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  • Ida Grum from Mbele

Balancing Challenge, Feedback & Support

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

How many of you have been promoted into a management or leadership position with little or no preparation?

I know I have. Early on in my career, I was working for an international NGO in an entry level position. I worked hard and mastered my tasks and within a relatively short time I was promoted to a management position.

I was young and inexperienced but I was lucky to have a supervisor who saw that I had potential and took a chance with me. I was even luckier that she took it upon herself to help me grow into the position. She didn’t just dump me there. She believed in me, challenged me, coached, mentored and supported me so I could successfully grow into the position.

When I think back to what it was she did that made me succeed, an image of a traditional African 3-legged stool always comes to mind.

The stool, for me, is a metaphor for what I see as the three essential components of what a manager or leader must do to help others grow:

· challenge them

· provide regular feedback, and

· support them along the way

Just like how a 3-legged stool needs all three legs to balance; we learn, perform and progress more when we have a balance of – Challenge, Feedback & Support.


“Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better”

- Bill Bradley


As a manager or leader, we need to challenge our people for them to grow toward their potential. We need to stretch them to dream and strive for bigger and better and encourage them to push themselves and go beyond their comfort zone.

Challenging your team is far easier said than done. We need to push them, but not so far that they go right out the door.


"We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve."

- Bill Gates

Feedback is an essential aspect of the learning and development process. Managers and leaders need to provide their team with constructive and regular feedback so they can learn from their experiences. Feedback promotes professional growth, inspires confidence and instils a greater sense of job satisfaction and commitment in the workplace.

When, how and how often we provide feedback is critical. We want to maintain regular feedback that encourages continuous development but doesn’t overwhelm them. We want to correct their deficits, but not demoralise them.


“Being a leader is not about you. It is about the people that are on your team

and how you can help them be successful”

- Susan Vobejda

While you should avoid micromanaging your team, you should routinely check in with your team members to identify what challenges or obstacles they may be facing and offer any support or guidance they may need. This not only makes them feel valued and that someone has their back but it also creates a culture of trust and support leading to more honest and open communication.

The trick is to not provide too much support that they don't learn and figure it out for themselves. Our support needs to provide an enabling environment for learning and growth.

Balancing Challenge, Feedback and Support

Facing a big challenge with no feedback or support can be overwhelming and is often a recipe for failure. On the other hand, too much feedback leads to frustration and too much support makes you dependent and complacent.

Just like a stool needs all three legs to fulfil its purpose; we need a fine balance between challenge, feedback and support to create a positive and successful development process.

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