Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Comfort Zones

“Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” This disclaimer is no doubt familiar to anyone who has ever invested in a mutual fund. When I saw this disclaimer the other day, I thought about my clients and the discussion we often have about Comfort Zones. I've also written an article* devoted to this important concept published in the November (2010) issue of the Supply Chain Quarterly Magazine.

You likely arrived in your current position on the back of some real assets, like your ability to get into the details or make quick, effective judgments. Now let’s assume your responsibilities significantly increase. Perhaps you’ve become the CEO of a much larger company or the president of a global division with international range and scope. Will doing what you’ve always done, in the same way be a successful strategy now? Most likely, the answer is no. You need to avoid the trap of falling back into your comfort zones. To do this, you must be self aware and willing to adjust your approach.

As responsibilities increase with your changing role, it’s easy to confuse a strength with a liability. This is especially true under pressure. Behavior that may have served you well in the past may not be appropriate in your new higher level position. When you lead from the top you must work through a team of senior leaders who represent you, extend your reach and give you leverage. The behavior you want to rely upon to lead senior officers is different (in important ways) from the leadership behavior you used when you were one of those senior officers. This is probably the number one cause of CEO failure and there are examples of this in the business press every day.

This “Comfort Zone Trap” is not just a bad habit. It can be a fatal flaw. As you evaluate your own leadership style, you might look for this trap as a real opportunity to improve. 

*Read my article:  Are Supply Chain Leaders Ready for the Top?

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