Cold plunges and cold showers are a popular component of athletic performance routines.  The advertised benefits include faster recovery and increased energy.  The cold shock deepens breathing and stimulates the nervous system — and definitely gets you going in the morning.

Taking metaphorical “cold plunges” can also have tremendous impact on our growth as leaders.  The benefits include improved perspective, accelerated learning, discovery of new abilities and renewed enthusiasm for goals.

There are three ways to create the bracing effects of a plunge in your development: seeking feedback, experimenting with new skills/behaviors and exposure to new experiences.

Seeking feedback…  as I say, “Feedback is only breakfast for champions”, but it is a good place to start.  Maximize the value of feedback by getting it from 1) those that will not sugar-coat nor dilute 2) experts in a specific area, or 3) from those you may have hesitated asking before (bosses, peers, direct reports).  I have done many 360 reports with leaders. Not one has said they enjoyed the experience.  Almost all found the information incredibly valuable.

Experimenting with new skills/behaviors… Try something that is not your normal style.  I was at a large gathering of leaders recently and the host, a senior leader for a major university, stuck to reading prepared remarks.  The message and delivery were plain vanilla and totally lost amongst the clatter of table chatter and silverware.  It appeared to me that this leader was most comfortable with a safe style – even when the impact was low.  Risk a little and see what can be done better.

Exposure to new experiences…In the context of developing as a leader, new experiences can include classes on new subjects, new books, new conferences, new levels of participation in current communities…activities that expose you to new people and ideas.  Even for myself, I have taken steps to have more contact with a community of exceptional coaches and consultants.  The results have been a positive shock to the system.

Have you taken a cold plunge lately?  What was the impact?  Ideas for a new plunge?