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Courage or Fear

You may have heard the term – stretching your comfort zone – this was my brief to help Mike and his SMT stretch their comfort zone. They all understood it, but in practice, it was far from reality.

Over recent years Mike’s company has seen rapid growth. This brought many challenges with resources, recruitment, mistakes, blame, silos and fear. And worryingly results were taking a hit. Relationships were strained.

These are all symptoms, not the cause. The critical contributing cause was a lack of trust. Without it, teamwork unravels and with it mistakes, blame, silos and ultimately mediocre performance. Neuroscientists have found when trust is present, it activates the oxytocin bonding hormone and thereby makes complex conversations less threatening.

Trust means in front of my peers…

- Can I be vulnerable?

- Could I tell them how anxious I feel?

- Could I tell them there are days I fear I’m not good enough?

- Would they have my back…or stab me in the back?

The field of neuroscience is growing exponentially as brain imaging technologies improve. Neuroscientists can now scan the brain in real time. One area of greater understanding is the limbic region which can be directly mapped to how we communicate and behave. In layman’s terms, the limbic region is wired by default to react to everything as a threat, a catastrophe. The limbic neurons operate in a nanosecond giving no time for the logical part of the brain to intervene. Unless, we step back, and slow down.

Imagine the scene. Mike and STM working alongside each other with the false belief they are stretching their comfort zone. Secretly their limbic brain is reacting to a perceived threat of not being good enough for the job. They wear a mask of false camaraderie believing they trust each other. Instead, they see each other as a threat and tip-toe around each other, avoiding giving honest feedback. The limbic part of the brain is running the show – everything’s a disaster and so no wonder they retreat into silos and blame.

Over six months of genuinely stretching their comfort zone they learnt the meaning of trust, of how to create it and cascade it throughout the organisation. They are now courageous and have stretched their comfort zones to a new level. They’ve learnt to give honest and objective feedback in the moment. They are now comfortable to be vulnerable, secure in knowing they have each other’s backs. The fear is gone.

Trust is everything.

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