Matching their Skill to your Challenge

Leaders need to help their followers be productive and enjoy their work. One key element is to match the follower’s skill level to the challenge that you’re presenting to them.

As you drive down the freeway in many parts of the US, you’ll know when your car is drifting too far to the right or left because you’ll hear a “bump-bump-bump” sound — that’s the sound made by either plastic bumps or small cuts made in the road surface to warn you that you’re about to leave your lane of travel.

Luckily for leaders, your followers are similarly equipped with warning devices — you’ll hear one of two distinctive sounds depending on whether you’ve set the challenge level too low or too high for a given person.

These two sounds are “boredom” and “frustration”.

Boredom means the challenge is too low, or that their skill level has risen above what it was. Adjust by increasing the challenge level or moving the person.

Frustration means the challenge is too high, or that their skill level was not what you thought or the work has changed from what they were trained on. Adjust by providing training, adding procedures to clarify what to do and how to do it, or moving the person.

It’s your job as a leader to ensure that everyone faces the right level of challenge — not too easy, not too hard — and to monitor them periodically to ensure they’re still being appropriately challenged.

Do that right, and you’ll have a productive and happy work force.

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