As a business leader, you may already possess ideal traits, such as assertiveness, adaptability and conscientiousness. But perhaps you’ve noticed that you’re lacking in other areas in which you could become a better leader. The first step is to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Below, eight members of Young Entrepreneur Council share their best tips on how to step outside your comfort zone.
1. Take Initiative In Group Meetings
Being a naturally reserved person, having a leadership role has forced me to take more initiative in group settings, whether it is with brainstorming, planning or project reviews. I’ve realized that a leader can set a collaborative tone within the group that encourages discussion and improvement. Being a group leader in no way means you have to be (or should be) “right” about every company decision. It’s about making the whole of your team greater than the sum of its parts. Taking more initiative has improved my leadership skills by making me a more proactive leader, as opposed to a reactive one. Proactive leadership allows for growth through new opportunity identification and improved risk identification, both of which can reduce or eliminate the impact of future problems. – Charles Bogoian, Kenai Sports
2. Address Failure
Failure is always uncomfortable, and as a leader, you need to address failure. Whether it’s a business idea that doesn’t take off, a new hire that doesn’t work out or an external factor, the fact is that sometimes failures happen. As a leader, you need to understand the failure, address the failure and create a solution to the failure. This sometimes takes a lot of humility because it can be difficult to acknowledge and accept failure, but it truly is the only way in which you can grow professionally and as a leader. – Brian David Crane, Caller Smart Inc.
3. Have The Difficult Conversations
Don’t shy away from uncomfortable conversations; instead, hit them head-on. In my family, conflict happens and no one talks about it. We pretend nothing ever happened and move on. This is not a healthy approach, and I wanted something different in our company culture, so I address difficult conversations. If I’m feeling uncomfortable before talking, I am sure others are, too, but it is far better to hit the topics head-on and be able to move forward. – Marjorie Adams, Fourlane
4. Have The Courage To Make Tough Decisions
Having to make decisions that everyone isn’t excited about is the tough job of a leader. When it comes time to be a true leader, there will be uncomfortable moments where a decision is made that you know will upset staff or customers. Perhaps, this decision is rooted in the information that not everyone has access to or is one you are choosing that better serves the business’s long-term goals instead of short-term wins. All of these are hard to see from the outside. I found that being able to still make these decisions has turned me into a far stronger leader. If we did what was easy, everyone would lead. It comes down to accepting this fate and choosing to learn from it instead of living in avoidance. – Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.
5. Never Stop Learning
One of my early freelance gigs involved copywriting. I got the gig writing about fitness-related topics because I already had a lot of fitness knowledge from personal experience. However, my employer switched from a fitness focus to tech, which was a topic that was much less familiar to me. This drove me to learn everything I could about this new niche and obtain more experience, which informed my writing in a similar way to my fitness content. After that, I had to do even more research when my employer shifted focus again and again, helping me learn to always stay on my toes and never stop learning. This is what eventually led me to discover a new niche and go into business for myself, and it has taught me how to effectively pivot to meet changing industry trends. – Bryce Welker, CPA Exam Guy
6. Give And Receive Feedback
I have historically avoided uncomfortable conversations, which has meant underperforming team members were either unaware or suffering in silence. Several times, this led to us losing an employee who could have been an incredible contributor had I just spent the time coaching, developing and guiding them through their struggles. I still get a little sick to my stomach when I have to have a tough conversation, but I’ve gotten a lot better. My strategy is to get into a true mindset of collaboration before every conversation. How can I use the dialog to 1) support the other person’s success, 2) help myself become more successful and 3) help our company achieve our mission. This makes the conversation an imperative — something I can’t get out of! – Saloni Doshi, Eco Enclose, LLC
7. Be Vulnerable
When I was starting out, I was shy because English was my second language and I spoke with a heavy Polish accent that people would sometimes laugh at. I knew I had to become a public speaker, gain trust and become an expert in order to grow my audience. What I failed to realize is that being open, honest and using my accent to my advantage would be a key to growing my audience. My vulnerability with an audience was obvious: English was my second language, and it endeared me to audiences immediately. I was able to deliver addresses and my message was heard. My message was heard at first because of my accent, not in spite of it. Becoming comfortable in your discomfort can be an asset when you can be vulnerable with an audience. This has made a huge impact on my leadership style and legacy. – Matthew Capala, Alphametic
8. Delegate Tasks Not In Your Skill Set
Being a leader has forced me to get very comfortable with one thing I abhor: delegating. I was always brought up on the mantra, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” While that may have worked when I was working independently, it only causes hindrances as a leader. When I first took my position as Executive Director, I tried to manage everything. I wanted to be at every meeting, help with every project and take on tasks that weren’t in my skill set — all for the sake of doing it myself. I quickly realized that would only lead to burnout and resentment from my team. Instead, I chose to hire experts for each job in my organization. These professionals are so skilled that they tell me what to do. I’m able to focus on my work, my team’s output has increased ten-fold, and we rely on each other. – Ashley Sharp, Dwell with Dignity