Clear Comm Consulting

Speaking Outside of Your Comfort Zone

May 28, 2009

How many times have you heard you should find your passion and then live it? That’s great advice, but today what I’m talking about are those other times — when you find yourself saddled with an assignment, a topic to present or a media issue and you know you will have a tough time knocking it out of the park. Hell, you’ll actually be happy if you still have a job when it’s all over!

While we would love to say every assignment is a labor of love, the real world tells us those times are rare and, in this economy, many of us are forced to handle a wider range of work and find ourselves outside of our comfort zone. Some thoughts:

Bone Up! The quickest road out of Anxietyville is facing the issue and going at it full speed. Learn everything you can about this uncomfortable topic and break down some of the barriers. What likely questions will come your way and how might you handle them? What quick reference materials can you gather to be as ready as you can be for your moment of truth? If you have time, can you take a quick college-level course (on-line perhaps) to bolster your knowledge, your confidence and your credibility?

Get Someone to Help! Okay, you’re really up against the wall. Who can you call? There are experts out there on just about everything. Surely you can find someone within your sphere of influence who knows something about this stuff, or someone who knows someone. (I just learned through my Linked-In network I’m one person away from the guy who started 1800Flowers. If I suddenly needed that kind of expertise for a client you can bet I would make that connection.)

Address the Elephant! This is one of my favorite pieces of advice in many situations and it fits perfectly here as well: Address the elephant in the room! Don’t know everything about the topic you need to address? Say so. You get credit for your honesty and those who are listening cut you some slack when you don’t have all the answers. None of us is an expert on everything, so we can all identify with the person who is forced outside of their comfort zone.

Given that all of us face these situations from time to time there is actually a fair amount of good news here. First, the people around you will likely know if you are being pushed onto thin ice. If you perform well, you should get more than full credit for the effort. Also, facing these challenges prep you for the next situation and, let’s face it, there’s always a “next situation” if you’re still in the game. Finally, for anyone who is looking for your next job recall those difficult situations you have faced and be ready to tell a short version of that story. We all can talk about the big wins, but a small victory can be even more impressive to your future boss.

We are very proud of our client Mark-Taylor Residential and the recent story on NBC Nightly News. The company is providing apartments rent-free to qualified homeless families. Meet a couple of the families on this special web-only version of the story:

Or see the story as it originally aired on May 6th:

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected]

Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer

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