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03.05 – 5 Questions to Help Create “Stretch” Experiences

03.05 - 5 Questions to Help Create "Stretch" Experiences
We started with the ACS model. We’ve covered the assessment component of that model. Now, I wanna transition to the challenge component, the C in the ACS model.
In our research, we found that challenging your team members, stretching them in ways that get them out of their comfort zone, is an essential ingredient to their growth and the development of your team. I want to share with you some of the latest research that we’ve been conducting on how to design effective challenging experiences for people that will enable them to grow and develop. These insights from the research and the best practices, the strategies that I will share with you, are helpful not only as you think about coaching and developing your team, but also for yourself as you think about your own growth, your own development in your career and how you want to challenge yourself.
So think about it in both respects.
The first thing you need to understand is what makes for a developmental, challenging experience. I’ve been doing research over the last seven, eight years, trying to really understand what are the attributes? What are the features of on the job experiences that make these experiences developmental? And so think back to the experience that we started this session with, your most developmental experience in life. Think about the characteristics or the attributes of that experience. I bet they share many of the features that I will expose to you here. The first is, is it novel? And you can use these questions to diagnose the developmental potential of any given experience. The first question, is it novel?
We do a lot of things in life that are routine. Every day or every week we engage in different activities or different experiences. Those are routine. Well, we are finding in our research is that for development, for personal and professional growth to happen, we have to get out of that routine, out of our comfort zone, and that requires an experience to be novel, new, in some way for us. Importantly, what is novel for me may be very routine for you. As a leader of your team when you think about all the individuals in that team, this is where the assessment part comes in, is what’s going to be novel to each of these individuals is going to differ.
And so you have to ask this question for each of your individual team members and think about what are the experiences that are going to be novel? And get each of these individuals outside of his or her comfort zone. The second question that you need to ask is, is the outcome of the experience what I call high stakes. For example, is success or failure very visible to senior management or is success or failure very known to other people, or is it very visible to other people, for example. How important is the outcome?
What we’re finding in our research is the degree to which the outcome, success or failure, the degree to which that outcome is more important or more visible, the more developmental that experience is. And so you can design ways, design experiences where the outcome is high stakes, where it is visible, where it is important as a way to really push and help grow and help develop your team members. The third question that you have to be able to ask when thinking about challenging developmental experiences is does this experience involve significant change? Again, if it’s routine, something we’re accustomed to, it’s going to be less developmental.
But if the experience requires us to lead change to facilitate or foster change, whether that change be an individual who needs to change his or her behavior, whether it’s a group or organization going through change, the degree to which this experience requires us to engage in significant change, the more developmental that experience is. Fourth, two what extent do you have to work across organizational boundaries? What do I mean by organizational boundaries? What we’re finding in our research, is the more an experience requires you to work with or influence people in the organization or outside the organization where you do not have authority over those individuals, the more developmental that experience is.
Or the more the experience requires you to work across boundaries with different stakeholders, the government, customers, outside of your organization, again where you do not have authority or any sort of formal influence over these individuals, the more developmental that experience is. And then, lastly, does the experience expose you or your team members to diverse ways of being, thinking and feeling? And so, when you think about diversity here, it’s not just race, gender, and nationality. Its those things, plus ways of thinking, ways of feeling, ways of acting. The degree to which an experience exposes you or your team members to diverse ways of thinking, feeling and acting, the more developmental that experience will be.
So as you think about assessing your team members on their weakness, on their strengths, now your responsibility is to design developmental challenging experiences for them to develop them in the ways that you identified as being important through the assessment process. These five questions will help you determine how to design a set of experiences that will best help your team members grow and develop. A tool that you can use with yourself and with your team members is presented here. I’ve listed the five features of the developmental experience and the questions that I’ve introduced. And then, each of the columns.
You’ll remember the developmental experience that I had you think about at the beginning of this session, your most developmental experience in life. I imagine that if you were to rate that experience on these five dimensions, you would rate that experience highly on most, if not, all of these dimensions. Then what you can do, if you’re doing it for yourself or if you’re doing it for each of your team members, is you can assess the extent to which your current job or the current job or responsibilities of your individual team members meets the same dimensions.
The degree to which there is a difference there represents an opportunity to further grow and develop your team by introducing some of these other aspects, more novelty, higher stakes, greater change, more opportunities to work across boundaries, or more opportunities to work with people who embody diverse ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. And so the degree to which there’s a difference there, you can think about ways in which to further grow and develop yourself or your team by increasing the degree to which the job, the responsibilities, the roles within the team, have these attributes or these features as part of them.
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