Stay In The Box

I was reminded of something recently – getting out of the box – isn’t comfortable.

Now – I know what some of your are thinking – “But, Tim, you need to get out of the box to challenge yourself, to push the limits, to get you and your organization better!”


Or have we been sold this by this eras snake oil salesmen and women (leadership trainers, life coaches, every motivation and leadership book written in the last 20 years)?

I’m not sure.

Here’s what I know:

1. People perform better when they know their boundaries. (their box)

2. There is comfort in knowing what to expect, with comfort comes sustained performance long-term.

3. In reality, a very small percentage of your employees will actually perform above their average performance being “out of the box”.

We as HR Pros tend to a little overboard sometimes, in the attempt to “help out” the cause within our organization – that can be both good and bad.  Things are going as well as they could be, so we push to get everyone out of their box and reinvent themselves, in hopes that this will lead to better performance and higher organizational results.  When in fact, many times, it will lead to the exact opposite.  Not everyone is wired to get “out of the box” – in fact probably at a minimum 80% of workforce should stay in their box, and keep plugging along with their solid performance that they are already giving you.

The trick to great HR in getting great performance – is to find those race horses who you can push out of the box, and they show you a whole other level of performance that you and they didn’t know existed.  But if you keep pushing plow horses out on to the track in hopes of turning them into a race horse – you and they will fail.  So, don’t drink the Kool-aid and believe everyone can and wants to be out of the box thinkers and performers – not everyone does – and you limit yourself by thinking in such general terms.

One thought on “Stay In The Box

  1. It’s much easier to get out of your box when you know you still can get back to it when needed. Safety is the issue. Fear is what keeps us from getting out of the box.

    Like a baserunner in baseball – they will only go as far as they think is “safe” to get back to the bag if someone throws down toward them.

    Too often we ask employees to get out of the box – but don’t provide a “safe” way to do it.

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