useful impact to the organization, then it’s just too risky to try.
Stepping purposefully into constructive discomfort is a skill. One that is needed at every level in our organizations today. How are your skills progressing in this area? What are the benefits to your career, and organization, in getting a little less comfortable?
Carleen helped me find the right ways to support healthy conflict on my team. Through her coaching I've re-ignited my passion in being a leader AND my team is growing because of their excellence."
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I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.