When Uncomfortable is Good

Discomfort can be a sign that something is wrong and action is required to fix it. Such is the case when one sits on a porcupine, leans on a hot stove, or accidentally walks in on stranger in the shower. However, there are times when being uncomfortable is a sign that you are finally moving in the right direction. When an individual or organization has grown comfortable and complacent and no longer pushes their boundaries in an effort to improve a little discomfort may be a good thing.

Reluctance to Change

Professional development requires ongoing learning and exploration. Whatever you do and however good you are you still need to push to learn more and be better. Michael Jordon never stopped practicing his free throws, layups or three point shots. Albert Einstein didn’t stop thinking after he won a Nobel prize. So why would anyone ever think that you know everything you need to or can’t get better at what you do? Mechanics can always fix cars more effectively, and there is always something new that needs to be fixed. Accountants are constantly facing new laws and regulations and their client’s businesses are always changing. Programmers face new technologies coming out almost daily that they should be keeping up with in case the next project calls for using them.

Some people go to work thinking only about getting through the day so they can get home. These people are dead weight when your company needs to change and adapt to new circumstances. Changes in the marketplace, disruptive technologies, or low cost competitors from overseas may force you to change change how you do business. New skills and business processes may be required to keep up and get ahead. Acquiring those new skills and moving to those new processes will be uncomfortable for many employees.

Making Discomfort Comfortable

Change is hard. But people can learn to handle change gracefully, and even to push for it. It’s all about framing the context in which change happens. When it is forced upon people, when it increases uncertainty, or when it makes life harder change will meet resistance and often fail to take hold. However, when people are involved in the decision to change, their input is sought out and listened to, when a clear path is laid out, and when it leads to progress and makes life better for people change can create a cycle that positively reinforces itself.

Once you get employees involved in changing a business process or learning new skills and it goes well for them they will start to seek out further changes. Our clients often start out justifiably skeptical of making changes both large and small. However, we generally start out with a few small changes and once they see how well those go they become excited about making further improvements in how they do business. Each successful change encourages the next. Change how you approach change in your organization and the results may create a positive reinforcement cycle for you and your employees.

Kevin Hall
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