“Zone Awareness” is a critical Team Development Skill

How often have we felt uncertain, anxious and uncomfortable in our work, even when surrounded by team members?

  • When a large organizational shift is occurring?
  • When a new team leader takes over, with a different management style?
  • Near the end of a major project, when the next big project or goal hasn’t yet been announced by the company?
  • When a personal crisis happens that takes our focus away from work?

team development - know your zone!All of these situations can put us into what I call the Panic Zone.

We all operate, within three distinct zones: The Comfort zone, the Growth zone, and the Panic zone. Understanding and identifying which zone your team is in may be a critical team development skill.

Comfort zone – Most of us prefer the comfort zone: Nothing much changes, we have a nice work routine established, and the team is pretty well meshed and working together. The biggest problem with the comfort zone is that we tend to get entrenched in it because change and growth are uncomfortable.

Growth zone – In this zone, change is taking place. Maybe the team is shifting its assignments around, or a new member is joining, or you may even be making a major change in your career, such as going back to school or transferring to a new team. In the growth zone, you’re excited about the changes taking place, and look forward to being part of it. When change is occurring, the growth zone is the best place to be.

Panic zone – When we’re NOT excited about a change that is occurring, when we are anxious, fearful, or want nothing to do with it, that’s when we’re in the panic zone. This isn’t the ideal place to be. If you find yourself in the panic zone, or if as a team leader you notice employees going into this zone, it’s important to find a way to get out of the panic zone as quickly as possible.

Even a simple activity can send one team member into the Panic zone, while others on the team have no problem adapting and staying in the Growth zone.

As a team leader, recognize that even a small change in the daily routine can send some team members into the Panic zone. Be clear about what the change entails, whether extra work will be required, and so on.

As a team member, be aware of changes in your emotion or thoughts when you hear about a change in the routine, in the team, or are confronted with a new situation at work. If you’re uncertain or anxious, try to find out more about the announced change. The better understanding you have of the situation, the less likely you will be to slip into the Panic zone.

One Team, One DreamExcerpted from One Team, One Dream by Gregg Gregory

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