From Scary to Routine

My mother-in-law recently moved to the United States permanently and it’s been really interesting to watch her adjust. Never having been out of her home country of Venezuela, we knew it could be difficult for her to find a sense of home in the United States. Everything is new, the culture, language, climate, and even the microwave oven! But steadily, over the last several weeks, she has ventured out, further and further from her new condo, walking just a couple more blocks every day. She’s now comfortable up to about a 1/2 mile radius around the condo. 

Watching her has made me think–this is of course how we learn and grow. We venture outside of our comfort zone little by little, step by step and within a few weeks, our radius expands. What once was unfamiliar, perhaps scary, is now part of our routine. 

Now if you’re an entrepreneur chances are high you take a more aggressive approach to this by tackling new things in large and bold chunks. For better or for worse sometimes! I get that. That tends to be how I operate. But it’s important for us to remember most of the world, and frankly, most of the people who work for us, are more likely to adapt and learn slowly. They build their radius of understanding and productivity a few blocks at a time. 

There are things you can do to accelerate the process including having a very clear job description, documenting conversations so you can review notes later, and having regular check-ins. Those formal structures along with informal “hey, how are you feeling today,” can come together nicely and you’ll see how a new employee you invest in can propel your business.

Obviously, the stakes are different with a new employee’s adaptation into productivity versus my mother-in-law’s walking radius. Though consider the approach to both situations at the beginning is similar. Our job as leaders is to know how far we can push someone while still being effective and remaining compassionate. It’s a tough balance, but a skill that when mastered will become your competitive advantage.