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The importance of support and challenges in the workplace

What is your leadership style?  Do you challenge and really stretch your teams or is it more a softly-softly supportive approach?

Some kind of feedback mechanism is vital for teams and individuals to flourish in their roles, however the balance between support and challenges is an essential component in this.  As leaders, there are distinctive styles, all of which impact on employee behaviour.  As you can see in the Support vs Challenge matrix below, which is commonly used in performance coaching, there are four approaches, each of which cause varying results within an organisation.

If you offer high levels of support, for example, yet deliver unchallenging tasks or feedback this can lead to complacency or boredom amongst employees.  On the other hand, by challenging employees without any accompanying support system this can lead to a highly stressful situation adversely affecting performance.  In both instances, the full potential of the employee is not being realized effectively.

High performing leaders – effective managers –cultivate a high-support/high-challenge environment, which motivates teams to perform at their highest levels.  So far, so scientific!  But we all know that human emotions and personalities play an important role in all of this.   There must be certain levels of trust and openness to facilitate an environment where people feel genuinely valued and will respond positively to challenging feedback and encouragement.

It makes sense especially if we look at what organisations do in the first place.  They hire people to be innovative, creative and productive -essentially to bring their best game to work.  Individual capability is only a piece of the performance puzzle. People need to be given direction, goals and objectives and the resources with which to carry out their role.  Underpinning this is the environment.

A survival environment, with high challenges and low support will trigger a people to go into survival mode, as they feel threatened.  If this is sustained people become stressed and performance fails.

A situation where trust exists, and people are pushed forwards in a supportive and manner will create a positive and productive environment where people and ultimately the organisation can thrive.

Support vs. Challenge Matrix

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