As leaders, we often empathize with our subordinates and therefore sometimes hesitate to “push them” too hard. We may not want them to fail or we may simply project our own hesitation to get out of our own comfort zones. A reality of human development, however, is that we only grow in our abilities and our knowledge by engaging in tasks that we haven’t done before. Just as a parent challenges a child or a coach challenges an athlete, as managers we must push our subordinates to tackle situations and tasks that they are not quite ready or prepared to do.
Of course, we must provide support. We must create a work environment (adequate resources, time, direction) in which our employees are likely to succeed, but if we do that, AND we demonstrate clearly that taking reasonable risks and making one’s own judgments will not be punished, our subordinates will learn as they progress. They will build skills and confidence at the same time, which will better prepare them for taking new risks in the future!
So, even when success might require a big leap and failure may cause a skinned knee or bruised ego, consistently push your subordinates to stretch beyond their normal comfort zone. You will both be better off in the end.