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Here’s a challenge . . .

I bet I know you. I can even predict your behavior. I know what you can and can’t do, even though you and I may have never met.  How can I be so sure? Well, I can’t. But I have a pretty good idea.

Let me show you what I know . . .

  1. Most people, including you, find themselves “faking” confidence. You don’t always know what you are doing, but will try to get others to think you do.
  2. It is impossible to breathe through your nose while sticking out your tongue. It is simply physically (and psychologically) impossible.
  3. You just tried point #2, but only after re-reading it to ensure you understood what was being said.
  4. When you did point #2, you realized it is possible, but you look like a dog.
  5. You just smiled when you realized I do, in fact, know you.

So, when this challenge presented itself, did you react?

There is one basic commonality that is instinctive for all humans—the desire to succeed. We tend to gravitate toward a challenge. When faced with a challenge, our natural reaction is most often to find a way to address the challenge.

This need has been with us for as long as man has been around. While reaction to challenge is a natural part of self-preservation (“Saber-tooth tiger! Run!”), it goes deeper than simply a survival mechanism. We have an inherent psychological need to be challenged—and to prove our ability to meet that challenge.

Consider how you would respond to these two questions that we use on our employee engagement surveys:

  • My work offers enough variety and challenge to keep me engaged.
  • Most days, my job provides me with opportunities to stretch beyond my comfort zone.

Based on the responses to these questions we have found a very clear correlation between growth and challenge, and overall levels of employee engagement.

Are You Challenged Enough to be Engaged at Work?

Cartoons and business sitcoms portray workers that simply “get by,” investing as little as possible in their jobs. In fact, humorous media often depicts most employees as expending more effort in avoiding work than they would if they had actually done the work.

Our experience shows just the opposite. People, in general, not only want challenge—they need challenge. Employment situations are no different. We work with numerous organizations where challenge is not a problem. In fact, “Overcome today’s challenge” could certainly be listed as Bullet #1 in many job descriptions.

While challenge and growth are a part of everyday work life in these organizations, we also see many where the organization or the supervisor is afraid to provide “stretch” assignments to their teams. Innovation muscles quickly atrophy, as does overall engagement.

Remember, positive response to challenge is instinctive.

So, smile, put your tongue back in your mouth, and don’t be afraid to challenge your team. They (and you) need it.

Related White Paper: MAGIC: The Five Keys of Employee Engagement

Related Post: The Link between Growth and Employee Engagement

Related Post: “Flow” and Employee Engagement

About Tracy Maylett

Tracy is the Chief Executive Officer and President of DecisionWise, and is responsible for guiding the overall strategy of DecisionWise, as well as leading large-scale change efforts for clients throughout the globe. View Bio

5 comments — View
  • I admit… I fell for it. Once I got past the ditzy moment, I do realize that my employees (as do I) DO want to succeed. Very few people wake up in the morning and say, “Wow, I’d sure like to fail at work today). This is where challenge comes in.

  • We just had two employees leave for this very reason. All along the manager of these individuals told us that they were about to leave because of pay. However, when they left they stated that a pay increase is always nice (we bumped their pay nearly 8%), they simply didn’t feel that their jobs offered them any challenge.

  • I believe as you say. Nonetheless, one must be noted that says may be possible that employees are exceeded in challenges. It must be reminded that the employees have limits in the challenges also.

  • Very interesting article. Indeed, non-challenging work causes professional atrophy. I also fell for the trick. Thanks for your work.

  • Interesting one! challenge your team but I think it has some limits.

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