Invitation and Challenge

innovation and challenge chart

The most productive relationships are a balanced blend of invitation and challenge.  Leaders who understand this know how to both invite people into a relationship and at the same time, know how to challenge them towards responsibility and growth. Whether it’s training, serving in the midst of conflict and tension, giving someone a promotion, having a corrective coaching conversation, or any other interaction, calibrating these two ideals is what leads to a productive, healthy culture. For us to train our teams, we need to push for that same balance. 

But it’s not easy. Most people generally lean to one side or the other, being either more invitational (relationship-oriented) or more challenging (task-oriented).  The matrix below from Five Capitals can help you assess where you are. After you assess your current state, read the quadrant descriptions below to begin thinking about how to move to the “Productive” quadrant. 

Understanding the Invitation-Challenge Matrix Quadrants

High Invitation + Low Challenge = A Cozy Culture

If we sit here, we get comfortable, forget the organizational vision, and lose our edge. We weren’t meant to be cozy. Fulfillment comes from being productive, which is a key to growth. If you’re in this quadrant, ask, “What does it look like to add challenge here?”

Low Invitation + Low Challenge = A Bored Culture

Remember Mr. Kruger from Seinfeld?  He was known for not caring about his job or his team… and he owned the company!!!!  Kruger Industrial Smoothing existed in the Bored quadrant. In real life, nobody sticks around here. Anyone who does slowly deteriorates and dies out. If you’re like Kruger, the question to ask is, “What does it look like to increase invitation and challenge here?”

High Challenge + Low Invitation = A Stressful, Discouraged Culture

Most of us have had those supervisors or managers whose attitude was “Get it done, and if you don’t, then you’ll be replaced.” There is always plenty of work to do. But when the environment lacks encouragement, care, and a relational element, then the culture suffers. Eventually, it burns out. If you find yourself here, you should be asking “What does it look like to increase invitation?”

High Invitation + High Challenge = A Productive Culture

This is the quadrant where the most effective teams live. The bulk of research regarding workplace satisfaction indicates that this is where most workers want to live. As leaders, Invitation allows us to nurture our teams, caring for them as more than just a means to an end. Challenge helps us move them closer to what they can be and what they can accomplish. If you find yourself here, consider yourself blessed. Then ask, “What do we need to do to stay here?”

Using the Invitation-Challenge Matrix to Improve Team Productivity

The key to this matrix is first being honest when assessing where your team is currently.  From there, the matrix helps us determine the action steps needed when we find ourselves outside the “Productive” quadrant. Keep in mind, that moving quadrants isn’t easy and usually takes some pioneering and hard change. These rough patches should be expected, not avoided. As you lead, be clear that movement requires endurance and vision. We don’t strive or force our way into the Productive quadrant (that will only lead us back into the “Stressed” quadrant). We begin by leading with relational invitation. Open up to your team, get to know them, and seek their benefit beyond your own. Be vulnerable, because the more honest you are, the more honest they will be. Over time, you’ll earn the right to challenge them.  From there you’ll be on your way to a healthy, productive culture. 

Ready to Move Your Team Culture Into the “Productive” Quadrant?

You can download a FREE version of the Invitation-Challenge Matrix here or reach out to Jay for more information on how to utilize the matrix and understand the steps needed to make a healthy, productive culture for your team.