For years, my family joked that I only liked to eat macaroni and cheese or pizza. For years, it wasn’t far from the truth. Some things I wouldn’t eat: turnip greens, seafood. (I still don’t.)

As I grew toward adulthood, I expanded my food choices considerably, perhaps in part to my parents’ gentle encouragement: “Yum, this is so good. Would you like to try some?”

I am still not a very adventurous eater —  I gravitate toward familiar foods — but I am much more willing to try new things.

People often find comfort in what they know and experience anxiety when they face new experiences.

Yet, when we step outside of our comfort zones to try new foods, explore new ideas, experiment with novel methods, and interact with people who we perceive to be different from ourselves, we create opportunities for growth. Interacting with new people or unfamiliar situations challenges us and stretches us, taking us beyond what we know to places we never knew existed.

Leaders can encourage growth in their organizations or communities by embracing diversity in working with new people, ideas, and methods. As they model openness, those who are following may become open as well. As leaders demonstrate their own willingness to step away from the familiar, they gently model “This is good; try some.”

Join the conversation!

How has trying new things helped you grow?

How do you model openness to new ideas in your organization?

Share your experiences in working with people who you perceive to be different from yourself.

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.