How do you challenge someone you’ve just met?
Someone who could be a potential client – who is excited about an idea and an approach, when you’re not sure it’s set up to deliver success?
A short while back, I was listening to a Senior Leader give an account of a task he had set 14 Team Leaders in his organisation: to design and deliver a training intervention for the 2,000 strong advisor population.
It was the first time I’d met this Leader and I was struck by the fact that he was an incredibly personable guy, with great ambitions for his business.
The intention of the task was brilliant, but I couldn’t help thinking that his team leaders weren’t trained in designing or delivering such interventions. They hadn’t been offered professional support, and had no agreed outcome from which to start the process.
So how should I approach this?
I listened and said ‘can I offer you a friendly challenge?’
The perplexed look on his face told me that challenge isn’t common in this culture, but the appreciative smile and nod also told me that he was intrigued by the seeming oxymoron of ‘friendly’ ‘challenge’.
The friendly challenge
A week later I was running a workshop with him, his peers and the Operations Director, when he said “I would like to invite anyone to ‘friendly challenge’ me on anything they think I can do better”. There was a murmur. Then something rather extraordinary happened.
People started to ‘friendly challenge’. Teams way down the organisation started to ‘friendly challenge’ each other.
The term ‘friendly challenge’ was written into role profiles.
All of a sudden, change started to happen. A culture of command and control was suddenly becoming a culture of ‘friendly challenge’.
What does this tell us?
The lesson here is that change does not have to rely just on an expensive system or project, often it is simple leadership behaviours that create the snowball effect.
Keep an eye out for simple opportunities to drive change in your organisation. It’s amazing how quickly you can have an impact.