Safety Leader

Stuck in the Present: Get out of your comfort zone to forecast the future

Getty images / treety
Getty images / treety
Published On
Nov 15, 2021

I was listening to an interview with Green bay packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in which he was asked, “Do you think about what the future holds for you after this season?” His response was, “While I don’t want to get stuck in the present, I also don’t want to have both feet looking to the future. I need to keep one foot in the present and the other looking at the future.”

That response was very intriguing and got me thinking about how easy it is to get stuck in the present. Dealing with what we are facing today can consume us to a point where we fail to look ahead. The future can be long-range or it can just be the end of a project we’re working on.

As leaders, we are charged with the responsibilities of ensuring our projects are completed successfully, on time and within budget, and we also forecast our business’ path forward. Couple that with the charge of developing our crews and building the next generation of leaders, and it’s easy to see why we become stuck in the present.

I interpret being stuck in the present as a state of mind that prohibits me from seeing beyond what’s in front of me. It may be because in my role as a leader I don’t want to get out of my comfort zone, or maybe it’s just that my mindset is to complete things in the here and now and leave the rest to fall into place. Either way, we are doing a disservice to ourselves, as well as our employees and employer.

How do we move forward?

It is part of our responsibility as leaders to forecast the future as best we can, develop our crews into the best they can be and nurture future leaders. When the day comes for us to exit our organization, we should be able to say that we are leaving it in a better place than when we came in.

The question is, how do we get there? Staying in our comfort zone is a common trait for most of us. Let’s face it, we are in the job we have because we are good at it! If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be where we are. We have all been guilty of staying in our comfort zone at one time or another, myself included. The key is, do we have the confidence to take that step forward? Can we realize the skills we have that others have seen and been comfortable enough in those skills to take that next step?

Several years ago, a common management theme was to challenge an individual to not only set attainable goals, but to also choose some “stretch” goals. Those are the goals that push you beyond your comfort zone and challenge you to be more than what you may think you are. Those goals can help you get out of the present. You see, there are really no prescribed steps to getting unstuck.

Exceed expectations

It comes down to challenging yourself to be better and grow. This applies to you and your employees. Commit to exceeding your own expectations and work toward the future. Try new things, solicit ideas from your crews that go beyond the norm, and work as a collaborative team rather than leader and crew. Don’t just do things because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Look for innovative ways to change work practices to create safe, efficient outcomes that incorporate input from the crews that actually do the work! You will be surprised at how employees respond to being asked their opinions on work practices and projects. Morale and productivity will increase.

Remember, you may be the captain, but you can’t steer the ship alone. Keeping one foot in the present and one in the future will enable you see beyond the task at hand and lead your organization into the future.

About the Author

Chuck Kelly

Kelly, president of Kelly Consulting & Mediation Services, has worked with utility industry leaders on safety, labor relations and human resources for more than 30 years. Reach him at 540-686-0118 or cklk3@yahoo.com.

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