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 . . .
- 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.
- It is impossible to breathe through your nose while sticking out your tongue. It is simply physically (and psychologically) impossible.
- You just tried point #2, but only after re-reading it to ensure you understood what was being said.
- When you did point #2, you realized it is possible, but you look like a dog.
- 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.
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.