There we were in a room with blank canvasses and a bunch of colors on a paper plate accompanied by two paint brushes.  My initial feeling was anticipated failure and inadequacy, because I have never painted anything other than a wall in my house. Detail and precision with a paint brush is not my number one skill set!  The teacher an experienced artist created an environment for us to take risks and go far beyond what we thought our perceived capabilities and create our own vision.

This experience gave me pause to think about how this applies to the business world.  There I was, far outside my comfort zone walking into the class with little to no confidence, skeptical yet open minded to give it a try under the direction of an experienced artist.

If left to my own devices, I would still be staring at that blank canvas.

The experienced artist/leader helped us to understand we were creating our own vision of what we were painting, not someone else’s vision of the object.  Armed with this confidence I began putting paint to canvas using squiggly lines, blended colors and in a short period of time I created a river, mountains, trees, leaves and a trail.  I was channeling Bob Ross (for those of you who get this reference) without the goatee and frizzy hair, my confidence was growing with each brush stroke.

So how does this translate to the business world you ask?  We all possess leadership abilities and use these skills to affect change in our organizations.

  • Leaders are change agents, the artist changed my perception of my ability to create something on canvas.
  • Leaders create and foster an environment which allows people to want to follow and be included.

In this case, the experienced artist was leading a group of people to their own individual successes.

All too often, we find managers/painters who try to replicate what worked in the past and apply over and over hoping for the same success.  They stay in their comfort zone and never experience the opportunity to accept the risks effective leaders/artists welcome for the chance to experience something new and expand their horizons.  A person who replicates the same picture over and over is called a painter, i.e. my experience painting a wall in my house.  A leader is like an artist who accepts the challenge of another blank canvas; drawing on their previous experience to create a new vision.

The takeaway from this experience is I stretched myself, took a risk and the result is increased confidence in uncomfortable situations.  My recommendation is put yourself out there in the “uncomfortable zone” and challenge yourself to become a better leader. Create an environment for your team to experience individual success and it will benefit the entire organization.

How can you take a step towards your “uncomfortable zone”? Click here to download Dale Carnegie’s Golden Book for access to all of the Human Relations Principles.

Posted by Bob Price

Bob brings a very diverse background to his position Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Dale Carnegie Training. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo he was recruited into an operations management position with a national industrial chemical distributor. The operations background in distribution gave him the foundation to move into a successful career selling chemicals and the company’s hazardous waste management program which he received their highest performance award twice. He moved away from industrial sales to more strategic solution based sales when he joined Right Management the largest global career transition company in the world. There he worked with senior managers to design solutions to deliver specific predetermined results. As the Vice President of Strategic Solutions with Dale Carnegie, Bob has worked with companies both large and small to collaborate on professional growth strategies which provide his clients with the tools and resources to achieve their organization goals and objectives. He has been nationally recognized in the top 10% of Dale Carnegie’s consultants for each of the past three years.

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