Six Strategies to Get Your Tough On

Err on the side of pushing harder not easier. When you wonder if you should challenge or comfort someone, challenge them. Expect more not less.

Encourage those who are struggling but don’t exclude challenging them. Reject the temptation to coddle. People rise to challenges.

Maxed out:

A few on your team are maxed out. Strengthen them; don’t give them more challenges. Many on your team think they are maxed out but they aren’t, challenge them.

The leadership line:

Being tough is harder than being tender. Toughness is the line between average performance and high achievement. High performance leaders know how to be tough.

6 ways to be tough:

  1. Believe they can do more and be better.
  2. Avoid letting anger or frustration fuel toughness.
  3. Focus on mission and vision, not tasks when calling people to reach higher.
  4. Honor past achievements.
  5. Ask how you can help them reach higher.
  6. Remove ambiguity.

Bonus: Explore challenging goals with employees and get buy in.

The genius of “and:”

Jim Collins’ insights into the genius of “and’ apply to challenge and encourage. Many are great at encouraging. Few excel at challenging. Embrace both. Encouragement is the foundation of challenge, not a standalone behavior.

Never satisfied:

Leaders that always challenge and never encourage, come off as never satisfied. They frustrate the team. Avoid the “never satisfied” trap by honoring achievements, a lot.

Too far:

What if you go too far and challenge too much? Explain your intent to bring out the best and apologize.

The key:

People rise up to challenges when they believe you’re on their team. They push back when they believe you’re pushing for selfish reasons. Express loyalty to their vision and career goals. Be an ally calling for their best not a taskmaster yelling for more.

How can leaders effectively challenge people?

What is your experience with being challenged? Too much? Too little? Frustrated? Just right?


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