This is How Great Leaders Do It – Invitation and Challenge Framework


This is How Great Leaders Do It – Invitation and Challenge Framework

Both Bob Klein, my first sales manager at Xerox (pictured above at our Millennials Matter kick-off event in Minneapolis) and Janie Jasin, my speaking coach, are masters of the Invitation / Challenge Framework. As you become more familiar with this coaching and leading matrix, I believe you’ll find it to be a transformative model that will work for you, and your next-gen leader, regardless of where they are in their growth curve. Let’s find out more.

How to Manage Millennials by Inviting and Challenging them

Knowing how to engage your next-gen leader is challenging for most leaders.

If you feel this way, you’re not alone. Gallup’s recent global report on team engagement and performance shows that 85% of employees are either not engaged or are actively disengaged at work.

85%! That’s astounding!

Technology is changing the way we interact with each other.  And, in the midst of these rapid, unpredictable, unprecedented changes, leadership matters deeply. The digitized decade calls for us, as leaders, to raise the bar on our leadership practices to engage our next-gen leaders. Click To Tweet

So, what do healthy, engaged salespeople and employees look like? What does “fruitfulness” (the upper right hand quadrant) look like? Here are some characteristics:

  • enthusiastic, energetic, and willing to go the extra mile
  • see what they do as important and have a sense of purpose
  • find alignment between their own values and that of the company they work for
  • feel their contributions are valued
  • pursue opportunities for growth
This is How Great Leaders Do It – Invitation and Challenge Framework Click To Tweet

High invitation means that there’s a strong authentic relationship between you and your emerging leader. Mutual trust and respect are high, creating a foundation from which you will be able to challenge him or her to up their game and realize their full potential. The beauty of this process is that you, the experienced leader, get challenged to up your game too!

When the relationship with your up-and-coming salesperson or leader is weak, or the challenge is non-existent, your employee, culture, business results and sales suffer.

Let’s take a look at how the first two scenarios of the Invitation / Challenge matrix played out for two emerging leaders, Sally and Paul:

Low Invitation and Low Challenge Creates a Boring Sales Growth Culture

Sally walks enthusiastically into the office on her first day at her new job. Although she’s walking on the outside, she’s skipping on the inside. This seems like her perfect job. She is briefly introduced to her co-workers and instructed to organize her work station, which she does happily.

Thirty days later – she’s bored. She still has no understanding of the company vision and values – what’s the bigger purpose? Is the only goal here to make as much profit as possible? How are they really serving the world? And, she isn’t clear about what is expected of her. Yes, she got an email setting out her goals – but, it looks as if nobody cares whether she reaches them or not.

There’s no invitation to form relationships with mentors and no challenge for her to up her game. She is so bored.  After two months, Sally knows she will not reach her full potential at this job.

She resigns and is looking for another opportunity where her contributions are valued and there’s an opportunity for growth.

High Invitation and Low Challenge Creates a Cozy, Bean-Bag Culture for Sales Growth

When Paul arrives at his new job, the boss goes out of his way to introduce him to his colleagues.  Then, they have a private session where Paul learns about the exciting opportunities he will have, working for this company. He is impressed.  He can tell that his new boss knows what Millennials want. No closed-up cubicles and corner offices in this building, no way! He has an adjustable-height desk and just last week, the boss bought a few yoga balls to replace the traditional office chairs. His boss says he has an open-door policy, and Paul is always welcome to call on him for advice.

They have one conversation about goals and objectives.  But after that, no one touches base with Paul to see how he’s doing, what obstacles he’s facing.  There’s no coaching. He’s left to his own devices to figure out how to get the business in the door.  He’s missing his monthly performance numbers – but no one seems to care anyway. He assumes that hitting “the number” isn’t a big deal, it’s not important.  He has no sense of importance or contribution to the bigger purpose.

Paul likes the cozy culture. He shows up for work doing the bare minimum, enjoys the perks, and collects his paycheck at the end of the month. This owner mistakenly believes that, by catering to the superficial needs of his up-and-coming sales leader, he will be grateful, and results will naturally follow. However, due to the fact that there is no challenge, Paul has no reason to up his game.

The results?  Zero. Nothing. This business owner and sales leader is rewarded for being so nice with zero sales growth.

Check out my video This is How Great Leaders Get Their Sales Growth Results (Invitation/Challenge)


I was first exposed to the Invitation/Challenge Framework when working with Brandon Schaefer of Five Capitals. The work I did with Brandon, highlighted the importance of both invitation and challenge in order to create a culture where your next-gen leader becomes an engaged, fruitful contributor to your company’s growth.

Where are your natural strengths? Is it on the challenge side of the matrix, or the invitation/relationship side?  Most leaders confess that they have a forte in one or the other.

However, the magic of this powerful leadership development tool is to BOTH invite AND challenge.

In my next article, we will see how the other two quadrants of the Invitation / Challenge matrix played out for Steven and Angie.

Leadership Development Lesson: 

Great leaders invite you into a relationship that gives you access to their experience while challenging you to up your game.

Leadership Development Question:

How are you inviting and challenging the up-and-coming leader in your life?

Millennial Leadership Workshop
We cover the Invitation/Relationship Framework in greater detail on The Millennial Sales Growth Workshop. Check it out, here.
For previous articles in this series, go to:  

This Is How Great Leaders Do It, and

This is How Great Leaders Do It – Invitation and Challenge Framework

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