Challenging your team requires that you do things smarter and not just harder. There are some goals where working smarter is difficult. So for example, if you are working on an assembly line, it might be difficult to increase your output, especially if you are not given any latitude to change things.
One common case of the “false challenge” can occur in sales forecasting. It stems from the belief that sales people are lazy and will sandbag their numbers. So management might add 20% to their numbers regardless of history or latitude. The root problem is not sales achievement, but trust. As a result, the organization winds up with multiple forecasts. The one management thinks they might achieve, the one that sales thinks they might achieve, and the one operations scales to. With three forecasts, no one knows where they are. Since they are all based on mistrust, they are unlikely to be dealt with rationally.
The worst case of this phenomenon I’ve seen was in a company where the CEO either didn’t trust the sales team or was simply stingy. He continually set sales goals so high that he didn’t have to pay bonuses. He felt he was challenging his team. But he wound up with a yearly turnover in his organization of 50%.
A challenge must have an element of achievability and support in order to work. This doesn’t mean that sales teams can’t be challenged. But that Management needs to stand behind one forecast, not three, and support the sales team. If everyone is on the same page, then it’s much easier to deal with mid-coarse corrections, and it’s much more likely you will actually achieve a stretch goal. Make this year’s new years resolution to have one forecast.
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