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.
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:
- Believe they can do more and be better.
- Avoid letting anger or frustration fuel toughness.
- Focus on mission and vision, not tasks when calling people to reach higher.
- Honor past achievements.
- Ask how you can help them reach higher.
- 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.
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.
What if you go too far and challenge too much? Explain your intent to bring out the best and apologize.
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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Hi Dan. How can we effectively challenge folks without deflating them. It is not easy that is for sure. I think before we challenge we need to assess to make sure the appropriate tools and skills are in place. There is nothing wrong with pushing folks and raising the bar but knowing beforehand that someone will probably fail may cause a lot of more harm than good. I think that challenges that are not left in the “solo” mode but rather we use the “copilot” model are likely to be less frightening and intimidating. The copilot need never touch the controls but the “knowing” that you are there just in case gives assurance and may actually push the person to take more risks and achieve greater success. This is different than the holding of the bike with the training wheels. It is more like jogging alongside and for sure they will go faster. I have been fortunate when challenged because I have had good mentors and encouraging associates along the way. In today’s world we are all constantly challenged to make sense of new changes (696 page ACO final rule by CMS just came out last Thursday.) and I feel the “Lone Ranger” days are over and we need more than just “Tonto” at least I do! 🙂
I think we should know the limitations of people and system. Any challenges that is beyond the limitation of people and system is worthless. Challenging insensitive and stubborn people also do not yield any result. Challenging hopeless and lazy people also waste your energy and time. We should know the intention, determination and courage of the person who we want to challenge. Leaders should effectively challenge the people by creating platform of trust. Then leaders should create hopes that people should see and feel it. Then leaders should encourage and challenge for tougher goal. They will surely chase goals and achieve remarkable results.
I love to be challenged but by the authentic person. I take challenge positively and do my best to prove. I do not feel challenged by fake or superfluous person. I do not think they can challenge authentic person. But, where there is a need to prove, I take this challenge in right intention. Too much challenge sometimes discourage and frustrate, but too much challenge with sincere appreciation energizes me.
Sometimes people tend to confuse frustration with challange. Especially when they try to be more positive about their frustration, as seen in scrum retrospects for example. There you can see a lot of hidden frustrations in “What challange me”..
So I would recommend not to challange someones frustrations, otherwise things will start to crack. real challanges on the other hand is healthy, and personally I like to e challanged.
I definitely find the concept of challenge useful for high performance leadership. I would emphasize the need to pair challenge with encouragement. I have worked for (and been guilty of it myself) leaders who continually challenged, but never encouraged or appreciated. The result is a team member who feels like nothing they do is good enough. There are times where the right answer is “That’s great!” and not “Here’s how you could do it better…”
Thanks as always for the (challenging) material!
Terrific post Dan. I think you nailed it. Dave
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