This week we continue going deeper into the roles in TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) ™ by exploring the Challenger.   Of the three TED* roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach, we receive the most questions about the Challenger.

Readers tell us they resist embracing the Challenger role because they view it as risky or scary.  Others say if they are a Challenger, they won’t be liked by their co-workers or those they lead.  We also hear that sometimes there is confusion with the Coach role, which we will write about next week.  We are pleased to clarify this powerful role that we have grown to deeply appreciate.

Challengers are catalysts for learning and are willing to stand for the vision, even when it may be unpopular.  Challengers have a knack for letting go of the details and staying focused on the desired outcomes.  They sometimes shake things up and are often called the “truth-tellers.”   Challengers go to the heart of the matter and frequently deliver the hard facts, while inspiring others and themselves to reach for the highest good.

You have had Challengers in your life—-we are sure of it.  Your Challenger may have been your toughest teacher, the demanding sports coach or a wise uncle or aunt.   You know they loved and cared for you because their intent was to challenge you to learn and grow and be your best.   At the time, you may have resisted their high expectations.

Without Challengers, under pressure we humans might wither, and compromise the vision we so desire.    There are at least three primary beliefs that are foundational to the Challenger role:

#1:  Life is about learning and growth – even in the face of “not knowing.”

Challengers frequently ask of others and themselves: “Given the situation, what is here to learn or gain?” They may say to themselves or others: “Let’s trust the process and keep moving forward.” They take a stand for learning and growth by evoking/inspiring and, at times, provoking/nudging others to take action and continue to stretch and hone their Creator capabilities.  While Persecutors want to control chaos and uncertainty, the Challenger “knows what they know and don’t know” and is comfortable with the “not knowing” that often occurs in the learning process.  

#2: Given life is ever-changing and uncertain, I rest in the confidence and conviction of my values. 

This belief is the foundation of the “truth-teller.”  By clarifying and aligning themselves with their values, keeping their word and living in integrity is a high priority for a Challenger.  They do not acquiesce to the drama of the moment.  Instead Challengers focus on taking a stand for what they believe in, even in the middle of chaos and change.  They also challenge others to live in integrity with their values.

#3.  I tell the truth about current reality, without blame or judgment. 

Challengers see reality for what it is and neither minimize nor catastrophize “what is” to gain position or be “one up.”  A Challenger speaks the unspeakable, that no one else in the room is willing to say.  While there is a strength and sturdiness to the Challenger, there is also a willingness to be vulnerable and open, because there is nothing to hide or defend.   A Challenger has compassion for themselves and others, knowing that life and the creating process can be very hard sometimes.

They learn to be comfortable, even curious, about things they don’t know or understand, and grow beyond the Persecutor’s craving to be in control.   Rather than be fooled by the illusion that they can control their environment, the present moment becomes an adventure as they and others learn in and through the process of creating.

Learning “to let go or be dragged” by the need to control can be one of the most difficult human qualities to change.  Here are a few suggestions of where to begin to cultivate the Challenger role:

  1. View others as Creators. Prior to challenging others, first reflect upon your intentions.  Ask yourself: “What is my intention—-to put down, look good or be right or, to build up and support the other?”  Challengers challenge from a learning intention.
  2. Be open to new ideas and experiences. Challenge your own learning by picking one small thing to begin; something you are unfamiliar with and then follow your curiosity and explore the topic. This loosens your grip on the need to know.
  3. Develop self-awareness in the moment by learning to pause and listen to your internal talk. You may notice the ego’s need that whispers (sometimes shouts!) at you to stay in control and be right.  When you hear that Persecutor voice, learn to pause and, again, ask “what is there to learn here?”

The Challenger’s intention is to spark learning, growth and development—-both within yourself and in support of others—-as a vital aspect of creating and co-creating outcomes and choosing empowered responses to life experiences.