On Broccoli and Peaches – How to Give Challenge and Support

If support is a peach, challenge is broccoli. Peaches are good. Broccoli is good for you.

An abundance of peaches makes people complacent and feeble. But too much broccoli makes people disheartened and frustrated.

The promise of a peach makes broccoli almost enjoyable.


Too much support makes people weak. Too much challenge makes people discouraged.

Challenge and Support

Leaders who support too much:

  1. Don’t want to inconvenience anyone.
  2. End up doing things by themselves because they don’t ask people to do hard things.
  3. Feel frustrated because others don’t help.
  4. Spend too much time helping and not enough time stretching people.
  5. Encourage dependence.
  6. Imply, inadvertently, that others are incompetent.

Leaders who challenge too much:

  1. Pressure people without thinking about current workload.
  2. Expect performance from weakness. Leaders who challenge too much don’t care about talent, just results.
  3. Neglect training and development. Just get it done.
  4. Complain that people don’t rise to higher standards and deliver better results.
  5. Cause fatigue.
  6. Invite resistance. The people you continually push – without giving support – eventually push back or leave.
Challenge and support 2X2.

Support is more than holding hands:

Support enables performance.

USA TODAY reports that 76-percent of parents admitted they still remind their adult children of deadlines, including schoolwork. 74 percent said they made appointments for them, including doctors’ appointments.

Coddled people crumble when confronted with challenge.

Untested people don’t know what they’re made of.

Challenge is more than making demands:

Untested people:

  1. Believe they are superior when they’re inferior. Challenge humbles.
  2. Devalue the expertise of others. Challenge enables respect for others.
  3. Fail to appreciate and anticipate the challenges of high performance. Challenge sheds light on reality.

(Adapted from the Dunning-Kruger Effect)

Challenge that’s comfortable is useless. Challenge that’s overwhelming causes defeat.

Challenge AND support enable people to step into discomfort.

Support includes training, mentoring, and coaching when people take on new challenges.

What happens when leaders give too much support?

What happens when leaders give too much challenge?

How might leaders find an effective balance between challenge and support?

Resource material:

‘Snowplow parenting’ is killing kids’ life skills, poll shows (usatoday.com)

How Parents Are Robbing Their Children of Adulthood – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

(PDF) Maintaining High Challenge and High Support for Diverse Learners (researchgate.net)