Once you have established Coherence in your leadership, knowing who you are, how you want to lead, and what you want to accomplish, the next step is coming to understand and harness the “fuel” for performance. This “fuel” is inherent in each of us, and as leaders, we can use it to drive not only our own growth but to foster a culture that allows our teams to do the same.
Challenge is the fuel that drives performance. We are wired to rise to and overcome challenges. Challenge is THE ingredient for growth and innovation, both personally and corporately. One of my favorite sayings (okay, I have a LOT of favorite sayings) is that “necessity is the mother of invention.” This is really another way of saying our challenges lead to innovation.
We Are Hard-Wired For It
It is not hard to find this in our DNA. How many activities did we do as kids, whether they were challenges or not, that we turned into challenges? The games we played, the sports we participated in, and yes, even the work we do. How many things do we turn into challenges because it makes the “doing” of that thing more fun and rewarding? We have corporate challenges, volunteer challenges, food bank challenges, read-a-thons, jump-a-thons, and the list goes on and on.
We don’t have to just compete against others either to create a challenge. Personal performance or goals form a large part of how we grow. Intrinsically we will measure our growth over time, whether it is in our academics, our height, our weight, our skills, and even our status. Things like when we completed high school, got our license, got a car, started dating, started a family, bought a house, got that raise or promotion, and well, you get the picture. Psychologists call this resilience, biologists call it adaptation, but whatever the label, it is fundamental to growth and performance.
For those of us familiar with farm life or who have witnessed this at school as part of a project, you know that when you are hatching chicks or ducklings, you cannot help the chick or duckling out of its shell. The struggle to free themselves is a necessary first step to survival.
Discovering Our Strengths
It is through meeting challenges in our lives that we come to understand our strengths and abilities. It is the reason that a good education will expose us to many experiences so that through the process of experimenting with these things, we find our natural abilities. Our understanding of those abilities will ultimately (hopefully) lead us to professions that give us an environment to express and run in those strengths. You have them as a leader, and you must recognize and foster those strengths on your team as well.
Rage Against The Norm
All businesses and organizations are based on the concept of challenge. Yet despite that reality, often that is not translated down or out through the companies various components. This results in teams of employees who are not challenged and, as such, not engaged. In case you are wondering – this is actually the norm. (See, we all want to know where we stand against the competition.) Gallup gauges engagement in North America at around 33%. And no, this is not performance, and leaders should rage against that norm.
How Do I Create Challenge?
Now you may be a leader or are going to be a leader, and I am sure at this point you are wondering; “how do I tap into that natural bent that responds to challenge?” This is what we are going to explore next. Hu centered leadership – think about it!