The ‘C’ approach and Managers – career limiting?

Using the ‘C’ approach with some Managers can be career limiting; particularly when the ‘C’ stands for Challenging.

It is a strange concept, challenging your Manager; your Manager is the expert, your boss, the decision maker and much more besides.  It takes a particular kind of person (assertive), in a particular scenario (thought to be safe) to challenge their Manager.  It takes a special kind of Manager to see challenges as positive, a Manager whose style of management is open, who sees challenge as potential progression, a Manger who encourages challenge when directed respectfully and thought through.

Company culture plays a big part in challenges; good or bad.  However, the culture of the business can be influenced by how the challenges are received and responded to.

Challenge Creates Energy

One of the companies that are part of a large roll-out of 3:2 Management Development Programmes (based on the principles of The 3:2 Management Model) are spectacular at challenging.  The programme guests are carrying this out with gusto, and, I hasten to add, with respect.   This may be as a result of building solid relationships with the guests, this could be mirroring my style of delivery, and this could be for a million other reasons.

Regardless of the reasons, because of this, the workshops are more dynamic, fluid, energised, open and fun.

Is the team pulling apart or building?

Working together or pulling apart?

The challenges are always respectful, not always easy to answer. This encourages guests to explore further ideas and share opinions.  They challenge the norm and the ‘this is how it has always been done’ thinking, and, importantly they challenge each other.  The result being they often come up with alternative and better ways of carrying out old and new tasks.

When challenges are directed at me, do I know all the answers? No, and nor should I.  By not having all the answers, it offers further opportunities to explore, be creative and innovative for the guests.  This is turn receives their buy-in to the execution of their ideas.

Fear of Challenge

A lot of Managers fear challenge.  This is often due to them fearing being seen as a lesser Manager, someone who does not have all the answers, they feel foolish when this happens.  It can feel humiliating for them.  Their response is one of anger, resentment and as a result they close down; their team learns very quickly to stop challenging and become submissive.

Attitude and Behaviour

When the Manager’s attitude is negative, so too is their team’s response (behaviour).  This impacts the team directly and the team’s attitude becomes negative and detached from the Manager and the business, closely followed by negative behaviour, and the effect of this is reflected on productivity, HR’s perceived management of the situation and the bottom line.

Manager’s Ego vs Energy

The fundamental problem with fearing challenge is the ego.  When the ego is high and inflated, it takes a lot of energy and hot air to keep it up there. That energy could be better directed to a more positive outcome.  An outcome that would potentially elevate the Manager’s position through positive engagement and not through fear.

What can You do?

As a Manager challenge yourself, your peers and even your own Manager to implement the following for a three month period.  Record and measure your success.

Challenge Managers. Challenging Environments.

  1. Create parameters for a safe environment
    1. Within team meetings
    2. 1:1’s
  1. Ring fence what can and cannot be challenged
    1. Can – internal processes, new tasks, existing tasks etc.
    2. Not – legislation, H&S, HR, Finance etc
  2. Set down ‘Challenge Rules’
    1. Respectful
    2. Questioning, never accusatory
    3. Solution based
  3. Self (Manager) Preparation
    1. Be ready to bounce questions back to the group
    2. Be gracious
    3. Enjoy and watch the outcomes grow

Changing Attitudes | Influencing Behaviours | Impacting Outcomes…


Margo Manning is Managing Director of Margo Manning Ltd and  Bute Learning and Development.  Margo is one of the UK’s top Leadership and Management Coaches and Facilitators, she is The 3:2 Management Model and 3:2 Management Development Programme Architect.  Margo works with Managers and Leaders to drive business success through their own and their team’s performance and productivity.

Margo has been in the development arena for 20+ years and more specifically in coaching for 10+ of these.  Margo works with companies such as UBS, Goldman Sachs, AON, Balfour Beatty, Brunswick LLP, BBMV, Tower Hamlets Homes to name a few.