"How To Zap Business Executives Out Of Their Comfort Zones"What happens when a corporation’s leadership is engaged, talented and competent ¬– but so stuck in their ways that they can’t quite grasp the importance of acting as a strategic, forward-thinking team?

It could be time for drastic measures – so drastic that company vice presidents might be left mumbling, “What just happened?”

“Shake them up,” says Frank Granara, CEO of General Insulation Co. and co-author with Lorraine Grubbs of “Beyond the Executive Comfort Zone: Outrageous Tactics to Ignite Individual Performance” (www.executivecomfortzone.com ).

“Don’t be afraid to get their attention in an over-the-top way, even if it means pretending you’re Zeus – a very miffed Zeus.”

Granara never asks anyone to fire lightning bolts he wouldn’t himself. He once dressed as the top Greek god at a company training session – complete with blaring music and swirling clouds – and required his dubious vice presidents to dress as gods, too.

“I would have called it outside the box thinking, but I’m not even sure Frank has a box,” says Grubbs, the consultant who helped Granara design a series of six imaginative sessions that reinvigorated his company.

She and Granara say such extreme tactics may sound absurd, but they can snap executives out of their doldrums and inspire them to view daily decisions from a different perspective.

“Not every company CEO will go to the extremes Frank did,” Grubbs says. “But they still can think creatively – and even outrageously – in figuring out ways to help their company leaders evolve into a high-performing team.”

The co-authors say some of the lessons they learned from the sessions that other CEOs can benefit from include:

• Place people in the right roles. Sometimes a job just isn’t the right fit for the individual. Rather than fire them, place them in a role that capitalizes on their strengths. At the conclusion of his company’s training sessions, Granara assigned 40 percent of his vice presidents to new positions that better matched their abilities and potential.
• Train first, then promote. Often, high-performing employees are rewarded with promotions, but are woefully unprepared for their new duties. “Promoting people and then training them afterward is not the best way to develop leaders,” Granara says.
• There is little growth without discomfort. Most people prefer to keep everything as is once they become comfortable. That may get the job done, but improvement won’t happen unless people are confronted with situations that throw them off balance.

“Be proactive,” Grubbs says. “Companies that can get their leadership teams thinking strategically are rewarded with greater teamwork and a better bottom line.”

Frank Granara and Lorraine Grubbs are co-authors of “Beyond the Executive Comfort Zone: Outrageous Tactics to Ignite Individual Performance” (www.executivecomfortzone.com ). Granara is CEO of General Insulation Co. and has a bachelor’s degree in business from Northeastern University. Grubbs is president of the consulting firm Lessons in Loyalty. As a former 15-year executive with Southwest Airlines, she takes principles and practices she helped develop to companies that strive for better employee engagement and loyalty.