Stretching Without Breaking

In my experience the path to awesomeness whether as a team or as an individual goes through finding the right level of challenge in whatever I’m doing. Challenge drives motivation and great productivity. Most of the time that also translates into fun, but it is important to manage the levels of challenge to avoid stretching so far that things break.
Being stretched too far for too long can be a bad thing leading to feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or inadequate. Those are at the same emotions that in small doses can be very productive, so there is an inherent dilemma here.
Adrenaline is part of those productivity peaks and some people compare them to Csikszentmihalyi concept of flow. Though sustained, high adrenaline for a long period of time is dangerous for the body.
So the resolution in my experience is to find a rhythm of navigating back and forth between high challenge, high pressure., and more sustainable, less peak challenge periods of time.

There are many different ways to foster a team culture that encourages taking on challenges in a safe way. In most teams I have work then we have had a rule that it is OK for anyone to make a wrong decision on anything at least once. That lets a person who may technically be on the junior side for a given meeting go to the meeting representing the team with full authority to make decisions on behalf of the team. Everyone is aware that if the decision turns out to be less than ideal, we will just change it. The reality is that most times the decision is fine. There are very few situations where are we’ve ever had to go back and change a decision.

I use the concept of stretching both as an individual, when I work with teams, and when planning my own business. There are many developmental models out there but for me this turned out to be a powerful framework that is still simple enough that I keep using it pretty intuitively.


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