5 Unexpected Ways Being Challenging at Work Can Grow Your Business

Develop your leadership and management skills and improve your business relationships by being challenging.

It may seem contradictory, but being challenging at work—in very specific ways—can actually help your business succeed. Most leaders feel a bit uncomfortable delivering criticism to employees or giving difficult feedback to clients but relaying constructive criticism is absolutely necessary for the success of your business.  

 Being challenging can create a culture of honesty and trust, improve team relationships, and drive business results; however, if you want to do this well, it’s extremely important to use the proper approach.

You may be familiar with the old adage, “if you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind.” In a business setting, if you’re giving challenging feedback with the intention of hindering a person’s growth or putting them down, then you will be regarded as a leader who is difficult and even cruel. Worse, your team and clients will not want to work for—or with—you.

However, leaders who challenge in a constructive way can help employees break out of unproductive mindsets so they grow and thrive. The key is adopting a teaching model and allowing feedback to flow both ways for honest communication. (More on that later!) As you may have noted, this dynamic is quite different from the traditional corporate model. While it might seem unexpected and even unorthodox, being challenging can help you run a business more efficiently and improve business relationships.

Here are 5 areas in business you can be challenging and still be regarded as great leader:

  • Culture – Creating a culture of honesty and trust means delivering bad news and telling people where they need improvement, as well as sharing good news and celebrating people’s accomplishments. Business isn’t always great and people respect leaders that give them straight talk on ‘the good, the bad and the ugly.’
  • Feedback – Constructive criticism and recognizing accomplishments is all a part of being a strong leader. An employee that doesn’t realize they are not performing well on a certain task is because they weren’t given feedback they needed to correct the error. A great leader cares about people’s success enough to challenge employees with honest feedback.   
  • Team – Aligning people’s roles and strengths to form a team isn’t always easy. It’s a balance. Leaders that underestimate or overestimate people’s skills and abilities might hinder the team’s success from the start. If a team is aligned correctly but is underperforming, give them opportunities to improve, and then be challenging if they still aren’t progressing.  
  • Relationships – Being honest, kind, compassionate, as yes, sometimes challenging is part of building relationships. When people know leaders are listening with an open and non-judgmental way, they’re more likely to receive criticism positively which will result in people performing better.  
  • Knowledge – Understanding both your and your customer’s business earns you the credibility to push back a little. You can challenge your clients to view the situation differently or from another perspective. Leaders who are knowledgeable are regarded as experts in their field and customers will seek out their advice.    

Not sure how to remain constructive while being challenging? Here are 2 positive models your business can adopt:  

Radical candor
 – This management style has its roots in a TED talk and a book. It gives leaders “the ability to care personally at the same time that you challenge directly.”  In other words, honest feedback delivered in a caring, non-judgmental way is crucial for good management. Proponents of radical candor believe in building relationships and helping people grow by giving feedback—and it goes both ways, from employer to employee and back again.      

Sales Model
 – You may have heard of this bestselling book, which was based on a study. Researchers found that 40% of high performers were challengers—that is, salespeople who were very familiar with the customer’s business and used challenging questions to help push the customer to see a new point of view. This sales approach makes the seller into a teacher for their prospects and customers, and succeeds by modifying the sales process for each customer base. This model’s adherents think any salesperson with the right set of skills can use this approach to be successful.  

 It’s important to point out that both these models are based on respectful interactions that help push people past their comfort zone and help them break out of familiar paradigms. Perhaps one or both can help you make your business stronger.

Verity Commercial’s real estate advisors love to be challenged. Allow us to help you find space that can help promote culture and strong relationships, lower business costs, and increase your team’s productivity. Contact us today.