What can you recall about the Challenger?
In an earlier lesson, you were introduced to the Challenger. By way of review, here is what you learned about Challengers; they are:
- Resourceful and quick to look inside themselves as part of how they approach problem-solving
- Willing to work hard, look for the solutions, and take responsibility for their actions
- Skillful navigators
- Good at bringing an emotionally healthy perspective to what they do
- Fueled by self-efficacy: self-awareness, intentionality around their behavior, and a belief in their capacity to handle a wide range of tasks and situations, reach goals, and persist through challenges
We will use this lesson to give you a series of seven tangible practices that Challengers live by. Think of these as the Core Challenger Practices, specific practices or behaviors you can use to demonstrate executive presence.
As a reminder, nothing in this program is mandatory and nothing here is meant to suggest that what we are offering will fit you perfectly or address every single aspect of your circumstances.
- Think of what you are exposed to in the CCO as a menu.
- Choose what seems right or at least interesting to you; leave behind what does not.
- Hold yourself accountable for your own learning and push yourself to try things that at first blush don’t seem that useful or even the things you can poke holes in.
- Try things out, but if something doesn’t make sense after you’ve considered it, let it go.
There is no one-size-fits-all to leadership so just try to find the parts that work for you.
The Core Challenger Practices
When practiced over time, these practices help you “be executive” (i.e., they help you to demonstrate executive presence or gravitas). For simplicity, we organize the practices into three buckets:
- Integrity Practices
- Ownership or Conviction Practices, and
- Clarity Practices.
(We defer the topic of composure under pressure to Lesson 8.)
Here is an overview. We go deeper in the topics that follow.
- Integrity.We talked early on about how Challengers are able to influence outcomes. In order to have influence, people must trust your integrity at some level. This is not the same thing as agreeing with you or even liking you. When others trust your integrity, this means they can count on you to (relatively consistently) show up in a manner that is useful and productive. It also means they can count on your actions lining up with what you say is important to you. Two ways Challengers practice integrity at work are to:
- Be for-the-business
- Be a truth-teller
- Ownership (aka Passion and Conviction). Challengers take ownership for creating outcomes. When you take ownership, people see you as passionate and convicted. Very frequently, however, we see one of two patterns that can work to keep us from owning it.The first pattern involves holding back or refraining from giving voice to our opinions. At times, this holding back comes from a place of fear: fear that our contributions aren’t good enough, profound enough or vetted enough. (You might remember this from Lesson 2.) If we are coming from this place, it can feel too risky to stick our neck out. The problem is twofold. We feel stuck, stagnant, unexpressed. We come across to others as lacking passion or conviction, not expressing ownership, or even as disengaged.
The second pattern we see looks quite different: instead of staying quiet, when we display this behavioral pattern, we aren’t necessarily silent or invisible; in fact, we might be quite vocal. We might even be the one who frequently speaks up, voicing unpopular opinions and offering tough critiques. While critical thinking is valuable and the organization needs it, it is important to differentiate between how we show up when we are using our amazing critical thinking skills versus when we are actually just stuck in the Critic persona (remember the Critic from Lesson 2?).If we get stuck in the Critic persona, we risk failing to bring our creativity to bear on the problems we are so good at identifying. Habitual Critics are really good at running in, blowing up stuff, and then disappearing; what would be more useful is a solid critique followed by a set of solution-oriented ideas to move things forward in a way that actually addresses the substance of the critique.
Can you see how at either end of the spectrum, we are not fully participating with our colleagues or contributing (i.e., we are not “owning” it)? Here are three practices Challengers use to take ownership and funnel their passion constructively:
- Take a stand
- Fill action vacuums
- Play into the white spaces
- Clarity. We discussed earlier that Challengers are supreme navigators and have a capacity to handle a wide range of situations. Being in tune with your context and choosing your behaviors accordingly is essential to skillful navigation. Working skillfully with feedback is one powerful and relatively direct way to do that.
In this lesson, you will get several tips for working with feedback. The practices are:
- Ask for feedback (don’t worry, we will share tips for making this easier)
- Follow up
Again, these behaviors or practices will be described in detail in this lesson.
Let’s look at what each might look like in practice. As we go through the core practices, consider how you might put these practices into play and also how these practices might support your organization’s values. Consider also how these practices could inform how you “be executive.”