throwing down more challenges

April 11, 2008 at 12:02 pm | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment

In college, I was an offensive lineman. That means that me and four other guys had to function as a single unit for a play to be successful. I still remember the first time my coach put me in with the starting line up. There was me, and four other guys who were way better. It was a rush and I played at a whole new level. Fast forward many years and I found myself as a coach. It was then I learned why my college coach used to throw me in with the starters.

Take a kid with average skills and throw him into an environment where he is on the same unit with kids that are much better, and guess what… almost invariably his game steps up. Conversely, take a kid with great skills and put him in a mediocre bunch, and again, almost invariably, his performance drops. From an athletic perspective, I know why: athletes love The Challenge.

Can the same be true in business? I think so, but I’m actually in the process of testing it out more and more. Everyone is familiar with the Carrot and the Stick approaches to motivation, but I want to add a third category: The Challenge. What if we tried laying out the problem and simply telling folks, “I need you to come through here” and then really believe it! In other words, instead of looking down on under-performers, try pulling them up into your circle of “starters” and simply expect them to perform at your level, but treat them as a peer. Maybe that rush will hit them and they will find another gear. For me, it’s worth a shot.

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