Last week I did something that scared me. I did something new to me – that people in 31% of the world’s countries take for granted.
I drove on the left side of the road.
We were speaking at a conference in Dublin and had the opportunity to visit Northern Ireland. To see what we hoped to see, I needed to drive.
That might not sound like a big deal. After all, people drive on both sides of the road every day. But for me it was new, and I worried.
I’d be driving a standard transmission on the opposite side of the road. I’d sit in the right seat. I’d work the gearshift with my left hand rather than my right.
I worried that thirty years of hard-wired instincts of where to look, how to react, and what to do would be exactly wrong and I’d cause an accident. My life, my family’s lives, and the lives of the other people on the road were at stake.
I worried, but I’m so glad I did it.
Leadership is Something New
New doesn’t come easily. It takes effort.
Your brain prefers inertia–if what you did yesterday was good enough, why spend the energy to change?
When someone brings together a group of people and helps them do something new together—something that has a chance to create better results—we call that “leadership.”
To lead your team to something new, you’ve got to go there first. And when you do, amazing things happen.
The Exciting Leadership Results of Trying Something New
1. You build your courage.
My adrenalin spiked as we approached the first traffic circle. It was rush hour and everything felt wrong. By the one hundredth traffic circle, I was still alert, but trepidation had become the confidence I could do it. And now, driving in 1/3 of the world’s countries is available to me if I need it.
When you try something new, there are risks. Your boss might not like your idea. Your team member might not respond well (or may even quit) when you address their poor behavior for the first time.
It’s okay. You’ll make mistakes. I did–Karin can tell you about the wrong lanes and clipped curbs.
You’ll learn from the mistakes, you’ll grow, and you’ll know you can do it–because you already have.
2. You build your team’s courage.
Your team is watching you.
Do you have the courage to try something new? To advocate for them? To share new ideas? To confront injustice?
Before you can ask your team for the courage to try something new, to hold one another accountable, to speak up, share ideas, or call attention to a problem, they’ve got to see it from you.
3. New gets easier the more you do it.
Trying something new is a muscle. Work the muscle and it gets stronger.
You get accustomed to the discomfort your brain and body experience when forced out of their comfort zone.
The less time you spend in a rut, the less likely you are to get stuck in it.
4. Creativity gets easier.
Breakthrough creativity is often a connection between two different ideas that no one had ever connected before.
Trying something new gives you new perspectives.
I saw things differently on the left side of the road and I also saw different things.
As you grow your perspective and experience, you give your brain more opportunities to build new connections.
5. What was hard before gets easier.
Our son is a juggler. He’s been juggling three balls, three clubs, and three knives, but recently decided to try juggling four balls.
He took several weeks of work to do it. Once he could juggle four, he went back to three balls and found he could readily perform tricks that were hard or impossible before.
You can take advantage of this effect at work with a new strategy, a new assignment, a new professional association, a new coach, or maybe a lateral move that’s outside of your current comfort zone.
But here’s a secret – you can get these benefits even if the new thing you try isn’t at work. Dance lessons, sky-diving, cooking classes, a new sport or hobby–do something you haven’t done before and help every aspect of your life.
How to Get Started with Something New
If starting something new doesn’t come easily for you, you’re not alone. We’ve met senior leaders who were reluctant to speak up for the first time or take a chance on something new when they’d had success with the tried and true.
To get started:
Learn What You Can
What people can do; you can do.
There’s no substitute for real experience, but you can shorten the learning curve. I found a good website about how to drive on the opposite side of the road and picked up some tips that helped.
Find Your Team
New is easier with a team. Karin was an ace lookout, helping me stay in the proper lane, calling out hazards, and encouraging me through stretches of big-city rush hour.
Who can go on the journey with you? Maybe you can’t have a partner in the specific activity, but can you connect with a colleague who is also growing and mastering something new? Connect regularly, share your experiences, and encourage one another.
To Level Up Fast–Do What Scares You Most
This is the advanced level for leaders who want to grow quickly. Pick the work-related behavior that makes you most uncomfortable.
Maybe you’re reluctant to have that accountability conversation with a high-performer because you don’t want to lose her. Perhaps you’ve shied away from sharing that new strategy your team suggested, or from sales or presentations, or asking for full-circle feedback on your performance.
Pick one behavior and do a confidence burst / mini-experiment and try the new behavior for a limited time. Watch what happens to your learning, your confidence, and your creativity.
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