Executive Summary: As a manager, it may be often that you run into a situation in which you must do something outside of your comfort zone. Mitigate stress and make this exercise easier for you by practicing uncomfortable and awkward situations every day.
The problem. As a manager of one or a dozen direct reports, it may be once a year, a quarter, or even a week when you need to have that “awkward discussion”. Other events with customers or clients may also generate angst. Some events you may face on a frequent basis which generates a little anxiety include:
- Addressing an attendance problem with an employee
- Conducting a performance review of a direct report
- Terminating an employee
- Announcing an unpopular change in the Company
- Giving a public speech or one to a large group
- Making a presentation
- Being part of a confrontation
These events can be difficult for new managers or even veteran ones.
My story. I’ve been asked to speak at numerous events on construction topics and I am far from the perfect speaker. I used to walk into these events thinking that everyone was looking at me when I because I was the speaker. I still get that way a bit, but now that I’ve done these events more and more I’ve come to realize most people are at this professional meeting to network and socialize with other like folks. Although they’re expecting to hear your presentation, it’s not the sole reason for their attendance and therefore shouldn’t knock you too far off balance. So, now as I walk into these rooms I tell myself “it’s not about you Scott, you’re just one of the reasons they’re here, take it easy”.
Another way I practice maximizing my comfort zone is by providing a small direct compliment to someone, or event some light constructive criticism. A compliment may be on the way someone has their workspace organized or how they deal with a client on the phone. A recent criticism was regarding dishes left in the workplace common area – it’s one thing to leave dishes around at home, but if you’re going to use coffee mugs and plates at work these must be addressed on a daily basis.
You can also practice out in the general public. Compliment the barista on the coffee they made, or tell the salesperson at T.J. Maxx that they’re dressed well today.
Summary. It sounds silly to do these little things, but if you continue on a regular basis to stay just on the outside of the fringe of your comfort zone, it will be that much easier to address larger and more awkward situations when they occur.