Get used to being uncomfortable

No one wants to be uncomfortable. Why would we? We perceive it as threatening. As not a good thing.

But a core value I come across in the high-growth companies I partner with is this: they are comfortable being uncomfortable.

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Discomfort is a part of the mindset and journey in building a company. It’s also connected to vulnerability and emotional agility -- understanding that the meaning of a journey is derived from the moments of struggle, adversity, and resilience -- as opposed to only the achievement itself. This is the essence of the commonly-used phrases, embrace the journey or it’s the hard that makes it great.

But if we’re talking about innovation, change, and growth - especially where a path has never existed before - then by default there is uncertainty. A lack of familiarity and control.

Then there are our teams, in which each individual reacts differently in the face of discomfort and adversity. Which means, as leaders, there are two things to strongly consider:

1) Making people feel psychologically safe so that they are aware of and comfortable vocalizing their relationship with the uncertainty

2) Developing the people on their teams, so that they are more effective in navigating the uncertainty (on their own) in the future.

To think that leaders have this all under control and are always comfortable being uncomfortable would be misguided. As they are constantly grappling with questions such as: In the face of uncertainty, how much do I push vs. how much do I pull?

That question is very personal (again, each individual reacts differently in the face of discomfort), which highlights how personal leadership is as well. But this type of tension and discomfort is important to maintain awareness and effectiveness. Understanding that there are two sides of the coin, being aware of them, and then navigating within that framework to make decisions and lead in alignment with the company’s vision and goals.

As a leader, the ability to create an environment that makes people feel safe so that they are willing to share, “I notice I feel uncomfortable and I don’t like it.” That might be the hardest part. Especially for teams with high achievers, who might be thinking, “If I feel this way [negative feelings], or I’m not perfect, then I might not achieve.”

Put another way: Sometimes people struggle with the concept of comfortable being uncomfortable. For somewhat obvious reasons - because we’d rather not feel that way. We’d rather be comfortable. We’d rather it be perfect. Because if it’s comfortable and perfect, then we theoretically have nothing to be concerned about.

But if you’re looking to pave a path that no one has paved before, you don’t have another option. Discomfort is the certainty and the essence of the journey.

CultureBrian Alvo