Where’s your comfort zone? Chances are it’s right where you live and work every day. As humans, we naturally seek out comfort zones, places or states where we can operate with little anxiety, low stress, and an assurance of our own competence.
Comfortable? Pros and Cons
It’s called “comfortable” for a reason; we feel relaxed and more at ease when we face every day knowing exactly how to complete our tasks, what the outcomes will be, and confident that we won’t face any unexpected challenges.
There is a downside, though; we don’t grow, as people, professionals, businesses or business owners, in a place like this. Growth, by definition, requires us to stretch our abilities, push forward out of our comfortable little compartments, and seek out new skills and new achievements. Growth occurs outside of our comfort zone, in a place or a state that will probably make us uncomfortable, unsure, or even occasionally anxious.
Some people absolutely thrive on challenges. You may know a few people like this (or you may be one); they are creative problem-solvers who wade in where angels fear to tread and face challenges head-on. They gain tremendous satisfaction from learning new skills and reaching progressively higher levels of performance.
However, that’s not the majority. Most people will naturally gravitate to a performance level where they feel un-threatened and competent. Once there, they tend to slide into a ‘groove’ and avoid conflict, stress, or challenge.
Smart Stress at Work
Research in the academic world has confirmed a definite relationship between stress or anxiety and enhanced, more focused performance. That’s a pretty obvious truth – when we are under stress, we are less prone to distraction, and bring a heightened sense of awareness to whatever task is at hand.
What’s relatively new is the concept of utilizing strategic stress to stimulate business and professional growth. If we – or our team – are too comfortable in our day-to-day functions, we may never realize the incredible potential for progress and development in our practices. The comfort zone is a short-cut to flat or minimal growth year-over-year.
Here’s the question for you: should you challenge your team (and yourself) to step outside of the comfort zone, or allow them to continue operating under the status quo?
If you are brave enough to push their limits a little, you may recognize some amazing benefits. A challenging workplace generally produces higher levels of efficiency, employee engagement, and patient satisfaction. All of these are good things that lead to growth in the practice and in the personnel.
On the other hand, your pursuit of improvements may lead to resistance from your staff, at least at the outset. You’ll need to decide if the potential rewards are worth the effort of overcoming internal objections.
Elevate the Comfort Zone
Moving outside of the comfort zone doesn’t mean setting out to make your team feel awkward or embarrassed. Instead, consider the approach of continually elevating the comfort zone as an avenue to create growth in your team.
Here’s a great example of how you might do that. Choose a small improvement, like creating a script for your dispensary team to discuss the benefits of premium anti-reflective coating with patients. Couple your scripting with deliberate educational or professional development opportunities; perhaps enlist your lab rep to do a lunch and learn presentation so your team is fully versed in the benefits of the product themselves. Add in a little friendly competition to see who can improve their sales rates by the largest margin. Boom. Suddenly, everybody’s working outside their comfort zone and your AR sales are climbing.
Benefits of Strategic Stress
What are the potential results of an initiative like this? Well, for starters, your team will have a better grasp of product knowledge for one of the basic profit-drivers in your dispensary. Your patients will perceive higher value from your practice and get great vision options as part of their eye glass purchasing experience. Your AR rates will rise, and your bottom line will benefit. And that’s just the basics.
Consider what you’re offering to your team. You’re helping them to improve their product knowledge, you’re treating them like professionals, and you’re encouraging focused efforts on a well-defined target that drives revenue. You’re not treating them like interchangeable parts of a machine; you’re respecting them as professionals who add value to their company. The message is clear: “You are an important part of this team, and what you do in your job matters to this practice.”
That’s a formula that can be replicated multiple times. Choose a small, achievable goal, equip your team with the tools they need to succeed, and challenge them to step up to the plate. Elevate the comfort zone. Then do it again. Best part? Your cost to implement is $0, but your bottom line gets a significant boost.
Moving your team out of the comfort zone will generate serious rewards for you, for your team, and for your bottom line. Growth doesn’t happen until we stretch a little and challenge ourselves. Actively seek out areas where you can improve your team’s skillset, and turn those opportunities into meaningful, revenue-generating growth for your practice – outside of the comfort zone.
Pro Tip: Leverage the individual KPI-tracking in EDGEPro (see EDGEMarks Matrix by staff) to analyze your team’s performance on critical Key Performance Indicators or monitor their improvement on your specific initiatives.
About the Author
Patti Warren, ABOC
Education and Training Administrator
Patti has been in the optical industry since 1986. The first 13 years of her career, she worked as an optician in private practice optometry and ophthalmology, where she found her true love for lenses. As an official “Lens Geek” she decided to work as a sales representative in a wholesale lab business, spending 15 years traveling all over the Southeast, training opticians on the different type of lenses. Patti became a Success Coach for GPN Technologies in 2014.
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