Some books we read and enjoy, put them aside and move on. They're something more than empty calories but we can't remember what or why.
The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations Into Breakthroughs by Dr. Marcia Reynolds is that book you want to keep close by, to turn to again and again to further your skills with those difficult conversations in The Discomfort Zone. That's good for everyone, our families and colleagues, the company's where we lead and most importantly, ourselves.
However ... true confession ... after reading a few pages, I didn't like it. I'd liked the cover, thought it would be a good read. But flipping through the first pages I decided this book wasn't for me. Didn't like the writing and worse, I disagreed with a few conclusions the author presented.
The first disagreement, so emphatic I started shaking my head, came in Chapter One: Criteria for Choosing a Discomfort Zone Conversation. Dr. Reynolds described 5 Myths held by too many leader.
Myth #1 My employee don't want me to ask questions. They just want me to give them answers so they can get back to work.
"That's not a myth," I thought. "No. No. That's reality. I've experienced it at every position of leadership I've held."
I flipped through a few more pages, looked at her background, all the time the little wheels in my head churning, churning. The next day, a Saturday, I was out on a run, still churning away about that myth and this book ( unwittingly I was spending time with myself in my own Discomfort Zone ) I had my bingo! moment. The reason that's been my reality is I first avoided conversations in The Discomfort Zone, then with no skills but a lot of determination, I dragged myself and others through it. I wrote about that challenge here.
Through will, stubbornness, a willingness to make mistakes publicly and the emotional equity we'd earned with each other ... we made it out alive, mostly unscathed and found a few breakthroughs we later celebrated.
So, I resumed reading the book, from start to finish. And as I did, I started shaking my head north and south, up and down, agreeing with her analysis, mini-case studies or client profiles and exercises to turn those difficult conversations into breakthroughs.
And I went back to my own experience. What if we'd had Dr. Marcia Reynolds' book:The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations Into Breakthroughs?
Well, I'm confident a few things would be different. First off, our time in that zone would be better used, more productive. The duration of those difficult conversations would have been shorter, their frequency greater. That's right. Mastering the skills in her book will help you move through those conversations faster, with better results. You can have more conversations in the Discomfort Zone, but they'll be easier and more productive and you'll push further. While you might not rush towards them, you'll certainly not avoid them. That's a huge step of progress for the majority of leaders and their direct reports. There in itself is how you create leaders, not followers.
Dr. Reynolds starts each chapter with quotes that surprised and inspired. They weren't the usual quotes you see bandied about in book and on Twitter. My three favorites were:
Chapter One - "The function of leaders is to create more leaders, not more followers." - Ralph Nader.
How many business books include quotes from Ralph Nader?
Chapter Two - "The Truth is obtained like gold, not by letting it grow bigger, but by washing off from it everything that isn't gold." -Leo Tolstoy
Leo Freakin' Tolstoy!
C'mon. When's the last time you saw a Leo Tolstoy quote in a business book? Anyone? That's right, never.
You're rolling your eyes, I can see it. But my point is here's a refreshing new perspective on leadership's challenges, from one who's well-read and willing to take a bold stance.
Chapter Seven - "There's only one real sin, and that is to persuade oneself that the second-best is anything but the second-best." Doris Lessing.
Questions, anyone? Again, it's a fresh, bold, direct, cut-to-the-chase quote.
It's that commitment to the highest - delivered in a bold, refreshing, cut-to-the-chase, writing style - that makes Dr. Reynolds book so powerful.
Clients must love her approach, too, because it saves them time, shows them she not only listens well, understands even better but respects them enough to expect ... better from them.
So, go buy the book. Keep it closer than you keep friends or enemies. Read it regularly. Practice her exercises. And gain the skills to lead others through those difficult conversations and grow your business, grow your lives.