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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023

Sometimes, startup life feels like a fight. A Challenge Network contains people offering tough, constructive advice to enable the best you*.

Challengers may not offer the advice you want to hear, but tell you what you need to know.

To grow in your role, you also need people who challenge you to do better and to consider new options.

To build this network, include diverse role models willing to be candid** and complementing personalities (e.g. introvert / extrovert) to broaden your perspective.

Adam Grant, who coined the term โ€œchallenger,โ€ describes it as follows:

โ€œSomebody who pushes you because they believe in you.

They are not willing to settle for something

that is not your absolute best work.โ€

Thomas Waschenfelder puts it this way:

โ€œSurround yourself with people who make you believe

you're capable of far more than you think you are.

This alone can change your life.โ€

Build a Challenge Network

Form a group that can give you candid and constructive advice and feedback. Essentially, you want people who will introduce you to the latest concepts and tell you what you need to hear, even if that insight differs from what you want to hear.

For your Challenge Network, seek people with professional competency and clear communication over their personal appeal. You may choose role models in your position, industry, and desired strategic market. Ideally, create a group with diverse backgrounds to get a broad range of ideas. Insist on people who are sincere, open, and aligned with your growth. They must not hesitate to tell you when and how you are wrong.

In your selection, consider complementing personalities as well: introvert/extrovert, expert/generalist, builder/communicator, and strategic thinker/tactical thinker.

When and How to Ask for Help

It's normal to want help only when you feel on top of things. An advisor has likely been in your position and will want to help the real you, not the person you may be tempted to project. If you seek advice on past efforts, ask what went well and what could improve. If that doesnโ€™t generate a conversation, ask how the advisor has seen other founders address similar issues.

If you are looking for future direction, prepare to describe the desired outcome, background, current considerations, and optionsโ€”including the pros and cons of each. Coming prepared shows you are invested in the relationship rather than asking them to do all the work.

Key Takeaway: To effectively develop as a leader and to exponentially grow your business, build a challenge network that pushes you to great heights.


* Adam Grant coined the term Challenge Networks and describes Challengers as, โ€œSomebody who pushes you because they believe in you. They are not willing to settle for something that is not your absolute best work.โ€

** Post on Candor can be found here

Photo by Wade Austin Ellis who can be found here.

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