Avoid The Comfort Of Being Average
November 28, 2022
Many of us have a natural tendency to focus on what we are comfortable doing and avoid anything that feels difficult and uncomfortable. This attitude is particularly true in workplaces. People tend to play safe, shying away from anything that feels challenging even though they know in their hearts that they must do it.
Some typical examples come to mind.
- Everyone acknowledges that improving communication skills is essential to be more effective at the workplace. However, only a few people invest time and effort in developing capability in different aspects of communication. Most just go with the flow in the vain hope that they will improve naturally.
- When people start out in sales organizations, they learn about the products, basic sales techniques, objection handling, feature benefit analysis, etc. However, with time, they don’t upgrade themselves. They get stuck being at the same level as when they started out.
- In the earlier era, having a social presence was optional for career progression. Today it is an absolute must. However, people think putting out the occasional post will make them socially visible. As a result, they don’t invest time and effort in building a social profile built on creating original content that resonates with others.
In the workplace, when looking at skills and capabilities, we usually learn just enough to become competent, to the point where we can claim that we are skillful, and then we become lazy. As we become proficient at some aspect of this skill, usually one that comes easily to us, we tend to practice only that repeatedly while avoiding practicing those aspects where we are weak. Many other facets need attention, but we keep focussing on what feels comfortable and what makes us feel competent. In concentrating on the easy, while avoiding the difficult aspects of the skill where we are less competent, our skill becomes lopsided. We are good in some parts but weak in other facets of the skill.
Take an example of a salesperson: Making a sales pitch is an essential first step. Of course, many people develop some level of mastery in this. However, to be an exceptional sales talent, keeping track of market trends, developing deep domain expertise, improving negotiation skills, etc., are all necessary competencies everyone must develop.
Unfortunately, because developing domain expertise or improving negotiation skills is more complicated than making a simple sales pitch, the “average” salesperson keeps focussing on that aspect that makes him feel competent- doing a great sales pitch. Also, because we gain some proficiency in the easy part of selling, i.e., making the sales pitch, the average salesperson develops a blind spot of overestimating their overall competence.
So, how do we avoid getting stuck and developing skills and capabilities consistently?
It is a three-step process.
1. Seek Feedback: Reach out to mentors, colleagues, and people you think are experts in the particular skill and seek feedback. What am I missing? What skills and competencies must I work on developing? These will most likely be the areas of weakness you have been avoiding unconsciously.
2. Practise Deliberately: Once you become aware of the specific aspects of the skill that you are weak on, you invest in deliberate practice. Instead of avoiding what feels uncomfortable, you dive right in and work on developing yourself in a focused way. Set aside time to focus on improvement. Many people don’t realize this. When you’re really focused on something, you can rapidly improve.
3. Repeat the cycle: Seek feedback on whether you are improving or not. Sometimes the feedback can come from the task itself, where you will know whether you have improved. Other times, it can come from others.
If you are interested in becoming more skillful at whatever you are doing, ask yourself this question.
Every day, am I intentionally investing time and focus in developing capability in areas where I know I am weak?
When it comes to skills and competencies, you can improve only when you focus on aspects you know you are weak in. Then, embrace the discomfort and deliberately practice. This is the only way !!
Success has to do with deliberate practice. Practice must be focused, determined, and in an environment where there’s feedback.Malcolm Gladwell