Why daily business is a bad comfort zone

...and how leaders become leaders in the first place

For majority of leaders, the path from being team member to become first-time manager or leader has several commonalities which help explain why the daily business naturally takes so much focus - and why business development seems so difficult.

At a certain point, leaders or managers spot the potential in you. And more precisely: The potential for you to do what you do at a larger scale.

You have most probably been performing well in a functional role within sales, engineering, finance, marketing, operations, logistics or whatever field you are strong in. And because of this, your leaders or managers – along with their confidence in your people skills – have asked you to take an even broader responsibility.

Excitement and tension

For my own part, I recall the first feeling that hit me when I was offered a leadership role as part of changing company:


The excitement in the fact that someone had this level of confidence in my ability to do what I did at that time (marketing and brand management), and excitement that I would now become a leader with even bigger opportunities to influence and do what I was good at – just at a bigger scale.

Along with the excitement also came some level of tension. I got nervous about the responsibility of suddenly being someone’s boss and everything that comes with that.

Yet I found my confidence in the fact that I was good at what I was doing, so the new part – the stuff outside my comfort zone – was the people side.

If you step back and look at this development from the outside, it is obvious that:

  1. People most often get promoted to manager or leader, because of their abilities to perform in the daily business
  2. When promoted to leader, confidence comes from knowing how to run the business.


Focus is daily business

In this transition of going from regular employee to leader, there is no big focus on driving development, improvements and change. The first leadership role most often come because of great capabilities in running the daily business, solving the tasks and obstacles in there, and working effectively with the team helping them perform in the daily business. And to a far less extent with experience in driving and orchestrating development and change.

With this way of transitioning from a good performer in a team to the role of leading, focus remains on running the daily business, and to a far less extent on driving development and improvements.

In more brutal phrasing: Leaders are most often ‘born’ into leading the daily business, and not into developing it.

Unfortunately, this makes development, change and improvements more distant to leaders than it is to run the daily business.

The daily business becomes the comfort zone, and the place where you put your energy to ensure that teams perform and objectives are met in the short term, whereas initiatives on developing, changing or improving ways of working are slightly outside the experience zone of most leaders.

Although driving development and change is slightly outside the experience zone of most leaders, only by getting started, you will start gaining the benefits: Development and improvements that you make this week, month, or quarter will help improve performance and results next week, month, and quarter.

Have a look in the mirror, and consider...

  • Review last/this/next weeks calendar, and see how much time you spend on what?
  • How much time did you spend on development / improvement-related activities?


And move on with these related themes: