What do taking a cold plunge and improving your leadership habits have in common?

As it turns out, quite a lot.

Much like the philosophy presented in James Clear’s Atomic Habits, at Cinga we believe that changing behavior in one small area of your life or business can have tremendous ripple effects in other areas.

Let’s take a look at how.

The Power of the Cold Plunge

Early this year, I began a new habit of cold plunging – immersing yourself in cold water for a short time, typically from two to five minutes.

The science behind cold plunging shows that putting your body in uncomfortable situations, such as exposure to cold water, can trigger a powerful physiological response. Blood rushes to vital organs to help maintain core temperature, followed by a rush back to your extremities when you exit the cold water.

This process acts as a detoxification and energizing mechanism for the body. It requires your body to push past boundaries and build resilience.

Despite the initial discomfort, I’ve experienced a profound ripple effect in my life. I feel healthier and more energized. I sleep better. As a result, I’m a more effective business owner and leader.

Think about it – a commitment to cold plunging for three minutes every day has the potential to usher in tremendous physical and mental well-being. Just three minutes. It’s a small change with a dramatic impact.

What Does This Have to Do With Leadership?

Just like cold plunging prompts physical transformation, focusing on small, uncomfortable behaviors in the workplace can lead to significant improvements in leadership and productivity.

For example, you might identify one specific area for improvement, then commit to doing it consistently. Even when it’s uncomfortable. Look for the small, often awkward, change that has the potential to achieve an outsized impact.

For many leaders, the most effective small, uncomfortable change centres on creating ongoing, regular, two-way feedback.

Leaders often shy away from tough conversations because they’re afraid of negative consequences. If they offer feedback, the recipient might become defensive, angry, or otherwise emotional. And other people’s emotions can be hard to deal with.

Just like elite athletes and other enthusiasts (like me) have normalized the discomfort of cold plunging, leaders can normalize difficult discussions by incorporating them into regular routines.

(And take my word for it: feedback is MUCH easier to do than cold plunging!)

Here’s how.

Your Feedback Cold Plunge: the KSS Meeting

The key to creating new habits lies in repetition.

The easiest way to develop a feedback loop is to bake it into your regular 1:1 meetings.

Develop a rhythm of both soliciting and providing feedback.

A simple framework for this kind of conversation is KSS.

Ask these questions about how you can best serve your team:

  • What should you Keep doing?
  • What should you Start doing?
  • What should you Stop doing?

Then provide similar feedback to your team member.

4 Tips to Make Feedback Feel More Comfortable

  1. Make people feel safe – In general, people don’t give feedback – or receive it well – when they don’t feel safe. So, make an effort to get to know everyone on your team on a personal level. Ask about their lives outside of work. And share some of your own personal life in order to help lower barriers. With practice, it gets less uncomfortable and feels more natural.
  2. Find the balance – Feedback isn’t always negative! It shouldn’t be. People need to hear about what they’re doing well, along with where they can improve – so make sure you’re providing both. Positive feedback also helps establish a culture of care – and your team is much more likely to accept feedback when they believe you genuinely care about them.
  3. Talk about feedback – Integrating feedback into your culture shouldn’t be a secret operation. Talk with your team about how important this is to the organization’s success – and make sure all your managers understand as well.
  4. Ask for feedback yourself – Here’s another icy plunge moment. As the leader, you can’t only offer feedback, you also must model how to receive it. Ask your team to provide feedback about how you can best serve them. And then listen.

Both giving and receiving feedback can be difficult – and uncomfortable.

But over time, these conversations become less daunting, leading to improved communication and productivity within teams.

Much like the daily commitment to cold plunging, embracing discomfort in the workplace can lead to long-lasting positive effects on productivity and performance.