The Best Way to Challenge

As a manager or leader, it’s important to calibrate your leadership approach to include support and challenge. (To learn more about The Support Challenge Matrix, check out our free instruction guide and tool.) But they can’t be generic. Both have to be specific in nature and feedback if you are going to develop into a leader that people want to follow.


When you can challenge your team in appropriate and specific ways, you help create a culture of empowerment and opportunity. By doing so, you can help your team grow and succeed.



One way to challenge your team is to set clear and attainable goals. This helps your team understand what is expected of them and give them a sense of purpose and direction. Instead of saying, “You have to do better next time”, tell them a specific metric like “This has to be done 10% faster” or “Next time it can’t take more than 3 hours to do this task.” It’s important to make sure that the goals you set are challenging, but also realistic and achievable.


Learning Opportunities

Another way to challenge your team is to provide them with new and diverse learning opportunities. This can involve offering training and development programs, assigning them new tasks or projects, or encouraging them to take on leadership roles. You can begin to prepare them with a leadership development plan of your own. Challenge team members with a specific new thing to learn. By providing your team with specific learning challenges, you can help them build skills and expand their knowledge.



Unfortunately, there are times when a team member may exhibit behavior that is not fitting for a professional environment or that matches your core values. In these cases, your challenge needs to identify the specific behaviors that were unacceptable. Focus on the behavior – not the person’s identity or value. Identify specifically what they did that was wrong or needs improvement, and then give a specific instruction for what kind of behavior is expected of them. Even better, give the person a specific example or alternative of how they could handle that situation better in the future.


Taking Risks

You can also challenge your team by encouraging them to take risks and try new things. This can involve encouraging them to come up with new ideas or solutions, or giving them the freedom to explore new approaches to their work. Once again, avoid generalities. Give them specific criteria or boundaries for new ideas or solutions. Tell them you expect them to spend at least 2 hours this week exploring new opportunities. By fostering a culture of innovation and experimentation, you can help your team feel empowered and motivated to take on new challenges.


In addition to these specific ways of challenging your team, it’s important to create a supportive and positive work environment where your team feels valued and encouraged to grow. This can involve providing regular feedback and support, recognizing and celebrating their achievements, and promoting a healthy work-life balance. (More on that in the article about how to give specific support to your team.)


Becoming a liberating leader involves challenging your team in appropriate and specific ways. By doing so, you can create a culture of empowerment and opportunity where your team can grow, succeed and become more productive.

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Micah Ray

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