Everyone has experienced a time when they stepped out of their comfort zone: perhaps turning a wrong corner in a foreign city, walking into unknown territory. The effect is immediate; heart rate increases, adrenaline runs high and suddenly all our sensory receptors are processing massive amounts of information, looking for creative exits. This is also true in business.

In the good times, we have a natural tendency to cruise into our comfort zones, we switch to ‘cruise control’ and make boardroom statements such as; “let’s stick to what we know”, “is this idea really our core business?”.

The week before last I wrote about utilizing resources and this blog leads on from there in as much as in difficult times we need creative solutions to complex issues. My personal view is that we must ensure that our teams are not staying in their comfort zones, they need to be stimulated into facing new challenges, rather than idle their hours contemplating internal politics and possible outcomes.

In recruitment, my message to our customers is not to study CV’s for new interim assignments by looking for exact matches. Exact matches are very likely to fail – simply because you will be recruiting someone into their own comfort zone. What is more, they are likely to pass their day driving you and your team mad by endlessly saying things like: “in my previous company we did it like this” or “in my previous company we did it like that”. They are likely to get bored too quickly and maintain a narrow vision of the solution. Exact matches should not be considered 'a safe bet'.

My advice is to give a clear brief of the problem you are trying to solve and describe the type of person you think you need to solve it. Look for a character match first and only then look for a knowledge fit. An applicant that is stepping into something new, that has the right emotional and intellectual capabilities, is likely to work far harder and to keep their eyes wide open, simply because they are outside their normal comfort zone. They are very likely to act cautiously but keep all their options open. They will be forced to adopt a creative approach and to look to solve the issue in innovative ways. What is more, they are more likely to take their new responsibilities very seriously, relying on all their resources, not just their own opinion. In my experience, even the fixed employees that surround them are less likely to feel threatened because the interim manager will not be continuously manifesting themselves as ‘experts’.

I do have a caveat however: There is a difference between stepping out of one’s comfort zone’ and drifting too far from the shore. But as long as you can judge the distance and make the necessary provisions – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Times like these are very good to consider creative internal re-shuffles too.

Have a good week,