Making small talk has been pretty easy for me lately. When someone says to me, “What’s new with you?” I say, “Well, we just sent our oldest son off to Marine Corps boot camp.” Pretty easy to have a conversation from there. It has been and continues to be a roller coaster. There’s pride, concern, resolve, loss, and a whole bunch of other emotions to deal with. It’s a really interesting experience to be a part of — especially as someone who’s keenly interested in the growth and development of human beings.
My son, Dylan, is currently in the early stages of boot camp. Before he left, his recruiters were working with him for three to four hours a day to condition him physically and mentally for this experience. Consider that for a moment. He was conditioning several hours a day to get ready for what is the equivalent of “new hire orientation” into the Marine Corps. Dylan had spent time in conversation with a lot of Marines before he left, trying to prepare for the experience, trying to understand what was about to happen to him. And I think he felt prepared.
This week, we finally got our first letters from Dylan. (For those of you who haven’t sent someone off to boot camp, communication is scarce over the 13-week period and comes in the form of snail mail. So, we are rediscovering the art of letter writing. I digress.)
The first four words on the letter: “Alright, well, this sucks.”
This wasn’t a surprise to us. It’s what we were told to expect. It is supposed to suck. It is supposed to be uncomfortable. The process is designed to break you down and build you back up. And the Marine Corps takes the process very seriously. But the whole experience has left me reflecting on a few things that I think we can all apply to the workplace.
1. Growth and discomfort are inseparable.
You can’t have growth without discomfort. I know that I, personally, have been way too comfortable lately. Dylan is inspiring me to out of my comfort zone more and more.
2. The growth-discomfort relationship is proportional.
Want a little growth? You’ll need to get a little uncomfortable. If you want massive growth, you will need to get massively uncomfortable. The Marine Corp turns kids into soldiers in 13 weeks—hence the massive discomfort.
3. When we’re passionate about growth, we’re willing to be uncomfortable.
My son volunteered to experience massive discomfort (at levels most of us can’t even fathom) because he believes in what the Marine Corp does and who it protects. Turns out, even young people will voluntarily submit themselves to significant discomfort if they believe strongly enough in the cause.
Here’s the catch:
The discomfort that accompanies growth is… well… uncomfortable. Just because Dylan knew about the discomfort and willingly signed up for it, doesn’t mean he’s enjoying it. He sounded pretty miserable in his first couple letters. Our role as parents is to provide support and encouragement. Help him find the motivation to keep going.
So, how do we as leaders apply this understanding of growth and discomfort to the workplace? How do we rectify the current conventional wisdom that we should try to make every employee happy and comfortable at all times with their desire for growth and development (which we know, requires discomfort)? Is the answer in finding and clarifying our organizational purpose to be
sure that we’re making a true impact that people are passionate about and willing to get uncomfortable for?
It’s important to remember that if we are putting people in high-growth, massively uncomfortable situations at work, we need to be like a parent of a child in the Marine Corps boot camp—provide massive levels of support and encouragement. This doesn’t mean to protect them from the discomfort. We just need to help them find the motivation to keep going when things get really tough. I think we as leaders fall down on this far too often. Even the best among us can crumble when the pressure gets to a certain point.
Over the next few months, I’m going to try to learn as much as I can from Dylan’s experience.
Author- Jason Lauritsen – Director, Best Places to Work
Quantum Workplace –www.quantumworkplace.com