The Stretch Zone

Lioness Learning (soon to become LionSpeak… Stay tuned!) is a communication coaching company specializing in coaching individuals, leaders, and teams, who wish to communicate with more clarity and inspiration to achieve remarkable results. In other words, we help people communicate better in a variety of circumstances. For example:

  • An administrator wanting to convert more callers to appointments.
  • A leader wishing to inspire their team to massive action.
  • A manager needing to hold their team accountable without alienating them in the process.
  • A sales rep preparing for an important presentation.
  • An employee needing to ask their boss for a raise.
  • A spokesperson wanting to handle a media interview with confidence.
  • A trainer hoping that trainees will hit the ground running with their newly-attained skills.
  • A team member wanting to solve an irritating conflict once and for all.
  • A speaker wishing to perform better on stage.

What do all these folks have in common? They all must find a way to communicate so that the people they’re addressing will walk away crystal clear about the information, requests, and reasoning as well as hopeful, motivated and inspired to take action. And that, my friends, is what we do!

One of my favorite formats in which to teach these skills is an off-site team retreat. A few years back, we were hired to facilitate an off-site retreat at an adventure park for a team in the Southeast. Set deep within beautiful piney woods complete with a babbling creek and large pavilion in which to hold our meeting, the park had a fabulous challenge course as well as nine progressively difficult zip lines. It was the perfect setting for a business which was welcoming a new associate; restructuring their team; moving into a brand new, state-of-the-art facility; and re-envisioning their future potential.

With the entire team assembled outside, I asked each member to describe what they were hoping to personally and collectively accomplish today. More than one spoke about wanting to “breakthrough” some professional barriers within their company, community, or marketplace. Then, with a stick I drew three concentric circles on the ground and labeled the inner circle the “comfort zone,” the middle circle the “stretch zone,” and the outer circle the “panic zone.” As they imagined themselves scaling the upcoming 35-foot pamper pole or jumping for the 40-foot high-ropes trapeze on this adventure, I asked them to take the stick and mark where they currently found themselves within these circles.

Afterwards, I asked them where they thought that most “breakthroughs” occurred? They all agreed that it would not likely happen within either the “Comfort Zone” or the “Panic Zone,” but it would be somewhere within the “Stretch Zone.” They were basically correct with one distinction… most breakthroughs happen right on the razor’s edge between stretching and panic. It happens for most of us when we are right on the verge of “fight or flight,” but we dig in and discover something about ourselves, our abilities, or what’s possible that we wouldn’t have believed before.

I’ve also heard these zones described as the green zone (comfort), the yellow zone (stretch) and the red zone (panic). I’ll often do a check-in before, during, and after a training or coaching session with my participants because not only is it helpful for me to know where they are operating from but also because I know they will not get what they really want safely tucked away within the green zone or completely freaked out within the red. My job is to carefully tug them into the yellow stretch zone and guide them ever so close to their outer edges so they can experience the ultimate euphoria of a true breakthrough. From those experiences, neither the person nor the team is ever quite the same again.

This week, as you meet with your team at home or at work, ask yourself which zone you are operating from and look for opportunities to step consciously into that juicy, rich, yellow Stretch zone where you grow and learn. Inch yourself ever closer to that red edge as much and as often as possible. It’s where all the good stuff resides and the place from which you will ultimately return to comfort but will never, ever be the same again!

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This week we are recycling a favorite MMS . Our new subscribers will enjoy Katherine’s story and the lessons
she took from the experience.  And to all of our MMS readers who have been loyal subscribers from the beginning…
you’ll remember why we love seeing the world of business and life through the eyes of The Lioness.
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“Every challenge you encounter in life is a fork in the road.
You have the choice to choose which way to go –
backward, forward, breakdown or breakthrough.”
~~ Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha,
Overcoming the Challenges of Life

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