3 min read

Deconstructing Growth

Nov 20, 2021 12:24:20 PM

Odds are, if you are in a leadership role, you have an appetite for growth. 

Growth of your business, growth of your people, growth of yourself. 

Have you ever stopped to think about what goes into growth however?


As the image above shows, Growth is a product of high levels of Safety mixed with low levels of Comfort. Makes sense right? How many times have you been told that in order to grow, you need to ‘step outside your comfort zone’? Without discomfort, there is no catalyst for Growth, often resulting in Atrophy. Without Safety however, people fear what will happen to them, often leading to Avoidance

Accidents happen when these two concepts get confused and we increase Comfort instead of Safety when we are under strain. All this does is fail to prepare us for even larger challenges in the future, resulting in completely avoidable Accidents.

Again, this makes complete sense. The problem is, can you honestly say you know the difference between Comfort and Safety?

Working with countless leaders over the past decade I can tell you that many struggle to make the distinction. Many increase penalties and retribution to ‘keep their people in line’ and justify it as a means of making their people uncomfortable. Others dial back expectations and accountabilities, increasing their people’s comfort and passing that off as maintaining safety.

To solve this, here I put forward a simple reframing of the already simple framework proposed above. That reframing requires an understanding of two things: Punishment and Prevention.


Safety is the difference between the belief I will learn from my mistakes, versus the belief I will be punished for my mistakes.

If your people fear their mistakes will be used against them, they aren’t going to get better at making fewer of them, they’re just going to get better at hiding them from you.

You have made them feel both Unsafe and Uncomfortable. They can’t fix Safety (how you react to them), but they can fix Comfort (hiding the mistake, thus taking away your opportunity to react). You can see where this is very much an Accident waiting to happen.

Growth requires Safety and Safety requires the removal of Punishment.


Once you have created an environment where people will actually make you aware of their mistakes, you need to put them in a position to make more of them.

Comfort is the difference between preventing opportunities for mistakes versus promoting opportunities for mistakes.

Some of you are struggling to allow your people to make mistakes because you think it makes you look like a poor leader. Some of you are struggling because it feels like you are setting your people up to fail. In short, the presence of mistakes is uncomfortable to most leaders. Preventing opportunities for them to occur increases Comfort, eliminating Growth as an outcome.

You must be willing to become uncomfortable by allowing more mistakes to happen, in order for Growth to be possible. Just know that to truly embrace discomfort, you need to know how your subconscious perceives discomfort based on your Behavioural Colour. 

Yellows fear a loss of influence. Greens fear letting people down. Blues fear inaccuracy and mistakes. Reds fear being seen as gullible or being easily taken advantage of.

Each of these unconscious fears can influence you away from having a better relationship with both Punishment and Prevention - which is why having a strong handle on your EQ as a leader is so important.

Shane Wallace

Written by Shane Wallace

Shane is the Founder & CEO of CultureSmith Inc. He works with leaders and teams of high-growth organizations to help them overcome the behavioural and emotional issues that prevent their growth. Leveraging the CultureSmith Growth & Sustainability Framework, Shane helps demystify the the theories of Psychological Safety, Emotional Intelligence and Servant Leadership to turn companies into places people care about.