Out of the comfort zone – out of performance?


“People that are out of their comfort zone are more productive”. This is a statement, that’s  often discussed, especially in business. Let’s have a closer look to find out why it's frequently leds to discussions....


Brené Brown, professor at the University of the Houston Graduate College of Social Work, describes the comfort zone as: "Where our uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability are minimized — where we believe we’ll have access to enough love, food, talent, time, admiration. Where we feel we have some control." The comfort zone is the environment where satisfaction comes easily with little effort. 1)

When we look at the definition, we can understand, why most people aren't willing to leave their comfort zone. So, can the performance level really be increased in a state of anxiety and uncertainty?


One answer of science comes with the Yerkes–Dodson law. It is an empirical relationship between arousal and performance, originally developed by psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson in 1908. The law dictates that performance increases with physiological or mental arousal, but only up to a point. When levels of arousal become too high, performance decreases. Research has found that different tasks require different levels of arousal for optimal performance. For example, difficult or intellectually demanding tasks may require a lower level of arousal (to facilitate concentration), whereas tasks demanding stamina or persistence may be performed better with higher levels of arousal (to increase motivation). For simple or well-learned tasks, the relationship can be considered linear with improvements in performance as arousal increases. For complex, unfamiliar, or difficult tasks, the relationship between arousal and performance becomes inverse, with declines in performance as arousal increases... 1)


The Yerkes–Dodson law shows that the performance level outside the comfort zone can be increased with physiological or mental arousal, but only up to a certain point. What if we  don’t consider the comfort zone from a negative point of view by leaving what feels comfortable outside the zone, but from a positive perspective, by gaining more of what feels comfortable (expanding the zone)?


Therefore, we consider first the formation of a comfort zone. Forming and expanding is a comfort zone is a natural process. Based on instinct and life experiences, and knowledge that brought us successful results, we start building and constantly expanding our comfort zone. Particularly as children and teenager's, we perceive this forming process strongly by frequent feelings of fear and insecurity. In this phase of life, we’re constantly out of our comfort zone to receive essential knowledge we later need in order to survive independently. After puberty, when the feelings normalize, we’re done with forming. We start acting more frequently out of our zone and just expand it when necessary e.g. solving problems, studying, starting a new profession etc. Our tolerance by contrary for stress and anxiety decreases with becoming adults. In difficult situations, we are now stressed more quickly, and fears dominate our actions faster.

Summarized: Our tolerance level in the forming phase is naturally higher to be able to receive and adapt essential information to secure our survival as independent human beings. After the forming process we increase our individual possibilities and improve our performance by expanding the essential information.


The objective in the expanding process is an effective performance to achieve successful results. We recognize what’s given (comfort zone), find out what’s missing (expanding zone), and develop what’s needed (performance). With the result, we don't search in new for something good, but find something better with the given good. Outside the comfort zone, the focus was on reactions that develop defenses. By expanding the comfort zone, the focus is now on the actions that develop accomplishments.


Conclusion: To expand the comfort zone increases the performance level naturally. It motivates and promotes effectiveness and creativity. It could be one way for companies to increase the performance level of employees. In addition, the resulting win/win situation promotes important independent, as well as interdependent factors for company and employee.


Changing the perspective can sometimes change the outcome. ~ Daniela Hoeche


1) Source Wikipedia







 “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success” - Henry Ford.

Research supports that organizations with clearly defined teams are more successful as compared to those with a one man show. Building a good team is important and turns your vision into a common mission that strives for bigger success.


The Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing model of group development by Bruce Tuckman in 1965, has become the basis for subsequent models and gives a good overview of the different teambuilding phases.

Especially for entrepreneurs that have never built a team before it’s difficult to identify the teambuilding stage they’re temporally in. To develop a better understanding, I briefly explained the different phases. The typical characteristics are good indicators for the stage and the required leadership pro-activity.




Characteristics team

  • None or distant relationships in the team, they start getting to know each other.

  • The trust level is not existing or very low.

  • Cautious with criticism and decisions, fear of consequences

  • More focused on individual objectives, they first have to find their own role in the team and company and identify themselves with it

  • many questions, uncertainty

Leadership action

In the forming phase it’s important to build a strong foundation so relationships can grow and trust can be developed. Communicate principals and values in dealings with one another and act hereafter. Communicate clear objectives for the company and the team (job description). The additional mentioned purpose in your objectives is indicatory for the goal-achievement, emotional motivating and builds a deeper identification with objective, company and customer (e.g. Our mission is until  December 16th 2016, to help at least 20,000 customers with our “Quality Time App” to use their time more effectively and thereby reducing their stress levels, finding more time for more important things, become more successful and balanced).




Characteristics team

  • Relationship-building, team trying to enforce their opinion, consolidate own position, competing and positioning starts, first conflicts appear

  • The trust level is just on the leader and/or one other person.

  • Certainty of environment grows, fear of consequences drops, criticism appears more often but is emotionally driven and less objective.

  • Decisions are made but not very reliable, frequently revised and corrected.

  • The focus is more on the problems of others, blaming and complaining.

  • Team will be more informed and heard.

Leadership action

Establish processes and structures. Support the team with solving occurring problems among each other, but don’t solve it for them. Rather, start asking questions that leads them to solution-oriented answers. This helps your team to solve future conflict with each other by themselves, promotes their pro-active thinking but also strengthen your leadership-skills.  Create a communication dictionary, involve the whole team in that project. Define who has to communicate what and when to whom. This strengthens teamwork, gives certainty, clarity in communication, promotes trust and creates structure in responsibility, duties, tasks and individual roles. Be a good listener and support them dealing with emotions. The principals created in the forming phase will help.




Characteristics team

  • Relationships are built, values and principals in dealings with one another established.

  • Critism is constructive. Decisions are solution- and object-oriented.

  • Team is supportive, pro-active, engaged and takes responsibility.

  • Trust in the process has been built.

  • Clarity about purpose and tasks exists. The team is working on a common objective.

  • Motivation is high.

Leadership action

Record learning lessons, involve the team. What have you learned as individuals and as a team? Display progress and give your team recognition for their development. 




Characteristics team

  • Team can identify themselves with company and colleagues

  • They have built trust in people. Feelings of certainty, satisfaction, solidarity and recognition are present.

  • Team feels comfortable with decision making, reacts pro-active and intuitive.

  • Team has lots of energy, is inspired and starts developing new ideas.

  • Team has a strong foundation and is flexible for new requirements.

Leadership action

Now you can start delegating more tasks and projects to your team. Support them in their personal development.


To build a good team is challeging. It requires your leadership skills but when you're up to this challenge, you'll take your product/service and yourself to a further successful level where the mission can be accomplished.

“Dreams you dream alone, but you realize them in company” -  Daniela Hoeche






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Intention – Attitude – Action


"Leadership doesn’t predict or expect the unexpected but knows how to react on it once it occurs."

~ Daniela Hoeche


There is alot of given knowledge about how to act upon emerging problems and how to prepare or avoid them. Still, we’re often left wondering why - even though we’ve so much knowledge about it - many problems still occur and leaving us frequently with feelings of uncertainty.


To stay focused on explicit knowledge regarding problems is as effective as to stay focused on the disease, if you want to achieve health. More important than knowing everything about problems in general is to be able to react upon the unexpected, having an intention and positive attitude towards the event.  Leadership skills are important key factors for developing a solution oriented thinking and habits that can avoid many problems from occuring. Pro-activity is the key word. It's important for your personal growth and by that, part of beeing independent. Furthermore, being pro-active builds an important foundation for interdependence e.g. cooperation, win-win situations and synergies etc.


For example:

  • You’ve an important business meeting with investors regarding the future of your company. It takes place in your office. You drive by car, early enough to have some buffer for contingent traffic jams. Half way to the office your car breaks down. Instead of cursing about the car, blame the brand for bad quality etc. You start immediately acting upon the unexpected situation. You call someone to take care of the broken car. You call a cab that brings you as fast as possible to the meeting, and you call the office to come to an agreement with your secretary on how to bridge the time effectively and comfortably for the investors that must wait for you to arrive.

Another example

  • You’re a sales executive that has to work on new sales strategies for the next quarter.  Furthermore, the CEO asks you to give more responsibility to your team. The team atmosphere isn't good currently and so isn't the team’s performance. Regarding this, you deal with trust issues that don’t force you to give more responsibility to your team. Concerning your intentions to create a new sales strategy and start giving more responsibility to your team and your positive attitude towards it, you start acting upon it. You set up a team meeting regarding a new sales strategy. You let them know that you will start a competition for the best sales strategy. You’re building teams. Each team should develop a strategy that they present in the next sales meeting. The CEO and management board will join this meeting as well to decide and announce the winning idea.


In the first example, the challenge didn’t even grow to a problem. In the second example it went even further. By combining the intentions - sales strategy and more team responsibility – two challenges became one intention that turned two challenges into one opportunity (team is responsible for sales strategy).  Both examples demonstrate that you can’t always influence incoming events, but you can always influence the outcome by your intention, attitude and pro-activity.


Incoming event -> Intention -> Attitude -> Pro-Activity <-Outcome


Intention:     Objective oriented commitment

Attitude:       Objective oriented decision

Pro-activity: Objective oriented implementation





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If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, you are a leader.

~ John Quincy Adams

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