The Sharpening Stone – Lessons from Goldilocks

We’re all familiar with the children’s story, “The Three Bears” and how the young girl Goldilocks gets lost and wanders into their home where she proceeds to try their three bowls of porridge, to sit in their three chairs, and finally to try out their three beds. In each case, one is “too hot”, “too big”, “too hard”, another is “too cold”, “too small”, “too soft”, and the third is always “just right”.

Today I’d like to apply this Goldilocks Principle to talent development and look at how you as a leader can use it to encourage the effective growth and development of the people under your leadership.

Research shows us that moderate levels of challenge bring out the best in employees and provide “talent stretch”. Employees operating under a moderate amount of stress learn faster, are more resilient and are able to juggle multiple tasks.

So, to cultivate a work environment or plan of development for a specific employee, here are some tips:

  1. Set ambitious, but attainable goals. You want your direct reports to feel enough stress so they’re motivated to succeed, but not so much that it stifles their performance. Your aim, as a manager, is to set specific and measurable goals that enable your team members to function at peak performance.
  2. Establish real and realistic deadlines, and communicate them to your team. Deadlines with a lot of built in wiggle room create a false sense of urgency and unnecessarily stress out your team. Ask your team if your expectations are realistic.
  3. Provide frequent –- but not too frequent – feedback. Lack of feedback creates stress by sowing doubt. So, provide regularly scheduled progress updates.
  4. Help your people see an understand the value and importance of the task. People can be inspired to meet stretch goals and tackle impossible challenges if they care about the outcome

So, it takes a thoughtful approach to management to find the sweet spot for those you lead, but the returns for you and for your team will be worth it. Be intentional as a leader and make Goldilocks happy.

About the Author: Dixon Miller, Ph.D.

Dixon earned his Doctorate and Master’s degrees in Clinical Psychology from Biola University and holds a Bachelor’s degree from Messiah College. In addition to being a licensed psychologist and board-certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dixon brings business leadership experience in ownership, governance, and management roles. He most recently served as CEO at Acadia, Inc., where he is also a long-standing member of the Board of Directors. He was a founder and Managing Partner of Behavioral Healthcare Consultants in Lancaster prior to joining the team at Acadia, and was previously the Director of Behavioral Medicine at Lancaster General Hospital. Dixon is highly skilled in psychological assessments, and brings a strong foundation in leadership development, organizational dynamics, cultural climate assessment, change management, employee engagement,, and performance/sports psychology.

The Sharpening Stone

The Sharpening Stone is a series of short videos from True Edge designed to sharpen leaders and their organizations.

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