Think back for a minute about the best bosses or mentors you’ve had in your career. I’ll bet that they pushed you harder than any other by a factor of 2 or 3. I’ll bet again you may have had only one of these beasts…maybe 2 of these taskmasters. Dan Rockwell’s post in Leadership Freak (“Six Strategies to Get Your Tough On”) struck a cord. Most of us are inclined to be “tender” rather than “tough”. It does take more (much more) effort and more finesse to be tough – - to have high expectations – - and to be encouraging at the same time. In order to realize the potential of our “Player” – - to have him/her perform at their highest levels…we as leaders need to PUSH. We need to set the PACE. And, the beauty and the maddening complexity of great leadership is that every Player is unique and requires you to push different “buttons” at different levels of intensity. Hard work, yes. Worth it? Absolutely. The next time your Player crosses the threshold of being average to achieving excellence, give yourself some credit. Bask in warmth of having just a wee-bit of responsibility in seeing another fellow human-being achieve their maximum potential. There are in fact very few of you out there really pushing…
Key Excerpts from Dan’s great post on Getting Your Tough On…
“Being tough is harder than being tender. Toughness is the line between average performance and high achievement. High performance leaders know how to be tough.”
Jim Collins’ insights into the genius of “and’ apply to challenge and encourage. Many are great at encouraging. Few excel at challenging. Embrace both. Encouragement is the foundation of challenge, not a standalone behavior.
“Err on the side of pushing harder not easier. When you wonder if you should challenge or comfort someone, challenge them. Expect more not less.“
“Encourage those who are struggling but don’t exclude challenging them. Reject the temptation to coddle. People rise to challenges.”
Leaders that always challenge and never encourage, come off as never satisfied. They frustrate the team. Avoid the “never satisfied” trap by honoring achievements, a lot.
People rise up to challenges when they believe you’re on their team. They push back when they believe you’re pushing for selfish reasons. Express loyalty to their vision and career goals. Be an ally calling for their best not a taskmaster yelling for more.
Explore challenging goals with employees and get buy in.
6 ways to be tough:
- Believe they can do more and be better.
- Avoid letting anger or frustration fuel toughness.
- Focus on mission and vision, not tasks when calling people to reach higher.
- Honor past achievements.
- Ask how you can help them reach higher.
- Remove ambiguity.
What if you go too far and challenge too much? Explain your intent to bring out the best and apologize.