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Stepping out of your comfort zone...it’s as simple as crossing the road!

We all know that crossing the road is easy…right? But what has this got to do with coaching? Well, stay with me and I will explain.

In coaching, we use the GROW model, a widely recognised framework designed to structure coaching sessions. It is an acronym widely used due to its simplicity and usefulness in the coaching process. It stands for Goal, Reality, Options/Opportunities, Way forward/Willingness. It's a great model for understanding your goals and how to reach them, which I have recently had the chance to put into practice.

I have recently had the privilege of going to Cambodia to do some volunteer coaching with SHE Investments, a Social Enterprise making a great impact locally by working with local business women. This was a great opportunity for me and the start of a great adventure which began with simply crossing the road.

As a coach, this was my time to literally walk my talk. Here’s how I crossed the road using the GROW model.

Goal: What do you want?

The goal was set. The Royal Palace, the destination. It was a SMART goal – it was Specific – the Royal Palace, Measurable – I could tick off that I had been there, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. I had the route mapped out and could do it and be back in time for dinner.

Coaching helps you to create SMART goals. Getting the right goal for you and understanding the importance of having this goal to you – is a critical first step to the coaching process.

Reality: Where are you now?

Ok, so I was confident that I knew how to cross the road - I had done it many, many times before. I had graduated to unconscious competence nearly five decades ago. I was good to go.

What I hadn’t bargained for was the traffic in Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh. It is just crazy! These were not like any roads I had ever seen before - there were motorbikes, scooters, tuk-tuks, push bikes, cars, vans all moving …at the same time…at different speeds …in different directions. My brain went into panic mode. Where are the pedestrian crossings? Where is the green man when you want one? OMG I don't want to die! OMG how am I going to do this?

Crossing the road had just become a daunting and scary prospect.

In coaching the first step is to be aware of where you are right now. Checking your reality. What is going on for you in this moment? How are you feeling about that? What is working for you and what is not? What is important about taking this next step? What is the purpose?

Coaching is about moving forward to the next step - and my next step was going to be into a sea of oncoming traffic. I began to question just how much I wanted to see the Royal Palace.

When assessing whether to take the next step or not fear can often hijack the amygdala and stepping out of the comfort zone can seem like a real ‘high stakes’ prospect. In my case it felt pretty real. But real or imagined, the grip of fear can make that comfort zone (or the comfort of my hotel room) seem very appealing.

Options/Opportunities: What could you do?

Decision time. It was time to assess my choices.

Do I just step out with gaze fixed on the other side?

Do I wait until the traffic comes to a grinding halt (that seem unlikely to ever happen)?

Do I walk really slowly? Or

Do I walk really fast to increase my chances of a successful outcome?

Survival. The stakes were high.

Coaching helps to explore choices (and possible consequences). Once the goal has been set and the destination in sight. What then? Options considered – the only real choice is will I do it, or won’t I?

The time for courage and trust had arrived.

Way forward/Willingness: What will you do?

At some point I needed to actually take the next step. The time for courage and trust had arrived. The edges of the comfort zone had been reached and it was time to step out.

I gripped the arms of my travel friends - safety in numbers right? (Who is around to help?), walked with confidence (‘fake it till you make it’), waited for the flow to ebb - albeit only slightly (assess the risk), reminded myself that although this was a challenge, it was one I was definitely ready for - I was well qualified to do this (substituted negative thoughts ‘OMG I’m going to die’ for more helpful thoughts ‘You can do this. Look at all the other people (including that child just out of nappies) who have managed it successfully.’

Coaching is generative. It is about moving forward. It requires action. It is ok to ponder, and explore and examine and talk out loud...but when all is said and done - what action will follow? The choice to pull back is ever present until you really commit. This stage often requires trust - a willingness to take that first step. Sometimes it might just be to test the waters and (due to some unforeseen motorbike) you might have to jump back on the pavement and wait for a bit before trying again. Sometimes it about striding bolding and committing - half way there, is also half way back - so time to keep walking. The destination is in sight.

So I lived to tell the tale. Coming out of your comfort zone, is really just like crossing the road.

Coming out of your comfort zone, is really just like crossing the road.

If you are interested in finding out more about stepping out of your comfort zone, you might be interested in reading – Dare to Lead by Brene Brown in which she talks about the importance of choosing ‘courage over comfort’, or Emotional Agility by Susan David, which discusses ‘showing up and stepping out’

And if you want to try stepping out of your comfort zone, we have recently launched the Backpack, which includes a number of tools that offer as a step-by-step guide to tackle social leadership challenges in practice. These tools can hopefully help you cross the road on your own leadership journey.

Access the Backpack

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