To grow, people need to be challenged. Research at the Center for Creative Leadership shows that challenges—including having to work on unfamiliar tasks, lead change under uncertainty and exercise influence without authority—are important predictors of learning and development on the job. And three decades of evidence reveals that people achieve higher performance when they are given difficult goals. Difficult goals motivate people to work harder and smarter, develop their knowledge and skills, and test out different task strategies, all of which facilitate effectiveness and growth. But what’s the optimal level of difficulty?
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