“You’re never satisfied. You always want more, even though I’ve worked so hard on this!”
“You always say things are great, but no one is being held accountable and things are slipping!”
As a leader, you want to bring out the best in others. How do you set standards that balance rigor and support?
Rigor is about having high standards and insisting on results. You point out gaps, give constructive criticism, and urge more and better results. But rigor without support can seem harsh and judgmental. They feel criticized and discouraged, then defend, attack or withdraw. You are trying to be tough, but instead you are harsh.
Support is about affirming strengths, appreciating effort, and pointing to a positive future. You encourage, appreciate, and soothe. But support without rigor can indulge shortcomings and lead to complacency. You are trying to be kind, but instead you are soft.
Some people toggle between the two. “First I’ll warm them up with some praise to motivate them, then I’ll tell them what to change.” The result sounds inauthentic and stilted, and it is confusing and unsatisfying.
The resolution is to combine Rigor with Support in the same breath. This starts with realizing that you are truly on the same side. Instead of holding yourself as a distant judge or cheerleader, you are an intimate ally who is walking the path with them. You naturally want the best result, so you take every opportunity to seek improvements. And because you are in this together, hip to hip, you are exploring with care and empathy how to create the results that matter. And those are standards worth meeting.
With care as the backdrop, challenge is welcomed to help us get where we want to go. There is nothing to attack or defend, just ideas to appreciate and improve.