Why You Need To Be Challenging Your Team More

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You are surrounded by ingenuity that you’re not taking advantage of.


Most leaders are. And the reason most leaders are is actually pretty simple.

It’s because most leaders spend too much time focusing on How.

A leader should be focused on the What, and the Where. A leader should provide the destination, but not the route. Why? Two reasons.

A #leader should provide the destination, but not the route. #Leadership Click To Tweet

First, as a leader, planning the route is a waste of your time and energy. Your greatest value is in creating and communicating the vision, not in micromanaging the execution of that vision.

Second, your team — if they’re any good — loves a challenge. They love to stretch their skills, their creativity — their ingenuity.

Great #teams thrive when challenged by a great #leader. #Leadership Click To Tweet

You’ve no doubt heard of “flow.” Some people refer to it as “being in the zone.” It’s defined as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” The state of flow is achieved when a high perceived challenge is matched by a high perceived level of skill. In other words, when you give your team a compelling challenge that forces them to work at the top of their skill level, there’s a good chance they’ll hit that flow state.

And that’s where a fully engaged team thrives.

Let’s take a brief history lesson.

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before Congress and said, “…this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

Now — and this is the important part — Kennedy did not follow that with, “And here’s how we’re going to do it. First, we’ll develop the Saturn V rocket. Then…” No, what Kennedy did was to provide the destination: the Moon. But for the route — the how — he relied on the ingenuity of others.

“But Bill,” you say, “Kennedy didn’t know how to get to the moon. I do know how to do the things I’m asking my team to do.”

Fair point. But let me give you a bit of pushback.

First, you don’t know how to do the things you’re asking your team to do. What you do know is how you would do the things you’re asking your team to do. And your way isn’t necessarily the best way. There’s a very good chance that your team, when left to play with their own ingenuity, will come up with a better way (or ways).

Second, when you tell your team not only what to do, but how to do it, you create a team that is bored and, eventually, demoralized — because they’re not being challenged.

So the choice is yours. Bored and demoralized, or energized and “in the zone.” I know which one I’d prefer.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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