THE STRETCH ZONE – Real Conversations & Cultural Credibility

Over a period of a few years I had the pleasure of working within a professional services environment doing skills development work around partnering and consulting amongst highly educated scientists.

Fundamental to what was holding these outstanding people back within the realm of relationship management was the observation that they were just too nice, a culture of politeness, a comfort zone.

While on the one hand theirs was a culture of respect, on the other hand there was a culture of politeness where people were just too nice – avoiding the real conversations their relationships depended upon.

When it becomes a cultural norm to avoid the stretch zone of real conversations, we unintentionally co-create a culture of questionable credibility. Cultural credibility, amongst other things, depends on the extent to which we express respect through our confidence in ourselves and others to have the real, yet difficult conversations.

Question: To what extent does your organisation’s culture reflect a comfort zone of polite avoidance or a stretch zone of respectful engagement addressing the real issues through real conversations?


THE STRETCH ZONE – Building, Boosting & Acting Confident

Following a recent blog post about the STRETCH ZONE Sara kindly got in touch reflecting her need ‘to boost her confidence’ at times when under pressure – just like everyone else.

No different to the rest of us, when under pressure to achieve beyond our COMFORT ZONE, we typically speak about the need to build, boost and act more confident – not recognising the conditioned assumption.

When we build, boost or act more confident what we’re really doing is projecting a façade of pseudo-confidence over suppressed fear and doubt – and it seldom lasts and is rarely convincing.

Language about building, boosting and acting confident reveals an underlying assumption that confidence is something we lack and need to learn and acquire. Confidence is not something we lack, it is our natural state, an imminent potential within – and rather than manufacturing what is already there it is better to channel our efforts and energy differently to where they matter most.

Question: When under pressure to what extent do you subscribe to the idea of boosting confidence over suppressed fear and doubt – and what is the effect on your performance and potential?


THE STRETCH ZONE – Confidence & Stereotypes

Entwined within the fabric of our hurry-up, action-orientated and results-driven world it is not surprising that our assumptions about confidence under pressure so often reflect a stereotypical idea.

Entangled within our conditioned paradigm is the stereotypical idea associating confidence with the outspoken, action-orientated, results-driven personality, apparently to the exclusion of others.

Stereotyping confidence in this way quietly spoken, reflective, people-focused individuals often exclude confidence as an option for themselves by virtue of their personality.

Experience demonstrates that outspoken, results-driven, hurry-ups seek help with their confidence under pressure no less than their quietly spoken, reflective, people-centred counterparts. Confidence is not limited by personality, it only looks and sounds different. And difference does not mean absence.

Question: What stereotypical ideas do you hold about confidence and what is the effect on your potential under the pressure of THE STRETCH ZONE?


THE STRETCH ZONE – Worrier or Warrior

When coaching within a leadership development context I so often find myself saying, ‘you have a choice, you can be the worrier or you can be the warrior’ – and it is absolutely true for everyone in the STRETCH ZONE.

Life has a way of catching up with us and try as we might we can only avoid the unavoidable for so long and we, sooner or later, have to face up to life’s challenging moments.

When under pressure to step across the threshold of our COMFORT ZONE we are frequently hijacked by fear and doubt – and when it really matters, as the worrier, we hold ourselves back for no reason.

The alternative to being the worrier is to be the warrior, that fearless and courageous fighter within each one of us, poised, composed and calmly confident when it really matters. Under the pressure of the STRETCH ZONE what we seldom realise is that being the worrier is optional – and being the warrior is the alternative.

Question – From your experience what does the warrier look like and sound like for you and how does that compare to the worrier as the lesser of the two options?


THE STRETCH ZONE – Wasting our Efforts, Draining our Energy

In the face of our worst nightmare, whatever that might be, our confidence frequently goes absent-without- leave – deserting its post when we need it most.

Disarmed by fear and doubt in the face of adversity we are so often compelled to manufacture what we believe we lack – drumming up the oomph with all sorts of confidence boosting hype.

The ‘confidence’ that follows is never really convincing, never really authentic and it never lasts – and as the cracks begin to show we are compelled to plough more effort and energy into maintaining the façade.

Psyching ourselves up with confidence boosting hype is no more than misguided effort that drains our energy relentlessly – it is exhausting and unnecessary. Confidence is not something we lack and need to acquire. Confidence is our natural state, an imminent potential within – a very different paradigm.

Question: When outside your COMFORT ZONE to what extent do you psyche yourself up with all sorts of hype and what is the effect on your performance and potential?