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I Am Talking To You

| May 3, 2022

by Brian McDonald

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Steve Martino, Customer Success Manager at Cohesity.  He is a MOR alum.  Steve may be reached at [email protected].]  
There were messages early in my life that held me back from reaching my potential personally and in my career.


  • From my mom: “Why are you stressing yourself out by doing this college thing?”
  • From my father-in-law: “You will never amount to anything.”
  • From my brothers: “Steve always gets good grades in school and is Mom & Dad’s favorite.”

What messages did you receive that might have made you question yourself or doubt your own judgment or confidence?
What I realized later in life when talking with a MOR colleague, Hellen Zziwa, was that these messages were directed at me because my actions at the time were taking these people out of their comfort zones.  
Take, for example, my mom’s message, she was saying these things to me because no one in our family had ever gone to college, she saw the stress it was putting on me, and she was not comfortable with parenting a son on a path she did not understand.
As for my father-in-law, he was 100% correct at the time, I was 5 years out of high school, working a very basic warehouse job, with no thoughts of attending college, his comfort zone was that his daughter would marry an Ivy League college graduate, they would have a home on the West Coast, you get the picture.
My brothers were uncomfortable with me for raising the bar for them in school as they struggled and were constantly compared to me by my parents, so they made fun of me and made me reluctant to acknowledge or celebrate my achievements.
I am talking to you because you may be hearing similar messages today that could undermine your confidence or hold you back and I want you to know that they can play a role in defining who you are and limit what you will become.
In MOR we talk about you need to get out of your comfort zone, in my mind you need to get WAY OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE!  How do you know when you have achieved this?  Simple, when you start to get positive feedback from leadership or your peers, or your manager recognizes it during an annual review.  If you are not getting this feedback, you have not gone far enough!
I want you also to realize by doing this, you may be taking your peers or your management out of their comfort zone by your actions.  It’s ok!
As a manager you need to also get out of your comfort zone by providing positive feedback to your employees when you witness these stretch moments.  You also need to provide future stretch goals that encourage your employees to continue their journeys.  Erica Bradshaw, also a MOR graduate and my manager at Harvard was the key to my success by offering me projects that stretched me personally and professionally, by giving me the freedom to get “way out of my comfort zone”, but always being there to support and encourage me to take it to the next level.  I simply trusted her.
The comment by my father-in-law notably seems not to align with this story, but feedback is a gift.  I easily could have snubbed his comments, but somehow at the age of 20, I took what he said to heart and set out to prove him wrong.

I am talking to you because sometimes feedback is not always what you want to hear, and I need to note that sometimes it is just plain wrong, but sometimes it is just the feedback that you need to hear.
So now at the age of 62, after 28 years as a Director at Harvard University, 8 years of night school for my bachelor’s degree, 5 years of night school at Harvard University for my Master’s Degree, married for 42 years (she did marry an Ivy League college graduate), raised an awesome son, I am ready to celebrate my accomplishments!
I am talking to you today because I want you to get way out of your comfort zone and realize your potential as a leader and as a person!

This Week’s Survey

Which of these motivates you most to step outside your comfort zone?


From Last Week
Last week, we asked: Which type of feedback or conversation is your favorite gift?

  • 53% said constructive feedback that helps us grow.
  • 32% said great conversation with a good friend.
  • 10% said affirming feedback that validates.
  • 5% said critical feedback that is direct, but offers no solutions.

We want to learn, to grow, and to be connected.  That is validated by 85% of us preferring conversations that make this possible.  Interesting to note that only 10% of us prefer validating feedback compared to feedback that helps us grow.  And no surprise that so few of us prefer critical feedback that offers no solutions.  The next time you plan a gift of feedback, consider what the receiver may want and need in how that feedback is packaged, which may be different than your preferences for giving.