Most people live their day to day lives in their comfort zone. The warm and comfortable area of our lives where decisions are easy and we know the output of our actions.

In the comfort zone we achieve little learning and it can be easy to be drawn in to patterns of behaviour. In a work environment this can result in the ‘we’ve always done it that way’ response to potential change. Which we know can be the barrier to business growth.

Equally, when in the panic zone we aren’t able to learn and develop as we are too preoccupied with fear and being busy. Running around like a headless chicken may feel productive at the time, but taking a few steps back can help you witness the energy you are wasting. Being in the panic zone is exhausting. The feeling of treading water but never quite being able to get your head above water. This isn’t a zone we want, or can, be in for very long if we want to be successful.

So in order to develop and grow we strive to push ourselves into the stretch zone. It is a little uncomfortable and at times we will try and avoid it. This is the zone when you can experience new things. Being aware of where your zones are can help you push yourself at times when comfort has become the norm.

In each of the three zones you have a physical reaction to the situation. When in the comfort zone your heart rate can slow, this increases in your stretch zone and when in full panic zone mode heart rate can be high, plans sweaty and breathing shallow. These physical reactions can help identify the different zones in yourself, but more importantly in your teams. Understanding what each zone looks like for your team members can help you develop and stretch them.

As with many things, all people have different comfort, stretch and panic zones and equally at different times in your life these zones will change.

Thinking back to when I began my career, I can identify times when my panic zone has become my stretch zone and when my stretch zone has become comfort. As my career has developed I have had to learn new skills and acquire new knowledge, both of which have altered these zones as I have developed.

My previous work based panic zones have included picking up the phone to clients, facilitating board meetings, running training sessions and challenging senior leaders. Most of these now sit within the comfort zone but they are never 100% comfortable because they aren’t fully under my control.

It’s natural to want to push these panic zones away. Avoid them where possible and let someone else handle them. But starting with small steps can make these big scary panic zones more manageable. Overcoming challenges in your panic zone can be extremely satisfying. Particularly if you have been making excuses for not tackling them for some time.

Working on things in your panic zone can be physically exhausting. You want to tackle only one thing at a time or you will loose site of what you are trying to achieve.

Once you have conquered some things in your panic zone, your stretch zone has grown. Tackling some areas of your stretch zone can grow your comfort zone.

Take the example of learning to drive a car. For some the initial lessons can be extremely scary. Once you are more comfortable driving learning the nuances of being on the road is a challenge, feels uncomfortable but you have control of your breathing and will want to run away less. By the time you pass your test and have been driving for even as little a a few months, the process can move into the comfort zone. This is the zone when you aren’t even thinking about the movements you make whilst you drive.

What examples can you think of when you have taken something from your panic zone to comfort zone? Draw out the diagram and highlight what feelings you have in each zone. Then identity what applies to each zone for you right now. This is equally a good tool to use with your teams. Identifying who can support and develop each other in the team will help you build a cohesive, strong team.

Looking for tools to use with your teams to identify and develop strong cohesive teams? NJD People Consulting can support you with this. Contact us now for a free consultation.

If you like what you've read give it a share...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someone

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *