The poor Comfort Zone. It's been getting a bad rap for years!
Popular activities for team-building include exercises to help teams think outside the box, workshops that force us outside our comfort zones, seminars are designed to inspire attendees to embrace discomfort in the name of personal growth ... the list goes on.
As with every story, there is more than one side to the tale of the Comfort Zone.
In the zone
When inside a comfort zone, the flight or fight response is significantly reduced, and therefore people can think and act with clear minds and passion in their hearts, because situations aren't clouded with anxiety or fear.
Inside a comfort zone, a person can use all of their energy to be the best version of who they truly are, instead of a mediocre version of what theories and popular culture seems to demand.
The result of this best version of a confident, relaxed and authentic person is an environment where high performance comes very naturally.
For purposes of growth and balance, it is necessary for everyone to move to a place of discomfort every now and then, with the focus on "every now and then".
When exposure to experiences outside ones comfort zone occurs in an environment where time and risk can be managed, and expectations are proactively communicated, the experiences can lead to high learning, which is why pushing the boundaries of ones comfort zone is so popular.
Very simply, my point is this:
Bringing learnings from outside of the comfort zone together with high performance inside of the comfort zone makes for authentic personal and professional growth.
No workshops, no seminars, no exercises necessary.
Imagine if all workplaces had the privilege of ensuring during the recruitment stage to select team members with a perfectly balanced team of strength profiles that accommodate the weaknesses of others. A team that moves comfortably in and between a variety of comfortable skill sets, sensitivity levels, and life experiences.
Imagine if leaders had the skills to guide their teams on the weaving journey between high performance and new experiences.
Imagine if we all had the confidence to feel comfortable with feeling comfortable, and not fear the discomfort that goes hand in hand with growth.
With the MASSIVE changes that struck business in recent years, it is incredibly important that business leaders learn to be comfortable - and teach their people to be comfortable - with moving in and out of comfort zones. It is one of the most important skills needed to WIN! in the new game of business.
Back in 2013 for my company year end function we went glass blowing. What an experience! I expected to be forced outside of my comfort zone (and have fun at the same time) but I did not expect a valuable leadership cliché to be proven during our session.
At one point during our glass blowing workshop the facilitator wanted us to attempt a technique without showing us the ropes first. My initial reaction was to let one of the others go first, as my personal habit is to observe first and learn from the mistakes others make. However, the team was quick to voice their preference that I go first.
I realised then that ‘leading from the front’ does not allow for a personal culture of perfection and saving face. It implies getting dirty and even potentially losing face.
As explained on a military forum: “In times of great chaos someone must remain sane to steady the group and drive [the group] through the point of friction. This is the job of all leaders of all ranks.”
Leaders must embrace risks and accept discomfort in order to create and maintain an environment for their team in which the team members can safely explore, ask questions, experiment and learn. The face to be saved is that of the team, not that of the leader.
Nelson Mandela perfectly described the only time a leader can afford to lead from the back. “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”
A few photos from the day ... and yes, that's me with darker, longer hair ;-)
Business success isn’t only reserved for large corporations with seemingly unlimited budgets. There are countless stories of small businesses that have grown to incredible heights simply by treating customers in a way that made them want to share their experience with family, friends, colleagues and on social media and encourage them to try it for themselves.
Customer experience can no longer be treated as an afterthought delegated to a single department. It has to be central to the entire organisation as it is a key ingredient to being exceptional: one of the four fundamentals of winning in the new game of business.
Exceptional organisations offer products or services that exceed all industry averages and customer expectations. Having a great product or service is however only one dimension of delighting customers.
With all the options they have available these days, customers simply don’t want to work hard to figure out how to give you their money. They don’t only want exceptional products and services; they want to deal with organisations in a way that is easy, efficient and memorable for all the right reasons. This is the second dimension of customer experience.
The third dimension is the "what else" bit. The over-and-above part of the entire experience that changes it from acceptable to memorable. This is where organisations can be really creative.
Great customer experience isn’t just something that happens – it has to be designed. Exceptional organisations pay at least as much attention to designing the customer experience as they do designing products and services – often even more.
A well-designed customer experience is an incredibly valuable business growth tool that keeps customers coming back and bringing others with them.
The four questions any business of any size in any industry must ask when it designs its unique customer experience are:
It was rainy.
It was a Monday morning.
One of the kids' last clean pair of school pants had a hole that needed mending NOW, eating into the precious minutes of a highly orchestrated morning routine.
But it was still OK.
And then I found that all my gym clothes seem to have made their way to the "next load of laundry" pile.
Enough legit excuses to skip gym 🎉🎉🎉
Except for a mantra from purpose proponent Richard Wright that popped into my head to ask: "How much do you want it?"
And that's how I ended up at the gym in an old scruffy pair of jodphurs left over from my horse riding days.
Winning in business requires constant innovation, and innovation rarely starts with having or buying "the right" equipment/tools/tech.
Innovation is all about using what you already know and have and applying it in a way that it might not have been intended or designed for.
"I can't get a loan."
"I'm not tech savvy."
"My employees/colleagues don't want to change."
"Our customers like it the way it is."
"How much do you want it?"
Our internal reward system drives us to do what we like to do. What we need to do to fulfill our chosen purpose is however not always what we like to do. That’s why it’s so important to plug our “purpose fulfilling activities” into routines; behaviors driven by habit, not by choice.
My morning routine sets me up to WIN according to my chosen purpose: making success simpler for my fellow business leaders.
To fulfill this purpose, I need to have enough mental, emotional and physical energy available. The problem with this is that I don’t like any of the healthy habits that secures the necessary energy!
If I choose to do only what I like every day, I will never end up where it is I’ve set out to go. And if I choose what to do only what I need every day, I’ll eventually run out of willpower.
So instead of having to choose between what I like and what I need every day, I’ve built the things I need to do to fulfill my chosen purpose into a simple morning routine: wake up when alarm tells me to, drop the kids off at school, do about 40 minutes of weightlifting at the gym, and chug down a protein shake as soon as I get home.
Whatever I then do during the rest of the day takes care of what I need to do in the short term to fulfill my chosen purpose, like running my company, taking care of clients and colleagues, and securing new opportunities.
Routines connected to purpose are powerful tools for helping us do things that will reward us over the long term. But routines not connected to purpose are powerful tools for keeping us doing things that give us a false sense of control and security.
Which routines are helping you to WIN in business and which routines are just keeping you busy?
Hi Juanita, I want you to show me how to
Do you remember what life was like right before you received the message that confirmed your appointment as executive? Or before you started your own business? Or before you took over the family business?
Opportunities lay ahead like an orchard of fruit trees ripe for the picking and everything that frustrated you about your career up to that point seemed like it was finally going to change for the better. Right?
If your journey was similar to that of most business leaders, that feeling only lasted for about a year or two. Leading a business does not become easier the longer you do it, even though you become better at doing it.
New levels of complexity arise as a business matures, often forcing business leaders to work on "busyness" - or in the business - rather than working on the business.
It's easy to spend unlimited time reacting to things others highlight as urgent or important.
It's much harder to figure out how to get - and stay - on top of the things that will truly influence the sustained profitable growth of a business: purpose, products, processes and progress.
Turn PURPOSE into profit
To be able to effectively choose where to spend time, effort and resources it is of utmost importance that business leaders understand what the core purpose of their organisation is.
Running a business to sell it requires a completely different approach than growing it for long-term success. If the purpose is to grow the business then the owner or appointed executive (CEO or MD) need to be crystal clear on:
Knowing the answers to these three questions will help any business leader to make decisions based simply on the test of "will this move us towards or away from our core purpose?".
Have PRODUCTS for "now" while planning for "new"
The products and services offered by a business should not just align to its core purpose; it should also be hyper-relevant in a fast-changing world.
Business leaders have to keep an eye on developments across various markets to stay ahead of the curve. Being too busy maintaining the current offering and making no time for exploring (or assigning and monitoring) product or service innovation is a massive risk for any business.
As leader you've got to become highly skilled at making sure the business earns "now" money while simultaneously preparing to generate "new" money.
And of course, the process of buying these products and services should be as frictionless as possible for clients.
Let your PROCESSES serve them, not just you
A fantastic product that can only be bought through a cumbersome process will always be under threat. The buying process must be designed to delight the customer. Too many processes seem to serve only the convenience of the business.
In a world filled to the brim with options, customers will often buy something that might be a little bit inferior but a lot more convenient for them to buy.
Just because a buying process exists doesn't mean it should be left to carry on. Continuous process improvement must remain high on the proactive priority list of any business leader.
Chase only the PROGRESS that matters
Progress in either products/services or processes should not be allowed to just sprout and grow in any direction. It should be strategically driven by the business leader in a direction and pace that supports the financial, social and brand purpose of the business.
Progress for the sake of it often ends up just increasing the busyness of the business leader, rather than the business they need to be working on.
The approach to successfully on top of these elements for sustainable profitable growth is contained in the "Staying in the Helicopter®" programme.
It is presented across the world exclusively by Juanita Vorster and Roger Harrop and has to date enabled more than 30,000 business leaders to carve paths of success in a business world that has undergone enormous change in the last decade, with lots more change predicted to come.
Digital Marketing agency founder and former financial journalist Jonathan Faurie interviewed Juanita Vorster about her experience as female entrepreneur and motivational business speaker.
Links to individual questions:
Alex MacPhail interviews Juanita Vorster
This is the transcript of Episode 5 from a post-pandemic business series requested by a South African radio station. The recording is available here.
The type and quality of employees can make or break any business. As business leaders we often make the mistake of thinking we can only get the right people if we offer the biggest salaries. While people do indeed want to be paid well, they also want a number of other things to make work worth their while.
Firstly, your employees want to know what their specific roles are and what success looks like. It is your job as business leader to make sure that every person in your business knows what you expect them to do, how you expect them to do it and how what they do contributes to the overall success of the business. Don’t just leave it up to a line manager or HR person or the employees themselves to figure out.
The second thing your employees want to see is their co-workers disciplined if they step out of line. Disciplining employees is one of the hardest things any business leader has to learn how to do well but a management style that is too soft can foster an unethical workplace culture and create feelings of resentment in employees that stay within the rules.
So it is incredibly important to balance strong inspirational leadership by the will and skill to appropriately discipline employees.
Employees also want praise.
While everyone doesn’t do the same work, or everyone’s work doesn’t have the same direct impact on the business, everyone wants to know that their efforts are recognised. In business we often leave praise for big milestones … signing a new deal, delivering on a big contract, exceeding annual targets … where the type of praise employees want is often for smaller achievements.
As a business leader you set the tone for the culture of who receives praise for what. It costs nothing to send someone a note to say “good job on writing that tough email” or “that’s a brilliant idea, well done!”. In a workplace where the leader is generous with praise, employees thrive and are more willing to consistently give their best efforts.
And people want to give their best efforts without being micro-managed. If you give someone autonomy you’re saying to them “it doesn’t matter how inexperienced you are, I trust you to do the best you can and I will guide you when you get stuck”. It doesn’t mean that you let go of doing all the usual checks and balances, but it does mean that the responsibility for quality work is shared.
Employees also be impressed by their boss. As a business leader you have to consistently live the values of the organisation. You have to be honest about your shortcomings and about when you need assistance. And you have to always strive to do better … not to have something to brag about, but to lead by example.
Lastly, employees want to be part of a winning organisation. They want to know about the small steps of progress as well as about the big wins. They want to feel that they have helped achieved something bigger than just their own tasks. So remember to regularly share updates about the business’ progress with every employee and make sure that everyone knows how their work is contributing to it.
This is the transcript of Episode 4 from a post-pandemic business series requested by a South African radio station. The recording is available here.
Many small business owners started the business because they were really good at doing what the business does and keeping customers happy. Keeping customers happy will increase the chances of their return business and might even result in them telling others to buy from you. While this is the best way to generate business, in my experience just doing good work is not enough to bring in new customers.
Businesses also have to constantly find and sell to potential new customers. For small businesses this might mean that the owner has to be great at doing and selling. For larger businesses it means that the leader has to ensure that those employed to sell don’t just keep on selling to existing or past customers, but also actively works at identifying, researching and connecting with potential new customers.
There are so many sales training and marketing videos available for free online that it can feel a little overwhelming. So here’s a few simple things to get you going:
Start with thinking who might need what you offer. Think about what they read, which social media groups they consult, etc and make sure you have an active presence there. For example, if your target audience is moms with small children, they most probably spend quite a bit of time on Instagram. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a fan of social media or not; if your customers are on there, and you’re not, you’re missing out on an easy way to remain top of their minds.
If your target audience is more professional, then you have to be active on Linkedin and most probably have a website that they could find everything they need to know about you and what you offer.
Your sales efforts will be a lot easier if you contact people that have already spent time online with your brand. Similarly, even if your first personal contact didn’t turn into a sale, that person might go follow you online and turn into a sale later.
So what do people want to hear or see when you sell to them? They want to know less about what the product is, and more about what it can do for them.
Which means every message you post online, every piece of wording on your website, every sales email you write and sales call you make has to immediately answer their question “how does this help me?”.
Saying you’re the best isn’t enough anymore. You’ve got to know your potential customers so well that you know what their needs are. A phone call or social media post saying “We see many home owners in your area struggle with termites over the past month, and they’ve trusted us to keep their properties damage free” will go down much better than a call or post saying “We do pest control”.
Spend time and effort researching your potential customers, and spend time and effort crating messages that will address their needs, not your awesomeness.
Make sure you follow up with customer queries as soon as you can. On social media, it should be almost instant.
Once you’ve closed a sales deal, make sure your processes and people are geared to do everything they can to offer top quality products and services in a way that delights the customer. There is nothing worse than creating high expectations during the sales process only to have those expectations shattered when it comes to getting or using what was promised.
Marketing and sales require quite a bit of effort and that’s why many businesses don’t give it enough attention, but think about it this way: as business owner or leader your number one priority should be finding and keeping customers that buy from you, otherwise you don’t have a business, you’re just someone that can make a product or offer a service.
Only once when there are customers does it become necessary to make the product or offer the service.