Challenge Your People to Think, Grow, and Take Action

As we wrote about last week, maintaining and nurturing a growth mindset is critical to your success. This week, we want to shift the lens towards your people, and how you, as a leader, can encourage those you lead and inspire, to think, grow, and act for themselves.  

Dig deep and think about your responses to the following self-reflective questions:

  • How do you foster independent thinking for your people? 
  • How do you instill accountability and the drive for self-improvement and development in others?  
  • How do you encourage others to act decisively and confidently?

Think about it. Can you truly motivate others to exhibit these types of positive and empowering behaviors?  

You can't motivate your people any more than you can empower them. Employees need to motivate and empower themselves. However, you can create a safe space and environment that makes this possible, and the key is knowing how to do so for each of your employees.

It starts by creating a human connection with individuals on your team that allows you to gain a deeper understanding of what makes them unique and how you can do a better job in supporting their needs and potential for success.  

I often ask people who attend our leadership programs, “How could you possibly motivate and encourage individuals on your team if you know very little about them? What are they interested in? Do they have a family and responsibilities that need to be balanced with work? What are they passionate about? What does success look like for them? What is it that they want to achieve inside and outside the organization?”  

Taking it one step beyond creating a human connection, there are three simple things you can do to create an environment that will challenge people to think, grow and take action.

Creating the Right Environment 

#1.  Successful leaders understand how to connect with an individual’s mindsets, capabilities and areas of opportunity for growth. They use this knowledge to challenge their teams to think and to stretch them to reach for more. They ask questions to stretch others’ thinking, even if they have already figured it out themselves.

#2.  Highly effective leaders excel at asking empowering questions so people can think independently and are not afraid to make decisions and take action. An empowering question begins with, “If you knew that you could….?” For example, “If you knew you could exceed your sales objective, what is the first thing you would do?” Or, “If you knew you could establish a high-performing team, what is the first thing you would do?”  

If people get stuck, give them the space they need to think and sit in that moment of uncomfortable silence. If they are having a tough time, then ask another empowering question or phrase your original question differently and give them time to process their thoughts. Remember, we all process differently and at different speeds. It’s important to respect their space and needs.

#3.  Successful leaders hold their people accountable to their objectives and commitments by following up and asking questions in a way that is non-offensive and supportive versus a command-control style of management. Do you have formal and informal one-on-one discussions with your team to stay up to date on their progress? Sticking to a regular schedule is critical, as it sends the message that you value and care for them, while holding them accountable for their deliverables.   

On the other hand, continuously canceling one-on-ones and having them infrequently sends a message that these meetings are not important. Make commits to have regular discussions, as it will establish a culture of accountability.

Being inquisitive and supportive are skills that underpin these insights that you can put into action to challenge people to think for themselves, grow and act. Your behavior sets the tone for this type of environment and culture, so be the change you want to see in others and lead by example. 

Stop Spoon-Feeding Your People 

Telling people what to do all the time is counter-intuitive to their development. If you want to see your people step up with fresh new ideas, and have the confidence to implement them, then start leading vs. managing.

Do not get me wrong. Sometimes we must set direction and be explicit with our expectations, but that doesn’t mean you have to come up with the ideas and solutions all the time.  

What are your thoughts on this topic? We would love to hear from you. Please email me at or call me at 1.855.871.3374.

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