Skillfully challenging others is a skill you learn as you grow, it's challenging and can be uncomfortable but your team will thank you for putting them in a place where they can find success. Leaders motivate growth by pushing teams and individuals to surpass what they believe is possible. It's one of the greatest facets of being a leader, the power to up-level others.
Delivering uncomfortable news or feedback and having a member of your team thank you are the stories that stick in my head so readily. I think of them as moments of triumph, where a chasm was crossed. Thoughtful language paired with a genuine concern for the individual breeds trust, and with trust comes understanding.
- Tailor to the individual. Assess someone’s tolerance for being challenged and customize your approach accordingly.
- Time it thoughtfully. Seek opportune moments such as when energy and motivation are already high.
- Clarify that it comes from care. Make clear you challenge them because you care deeply about their development.
- Challenge the work, not the person. Critique the work itself versus criticizing the individual.
- Focus on potential. Challenge people based on the leader you see they can become, not who they are now.
- Use encouraging language. Say “I believe you can do even better,” "Have you considered this avenue" never “this isn’t good enough."
- Provide developmental feedback. Balance challenge with specific, constructive suggestions for reaching higher.
- Offer your support. Ramp up coaching and mentoring to provide support in meeting new challenges.
- Challenge collaboratively. Turn challenges into collaborative discussions rather than top-down directives.
- Make it a two-way street. Ask for suggestions from your team, "Where can I improve?", "Where are there opportunities?", "What can I do propel you forwards?".
Wise leaders challenge others with care, custody and constant support. Handled skillfully, challenge fuels growth and excellence.