Learn to be "comfortable with being uncomfortable".

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

Inevitably two or three months into their new job, after the raw enthusiasm had worn off, I would often hear something along these lines, "Now that I am getting into the new job, I'm starting to realize everything I don't know; it makes me feel a little uncomfortable." *

With a "big knowing smile", I would always respond the same way, "Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable." And then I would proceed to explain what I meant.

The first part of the conversation would focus on the technical process that comes with people development, and I would use "Situational Leadership" as the model for understanding. Situational Leadership was developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, and is a wonderful leadership model (and framework) that articulates the leadership style most appropriate for the various stages of an individual's (or team's) development. See Ken's website.

Development Stage 1: Low Competence, High Commitment. (S1 Leadership: Directing)

Development Stage 2: Low/Some Competence, Low Commitment. (S2 Leadership: Coaching)

Development Stage 3: Moderate/High Competence, Variable Commitment. (S3 Leadership: Supporting)

Development Stage 4: High Competence/High Commitment. (S4 Leadership: Delegating)

I found this part of the conversation very effective, particularly with the Y Generation as it re-enforced there was "in fact" a development plan in place, what it was, how it worked, allowed for discussion and outlined the milestones for progress. I re-enforced that "being uncomfortable" was natural and in fact a good thing - The process of learning new things invariably makes you feel uncomfortable.

The conversation would continue with long term goals, aspirations and success; we would then get to the heart of what I meant by saying, "Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable." Learning and development, both professionally and personally, are constant endeavours and needed for continued success - You need to get comfortable with this. The comfort with being uncomfortable is the indicator you are pointed in the right direction.

I have refined this conversation over the years, and in one form or another, have had it with every person I've had the privilege to manage and lead; no doubt some discussions better than others, and not all came with that "big knowing smile". 

This "big knowing smile" I refer to was saved for those who have the self-awareness to broach being uncomfortable in the first place... not because it makes it easier to start the development discussion, but because self awareness is another indicator of long term success.

As I look back on the people I had the "big knowing smile conversation" with, this does seem to be the case.


* A compilation of the "being uncomfortable" comments I have heard over the years.