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Is "social norming" aka "comfort zone" prevalent in your organization?

According to wiki-pedia comfort zone is a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person and they are at ease and in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxietyand stress.

However according to most experts, our success is dependent on us being able to step out of our comfort zone into the optimal zone.

David Sandler of the famous Sandler sales method suggests that most people will not step out of their comfort zone for many reasons.

-Fear (of the unknown, failure, etc.)

-Time (It takes time to see results).

-Money (It might costs money to make changes).

-OPO (other people’s opinion).

-Safer, etc.

However nobody has ever achieved real success, never mind greatness without willing to step out their comfort zone.

Many organizations have folded and became history because of the fear of change!

Think Kodak! Brick and Mortar retailers! Toys r us, etc.

Remember Telegrams? Telex? Typewriters? Even soon to become extinct, the Fax???

These are all examples of companies that were afraid to challenge the status quo aka stepping out of the comfort zone.

So what are some steps leaders should be doing in order not to become history and to stay relevant in their market.

I recently hear from a CFO friend that in McKinsey there is something called the “obligation to dissent”.

As a consultant, that’s almost my “claim to fame”.

It’s inevitable that companies have “sacred cows” or “untouchables”. Those need to be examined and evaluated otherwise it becomes the “social norm”.

The best story I heard about social norm is about this couple that gets married and the wife wants to impress him with her cooking skills (or in today’s world, maybe the other way around ;). So she goes out and buys 2 nice large steaks (or if they don’t eat meat, maybe fish ;) and while preparing, the husband sees that she cutting off all 4 corners. When he asks her, why? She replies, well that’s how my mother does it.

Finally, one day the mother-in-law invites them for a sit down meal and lo behold the husband sees that the 4 corners are cut off.

He very (very) politely asks, “Mother, why do you cut off the 4 corners”? And she says, well because that’s how my mother does it.

He couldn’t wait for grandma to invite them so he can ask her why. The day came when they’re invited and as expected the 4 corners were cut off.

Now grandma still lived in her very old apartment with a tiny kitchen and few utensils.

So being extra sensitive and thoughtful, he respectfully says “Grandma, wow! What a delicious meal from this small kitchen”. Can I ask you a question, sure she answers.

Why was the meat cut on all 4 corners?

In her accented English she answers, Mein son, you see mein pots are small and the meat doesn’t fit in the pot, so I have to cut the corners so it should fit!!!

If leadership isn’t willing to be challenged then their teams will learn not challenge the status quo.

While I was serving as a Vistage chair, my mentor Bob Duncan taught me “We don’t always have answers to your questions, but we always have questions to your answers”.

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