Leaders Dance into the Discomfort Zone

April 28, 2018

Have you ever had one of those moments and thought, “There’s no way am going to do that?” I did a couple of years ago in New York City. I was on a business trip and meeting with a new team. Part our agenda was to build comradery through a fun, shared experience. The night before the event, the team seemed very excited about what we were going to do, but they kept it a secret from me. I’m a planner and always like to be ready for what’s next. I softly pressed the team about the what we were going to do, but they didn’t budge. All they asked of me is to have an open mind and wear some workout clothes.

Early the next morning, we met in the hotel lobby. Everyone else was in their workout clothes, and I thought we’d do something like jogging in Central Park. We left the hotel and began walking toward Radio City Music Hall. I thought, “This is interesting, I wonder what’s up.”

The team leader knocked on a side door, and we were escorted into a dance studio.

I asked the team leader, “This is cool being in Radio City Music Hall, but what are we going to do?”

She replied, “It’s always been a bucket list item of mine to dance with the Rockettes. We are going to learn a dance together.”

I said, “Awesome. It will be fun to watch you all today. It sounds like a unique experience.”

She smiled and said, “Watch you all? You’re going to dance with us, aren’t you?”

I got a lump in my throat and suddenly became anxious. I’d rather get a root canal. I love to freestyle dance, but I’ve never been any good at choreographed dances. I’m quite possibly one of the clumsiest people around. Honestly, I was afraid I was going to embarrass myself.

I sheepishly said, “Mind if I sit this one out?”

“Oh, come on Preston, you can do this, and the team will love you for it.”

I was at a decision point – do I excuse myself, not participate and watch from the sidelines? Or, do I risk the embarrassment, leap in and connect with the team? Do I stay in my comfort zone or move outside of it?

After a brief moment with all of this going through my head, I mustered up the courage to dance with the team and said, “Ok, I’ll do it. What have I got to lose?”

You know what? I had an absolute blast. Two Rockettes came into the studio and taught our nine-member team how to dance the March of the Toy Soldier. The dance is from the Nutcracker ballet and is one of the most famous routines in Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular. We learned all of the dance steps and kicks. It was a great team building exercise; we all laughed a bunch and had a great time. Also, I stepped outside my comfort zone, grew and connected with the team. None of this would have happened if I sat on the sidelines.

As a leader, why is it important to step into the Discomfort Zone – the place where you are tested or do something new?

When faced with something that is new or different from the norm, I challenge you to try it. If you do, you’ll learn and grow as you dance into the Discomfort Zone.


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