Get Out Of Your Comfort To Be Safe
January 19, 2020
I thought I was in a great place. 3 consecutive years of consistent growth and delivering on my business objectives. My supervisor was very happy with the way I was managing my business. I was looking forward to my elevation as a MD.
The promotion never came. I was passed over. I was crestfallen. What made it worse, 2 of my closest colleagues who were also great friends made the cut. I don’t remember what made it worse , the fact that I did not get the break or that my friends got it ahead of me 🙂
In large organisations , promotions at senior levels are public affairs. The whole organisation watches the spectacle and this was a bigger cause of shame. Now everyone knew what a failure I was !!.
Deeply hurt and embarrassed I reached out to my supervisor.
“You have been rating me positively. You have also told me that I am doing well against my objectives. How could you not recommend me for the promotion.”
My boss was a straight shooter, who I trusted- “Results are not the only criteria. For you to get into a MD role, You need to become more visible, you need to develop gravitas, improve your leadership communication , Improve your executive presence and stature, you are not ready. You have to develop these skills”
Overnight, my world had turned upside down. At around the age of 38 , I was told that I needed to work on my executive presence, communication skills etc. How do I do that?
I had entered the room all indignant and ready to take it up with my boss. I was in denial.
When I came out of his room, I knew in my heart that the feedback he gave me was valid. I had got stuck into a comfort zone and I had stopped growing. All those instances where I let myself down flashed in my mind, vividly.
“The meetings with the global CEO- Why make myself visible to the CEO. What if I make a mistake- What if he asks questions I can’t answer satisfactorily? Better keep quiet and be safe”
” The 2 or 3 instances where stretch leadership assignments were up for grabs and I refused to put my hand up . Let me just focus on the comfort of delivering on my objectives”
” The business reviews where I had an opportunity to take on stretch objectives which I did not “
“That’s a new business, I don’t know whether it will work or not. My boss wants me to manage that. I don’t want to give up my current business I have built-I’ll pass”
There was no doubt I was playing small, thinking that I was comfortable and deceptively safe.
How badly mistaken I was. Paradoxically, the comfort zone was actually not a safe zone. I had equated comfort with safety. The shock of not getting promoted was a catalyst that spurred me get out of the slumber of comfort zone, to go out and do stuff I had never done before. I entered the Safe zone when I started stretching myself personally , learning new skills, taking on different assignments.
- I subdued my ego, joined Toastmasters to improve my presentation and communication skills.
- I overcame my natural diffidence to take up stretch assignments and invested time in making myself visible.
- I got into a learning mode. I sought mentors to guide in in matters like executive presence and gravitas.
It was a matter of time. I secured the promotion that eluded me earlier.
That experience taught me one of my most important life lessons- “That riskiest thing one can do is to play it safe”. I have learnt it the hard way. Everyone else does not have to!!
One Reply to “Get Out Of Your Comfort To Be Safe”
Great line of thought to heading into the week. Keep up the good work with the articles Mr. Pramod, hugely beneficial 👍