Many years ago my husband and I were thinking about buying a franchise with another couple. We created an action plan and we worked the plan: researching the various franchisors and what they could offer us, talking to banks about borrowing money, counting the traffic in a variety of malls, and so on.
As we made progress with our plan, we started to tell more people what we were considering. No one, not one of them said: “Are you out of your mind? What are you thinking?”
The Support and Challenge Matrix is exactly what I needed all those years ago when we were moving towards buying the franchise – which, by the way, turned out to be a very expensive education! We really needed more support for our new adventure – by someone challenging us on the whole idea! They didn’t offer and we didn’t ask.
The Support and Challenge Model was originally utilized by Virgin Media to help managers understand this aspect of their relationship with their employees. It uses two axis – support on the vertical axis and challenge on the horizontal axis thereby creating the classic 4-box model with low support/low challenge, low support/high challenge, high support/ low challenge and high support/high challenge.
Like many matrixes, there is no one quadrant or mode that can be used in every situation. And though I have never seen research on this, I suspect that each of us has an over-used mode and a least-used one.
No matter what your current roles are – in your work and in your life – I suspect that, like me, you are often in a position of offering advice and encouragement to another person, whether it be a co-worker, someone you are supervising, a friend or family member.
The four quadrants or modes are:
- Low challenge/low support: this is the one that is appropriate when you are convinced that the person is more than capable and they know what they are doing.
- Low support/high challenge: this is the one when the person is very experienced and you think they can take on more responsibility.
- High support/ low challenge: this is the one when the person is young – in their work, their life or in their role. They are unsure of their talents and abilities and they need some nurturing to gain their confidence in this new role.
- High support/high challenge: this is the one where both you and the other person are committed and working hard to achieve a goal. Not only are you challenging them to higher goals, you also providing the required support, coaching and/or mentoring to get them there.
In this model your response is always changing. You do not have to use the same mode, with the same people, in each situation. Create a list of five people in your life. Which mode you’ve been using for each of them most recently? Is the current mode is working for both of you or do you need to change the mode on a go forward basis? It may be helpful to determine your most preferred and least-used mode.
When we care about the other person, I believe we have a role to play in their growth and development. To me this means looking for opportunities to support and challenge them. Sometimes just introducing the matrix to them is helpful. From there they can identify the role you can play to help them reach their definition of success. Meanwhile, where in your life do you need to be supported and challenged?