I recently walked into a room of unknowing employees to tell them that their company had been acquired by Marco. They thought they were gathering at a local golf club for training. Talk about uncomfortable.
Driving there that day, I imagined what this news would mean to their jobs and how they would share it with their families that day. Standing in front of them, I needed to be honest and tell them that not everyone would be able to keep their jobs. I also had to put myself in their shoes and be empathetic about what this acquisition was going to mean to them as individuals.
The events of that day were uncomfortable for me. But it was my mission to make those employees feel more comfortable – even if they would only be with the company for the day.
Leadership is not always easy and it inevitably will bring uncomfortable moments. I cannot recount all the times my heart has sped, my palms have sweat and I had to take a deep breath as a leader. I’ve learned that being a leader means you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
I’ve almost made it my mantra over the years. That may be because no matter how long I’ve been a leader, there are always going to be times when I feel overcome by fear, nervous or inadequate.
I work with many people who are smarter than me. That makes me uncomfortable. I regularly make cold calls to acquire new customers or businesses. That makes me uncomfortable. I am asked to speak at community events. That makes me uncomfortable.
About a year ago, I was asked to speak in front of about 600 or more people at an annual fundraiser for a charity that Marco supports. I’ve spoken in front of people hundreds of times and even consider presentation skills to be among my strengths. This was different and the thought of it made me uncomfortable.
I found some solace in the fact that Barbra Streisand still gets stage fright. I did not overcome many of my fears until I prepared and practiced what I would say.
Like anything, getting comfortable being uncomfortable takes practice. But it starts with a commitment to not let fears or discomfort stand in your way of doing what needs to be done. It’s in those moments that leaders show what it truly means to lead –and earn the respect of their followers.