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Transcript #23: How to Challenge Others to Grow

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Episode #23: How to Challenge Others to Grow

Do you have this problem? Somebody’s doing it wrong. You see them cutting corners. They’re making mistakes. You are really sick of having to endure it. If any of this relates to you and your current experience, I feel you. I have been there. What’s tricky about that experience though is that from there we have no ability to actually resolve that problem. We have no true power, no true influence. If we try to control what’s going on, it’s almost always going to result in backlash and it’s certainly not going to resolve the problem. What if instead, when you notice these things, you could use all of that grr energy for good. What if you could use it to lead? What if there was a simple set of tools, skills, and abilities and mindsets that would help you to be an effective manager instead of having to hold all of that toxic negative energy in your body?

In today’s episode, guess what? You will learn just that. You are a resourceful, creative human being who has the full capacity to learn a different way of being. You are allowed to step into a different form of power that actually serves not just you, but those all around you, and the world. You are allowed to enjoy leading in the most challenging of circumstances. And you are allowed to be a challenger. Let’s start the show.

I’m so grateful to you for challenging yourself to show up today. If you’re a loyal listener, you’re in for a treat. And if this is your first time, man, you picked a juicy episode to get started with. I want to challenge you because this is the episode all about how to be a challenger. I want to challenge you first and here’s the challenge. I want to invite you to check out the Forward Fearless online group coaching program. Why? Why do you need to do that right now? Because the window is closing to get involved. This is the last week of enrollment and after this the door will be closed for months.

Let me tell you a little bit about this. If this sparks your curiosity please go to to check it out and register today. Trust your gut on this. So we all deserve and need support. Remember when we talked about how humans are herd animals? Yes, we grow and lead in groups. So I am fortunate enough to have been part of many wonderful communities of fellow conscious leaders who are striving to be even better in our lives. And that has been life changing for me. And I know that many of you have never experienced that before. You don’t have access to a group like that. You maybe are a little bit timid about doing that with people in your immediate environment and you want to connect in a different way on your own and in a way that really works for your schedule.

That’s why Forward Fearless was developed. So this is a group of like minded leaders like you. They also are on a growth journey. Some of them are looking to make major life changes. And others are on that continued path of growth, and learning, and development and they’re joining to receive both the coaching from me, which is live and the resources, and the structure, and accountability, but also the community.

So this is a group of people who gets to know each other very well and some of them are choosing to really lean into that and show up for each other in ways that are so moving. We have a really active community there. Others are really using this because it fits into their schedule so well. So please check out this online program. Like I said, this is the last week of enrollment. Enrollment closes at the end of March, 2020 and it will not be open again for a weeks or foe months, months. So please, if you’re even slightly curious, you deserve this. This is the time. If you think it’s the time right now, it probably was the time a few months ago. You know it, I know it. Let’s get started. Go to Do it for yourself. Do it for those around you.

All right, so in just about every episode I give you a freebie, a free tool, or worksheet, or exercise to go along with the lessons learned. If you’d like to take a look at that right now and have access to it during this podcast, that can be a great way to have this feel even more like a life coaching session. You can download all these free tools and the one for this episode at

This week we are finishing up another one of our three part series. In this series we are digging deep into the roles in the empowerment triangle. And for those who haven’t listened to prior episodes, the empowerment triangle is the challenger, the creator, and the coach.

So if you haven’t listened to episodes 18 and 19 yet on the creator and the coach, I encourage you to go back and listen to those. We looked really closely at those roles. Also we’ve given a broad overview of what this empowerment triangle is all about and what is the opposite triangle, the drama triangle all about. This is like massive life changing, mind blowing stuff. Once you see it, you can never unlearn it. You will see it everywhere and it will forever change your life, as it has changed mine.

So we have more fundamental basics in episodes six and seven on what the drama triangle is, how to spot it, and how to shift above. And in our last three part series episodes 12, 13, and 14 we dug deep into each of the positions on the drama triangle. This stuff is so fundamental.

So other episodes we’ve talked about shadow, we’ve talked about zone of genius, we’ve talked about fact versus story, and the change formula and all of that stuff is really related to these three roles in the empowerment triangle. The challenger role is one I’m pretty famous for playing amongst my client community. So I love a tough client. I love a client who doesn’t want to be coached, who doesn’t want to learn, doesn’t want to change. Ooh, that just makes my mouth water because I really enjoy the role of the challenger. I love helping someone to discover their own ability to see things differently and change. In particular, if they’re convinced they can’t, which is a form of victimhood. When we think we can’t change, we are being victims. So if you think you’re not going to change by joining the Forward Fearless online coaching program, I challenge you right now to go apply. Do it today. Don’t forget the door is going to close at the end of the week. Just wanted to remind you again,

All right, let’s get started. The challenger, what is the challenger? The challenger persona, when we choose to play it is an above the line persona. What does that mean, above the line? That means the challenger is one who is in a state of ease and flow and often they’re experiencing really creative feelings and aliveness. And these are the ones that when they walk into a room, they’re a radiant beam of energy and you can just, you instantly feel yourself shift when you’re around a person who is above the line. And the challenger is one of those ways we can be above the line.

The challenger has a particular mindset and skillset. They are attuned to those who are not taking action. Are you attuned to that? Are you noticing someone around you who has the ability to take action and yet they are not? And is it frustrating you? Do you want more? If so, you actually have two possible paths to take. One is the challenger, and the other one is to go below the line and blame them and go into villain mode. So, so easy to do. The alternative is to play the challenger to be attuned to that, okay, someone’s not taking action, someone’s being a victim in their own life or they’re not taking responsibility for themselves, or they’re not really controlling all the things they can control. And they call forth something new from that person. They put loving pressure on that person to accept that that one is the creator of their own life and their own circumstances. If that made you nervous, I get it. Woo. I can even feel it for you myself.

This can be some scary stuff. Why? Well, we have so many stories about why people can’t, do you name it. Why people can’t change, why they can’t learn, why they can’t grow, why they can’t get their job done, why they’re not really strong enough to be able to withstand getting a little bit of feedback from you. Well, guess what? When we give the feedback too late, when we go into blame, when we go into villain mode, yeah, that feedback stings. When that person is in victim mode, they might sting no matter how you give the feedback. The challenger though is able to hold space for all of those feelings on the part of the other person and actually understands that sometimes feeling a little uncomfortable, or maybe a lot, is of service. It is a form of love. When you can do it in a way where you’re truly, really seeing and feeling, and 100% of your body is believing that person is capable of change, and creating, and learning. They’re capable of creating.

Okay, so how does this relate to the empowerment triangle? As a challenger, I see the creator in someone, even if they don’t see it themself. Even if they feel they are powerless, that they can’t, that they need something else, that it’s hopeless. We see them as resourceful and whole. We realize that they need to be the one to go and seek support, that they can ask for things, that they have choices. And when we see that in them, then we call forth something new and this is where it is such a creative role. It could sound like this. “Hey, I see that at the end of every night you are going to bed exhausted and you’re leaving the kitchen with dishes on the counter. And then you wake up the next morning and you race off to work. And I see you working all hours of the day and night.”

Okay. Now as a challenger, notice I didn’t blame. I didn’t make up a bunch of stories about, about them and what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. I’m naming some pretty unarguable things, right? I’m naming some facts and I’m just calling out what’s going forth. Now I’m going to call for something new. Okay, ready for this part? “Here’s the thing I want from you some more energy and thought put into how you want to have the end of the nights go. I want you to go to bed not exhausted. And I want to have a conversation with you about what that could look like.” Now if the person says, “I can’t,” then we know that they’re seeing themselves as a victim.

And before we even say anything or do anything about it, we first need to check in and, and make sure that we truly believe that change is possible. And that we truly see them as creative and not wrong, but more like, “I love you so much and I see what’s possible for you. And I see what you’re capable of. And I see how it’s of service for you to notice your impact on others in the world. And I love you so much that I’m going to do this.”

All right? And then we say, “Okay, let’s unpack that. I see that you can. I see that if you were really committed to having this kitchen be tidy enough.” I tend to use household examples. It is so easy to wrap your head around, right? “I see you as capable of having this kitchen so tidy. And I see that you’re capable of drawing some boundaries around your work life, so that we can have the life that we want together. I know what I want and I want you to figure this out.” Okay?

So that’s a very simple example, but you can see how this can easily happen in a workplace environment. So perhaps you have, and may perhaps you’re a manager and you have an employee who continually is appearing five to 10 minutes late to meetings. Guilty. That’s me sometimes. And you want more from them, and you believe more is possible. You can name it, see it, say it, right. See it and say it. “I see that for the last three meetings, you’ve been at least five minutes late for a meeting. I want you to be on time.” Great. Now I’ve woken them up. “Whoa, you want something different from me?” Maybe they were not even tracking it. Maybe they didn’t know you wanted something different. Maybe they are really feeling like a victim in their life and you’re, by just saying it that way you’re pointing out to them, “Hey, I see you as powerful.” It’s actually a compliment. I see this is possible for you to figure this out.

I know when I’ve had bosses or people I’ve worked with who really insist on starting every meeting, bang on time, I’ve felt really empowered by that and it’s amazing when you’re committed to creating a specific result, how differently you need to behave. So to be committed to appear in San Francisco when I live in LA, to appear in San Francisco at 9:30 for a meeting with a client. That sometimes means that instead of taking a 7:00 a.m. flight, I fly up the night before because I might run into traffic. And I’m committed to being there at 9:30. And if I run into traffic or the plane is delayed, I won’t be. So that’s what commitment looks like.

I’m taking full responsibility and I can do that, but I didn’t know I could do that until I worked with Diana Chapman who insisted upon that for me. And I started realizing, wow, I really do make myself a victim of a lot of things in my life. A victim of traffic, a victim delayed planes, a victim of bad weather, you name it. Or just being tired, I’m too tired. No, no. And Diana merely in saying, “We always start this on time.” And she’s a stickler for integrity and this has been one of the biggest gifts that she’s given me. By the way, I’m talking about her, Diana Chapman, for those who don’t know, she is a one of the co-founders of the Conscious Leadership Group, who are the people who have inspired a lot of my work. And she’s a coauthor of the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, which is one of my favorite books of all time and has really changed my life, and a lot of yours I know. So you can get a link to that in our show notes at

I’m thinking about Diana a lot today because just two days ago she was with me and we were recording a couple of episodes. Diana is also one of the best challengers that I know. And she’s extremely skillful and spacious in how she does that. So, but she brings a lot of energy and you cannot deny that she’s doing it. It’s really very, very apparent and you feel it.

Back to the point I was making. It is possible to be on time. A great challenger looks at results. So instead of looking only at behavior, which often has a lot of excuses in it, we look at the results somebody is creating as evidence of what they are committed to. This one feels really uncomfortable to a lot of people who haven’t practiced being a challenger in this way. And it’s this whole being on time thing, right? How do I know that you weren’t committed to showing up on time is because you weren’t on time. It’s that simple. How do I know that you weren’t committed to changing your diet? It’s because you’re still eating the same way. That’s how I know. That’s all I need to know. I don’t need the excuses. I don’t need the examples. It’s just a fact. And I can do that without blame. But you can feel the heat in my voice, right? On purpose I’m drawing your attention to your results because challengers, and all of the empowerment triangle roles, the creator, the coach, and the challenger are all really good at living in reality.

And the creator lives in reality by realizing all of the resources around them and all that they can be responsible for. The coach does it in drawing attention to what are some actual concrete baby steps that you can take right now to move this forward in your life. And the challenger does it largely by drawing attention to what are your results, what is your impact, and not allowing people to keep those blinders on, which is what we want to do when we’re in victim mode. We want to stay away from the impact that we are not really wanting to make. We want to avoid responsibility when we are in victim mode. And a challenger says, “I love you so much, I care about you so much. I really believe something else is possible and I know it is of service for you to try. And so I’m going to gently but loving pressure, present some facts so that you can face your impact. You can face what you are actually committed to and we know because of your results.” And then you can sit with that discomfort of my results do not reflect my values, my results do not reflect my values.

And is that true of you anywhere in your life? Do you want me to challenge you right now? Where are you creating impact and results that is out of line with what you most espouse to care about? If you are a person who is chronically an hour late, or chronically flaking on certain things, what I want you to wake up to is you are somehow creating not just those results, but the circumstances that you’re blaming to help you to create those results. You’re creating hurry by whatever it is that you’re doing to create hurry, packing too much in or making yourself stress out in the morning so that you feel hurried. Whatever it is, you’re creating not just the results but the circumstances and you are the one making the choices and taking the actions that is leading to these results.

Now, it may be that when I challenge you, you discover, “Oh my gosh, you’re right. I’ve been leaving some of my power on the table. I’ve been ignoring that I’m actually in control of a lot of the things that I’m saying I’m not in control of. I have more choice than I realize, but I don’t think I can do it.” And me as a challenge. I’m going to say, “I know you can do it. You can figure it out.”

Now it’s your choice. If I say, “I know you can do it and you’re saying, “No, I can’t.” What I hear as a challenger is I don’t want to. How do I know? You’re not doing it. So you can, I think you’re probably feeling how challenging it is to step into a challenger role. We just really don’t do a lot of challenging in our culture these days. We are very much heroing all over the place and trying to save everybody from themselves and their own problems. And we’re blaming everything and we are doing a ton of heroing behavior, avoiding the massive, the massive problems that we have helped to create in this world. We are distracting ourselves from thinking about them and that’s what a hero does.

But a challenger says, “Check it out. You’ve destroyed the planet. You are the only one who can make a change. I see that you continue to buy water bottles every day. You are capable of something different. You are.” “No, I can’t.” “You can.” Okay, get it? You can.

And shout out to my friend Simon D’Arcy, who only used seven plastic water bottles in 2019. Rad. And every time he does, he brings it home and keeps it in a drawer to remind himself of his impact on the planet. That is so rad. What a challenge to yourself. That’s what commitment looks like. And when he posts that to social media, what he’s telling me is I challenge you, I care and I know you can do it. So rad. Right?

So the challenger brings all this heat. And how do they access all of that heat to help you feel that discomfort of, whoa, there’s a big gap between where I am now and what I could be? They get that heat often from anger, anger. Anger is one of our core emotions. It is not a bad emotion. No emotion is bad. They are all equally important. And there’s a reason why as human beings, we feel these emotions. Each emotion has an intelligence to it. The intelligence of anger is, grr, something here is not serving me or those I care about. Something here is out of alignment. Something here is out of integrity.

If I allow myself to feel all of my feelings, which is a prerequisite for being a conscious leader, a prerequisite for being above the line, then I feel it when anger starts coming up. And I realize, ooh, there’s something here that is not serving me or my people and I can move with that energy instead of suppressing it or judging it, I can move with it in the moment to make a challenge, to create some pressure, to create some discomfort. Get it? So you feeling your feelings and then of course allowing others to feel their feelings. If they’re not allowed to feel that discomfort, you challenge them and then you swoop in to save them and make it better. You just removed all of the benefit of challenging them in the first place. You’ve got to give them that space to feel that discomfort, while taking total responsibility for the way that you are behaving. So super important.

Challenger means you’re above the line. You can only challenge if you are above the line. If you’re below the line and you’re trying to challenge, actually you are being the villain. And if you don’t remember the villain role, it’s in the drama triangle and we have a deep dive episode on that. I believe it was episode 13 we’ll link to it at

When successfully done, the challenger allows the person who’s seen themselves as a victim to finally face what’s no longer of service. It could be that they realize, “I actually don’t care about what you’re challenging me on. I want to rework some agreements. This agreement or expectation that you have of me is actually not something that I signed up to. Or I didn’t sign up to it with integrity. I didn’t sign up to it with a whole body. Yes, with full intention of being 100% committed to it.” Or “Thank you so much for helping me realize that I actually don’t care too much about this. I actually don’t want to be on time. I’m going to stay committed to being five minutes late. I like that. That’s what I want.” So all of that would be like a really high integrity way to respond to a challenger. You don’t have to do what a challenger says you have to do.

A challenger is actually saying you have choices here. It’s not a have to. But by facing what’s no longer of service now we together in our relationship can get into integrity. And you can learn, we can learn more about each other. So the challenger gets to learn. What do you really care about? Do you care about this gap that I’m pointing to between where we are and where we could be? Do you want to grow in this way that I’m pointing to? And if they can’t hold space for that, again, they’re not being a challenger, they’re being a villain. But by facing what’s no longer of service, we often begin to recognize more of our actual priorities, our actual commitments.

Sometimes that’s hard. Sometimes we realize, you know what? I do want to leave the kitchen dirty. I do want to go to bed exhausted. I like that feeling. I love that feeling. I actually do want to work 20 hours a day. That is the most important thing to me. That’s more important than a clean kitchen. That’s more important than me doing my fair share of the kitchen work.

And by the way, in case you’re inferring anything, I want to point out that my husband Roy might do more dishes than I do. I think he’ll say he probably does. And we really, he’s an amazing 50/50 partner with me. So shout out to my husband. Okay, back to this. So by recognizing my own commitments, because a challenger has had me face it, I now can get my life back into integrity and I can step into being a creator in my own life. So that’s a huge way that this is of service.

But also let’s say that I do want to change and you’ve just challenged me to do so. Now I have someone who’s seeing me. This is the thing that feels best about when somebody challenges you is like, “Oh my gosh, you see me. You see that I am not creating the results that I want. You see that I am capable of more. I don’t even believe I’m capable of more. And you believe it of me. Wow. Thank you so much for recognizing I don’t want it to be this way and I’m really struggling.” And so I’m going to get into creator mode. I’m going to get busy discovering all the resources I have around me. I might ask for help. I might ask the challenger for help. I might decide to cancel some other commitments so that I can really get this went into alignment. I’m going to get busy taking some baby steps, right. Now you’ve just pulled forth the creator out of the victim and now we’re both getting above the line. By the challenge of questioning my beliefs, my thoughts about myself providing that good dose of uncomfortable reality, some unarguable feedback, I’m allowed to take responsibility of what’s happening in my own life and I feel empowered.

Do you see how awesome this is? It is worth learning this skill. Now it can be a really hard skill to learn for many of us because we just haven’t seen it role modeled too many times. So I encourage you to go to Caneel.comm/podcast where you can download a tool that you can begin to use if you want to begin experimenting with, small experiments of what does it feel like to use this role in my life? How can I, instead of holding onto my anger and blame myself and others, I can instead challenge? And believe me, it’s a thrill. It is a thrill when that anger comes up to be able to move with it and through it and be of service. It’s incredible.

If you are playing challenger and you see someone really step into creator, it feels really great. But I also want to give fair warning that that’s not always how it plays out and part of your challenge as a challenger is being okay with that. Is on purpose, stepping into that risky place of love where somebody might come back at you in a way that is below the line or reactive. And everyone’s got their own stuff going on. Everyone’s on their own journey, their own timeline. It’s not, no reaction is wrong, right. No response is wrong. It’s really important to have full compassion here.

So here’s some things you can expect to see and that you should be ready for if you’re going to play the role of challenger. So breathe and move as you’re playing challenger to help you stay self-regulated when you see this happen. So here’s some things. You might see the person really dig in their heels and resist. It’s important to understand that we often experience a fear response when we are seen. And this is true whether we’re seen on stage, whether we are seeing naked or in person. Or our strengths are being recognized and we’re embarrassed. Or we’re being seen as there’s some impact you’re making that I don’t like. Or there’s an impact you’re making that I don’t think you want to create. That can be uncomfortable.

I want you to recognize that that fear response is also just the fear response of being seen because you’re, and it can feel really, really good when you’re seen. So sometimes at first we resist and then later on a couple of days later that person’s like, “Wow, I really feel empowered by that.” So that can happen too, but when we get scared and we’re triggered even by being challenged, that can manifest in a knee jerk, fight, flight, freeze, or faint response.

Most of us are really familiar with fight or flight, right? I fight, I go against I flight, means I run from. I freeze means I stand still. And faint is less familiar to most of us. Faint means I tune out, I opt out. I might not literally faint, but I am no longer present. I might get really exhausted. I might get really impatient. I might stop feeling my feelings. It can be really subtle. So look for those and just see all of those as not right or wrong, or not a sign that you need to necessarily stop, but be very, very attuned. Those are an expression of fear and they’re just that. They’re just an expression of fear. It makes perfect sense to be afraid when you are seen. And to be afraid of, “Oh my gosh, for me to take on this challenge means I’d need to step into something new and I’m scared because fear just means there’s something new here for me to learn.”

If you see this happen, open up your heart as much as you possibly can. Compassion is a big part of challenge. Trust in your own ability to challenge in a way that’s of service. Continue to remind yourself, my challenge is of service because I love. My challenges of service because I believe in this person. And know that by you challenging, you’re actually providing a space, a container where people can feel safe to get a bit messy. So stay with it until the end. Stay with your challenge until the end of that challenging process where the person has felt the discomfort and it’s really landed and registered with them. Don’t back down. Don’t slip into villain, and don’t slip into hero.

How do you know if you’re slipping into hero? You try to solve the problem or make the discomfort go away? Or are you say, this is something I’ve heard myself do before. If I feel like the challenge isn’t really being received well, in the past I definitely heard myself say, “Oh actually, you know what? I think this is actually my responsibility.” Really what I’m saying is really might not be that important. And this is by the way, this is also a gender thing, meaning we don’t have to do it that way, but it is a way that many women have been socialized to behave. How do you know when you’re slipping into a villain, you begin to blame. You might start blaming yourself. You might be like, “Oh my gosh, I’m such a bad guy. This is so rude. This is totally inappropriate. I really shouldn’t be doing this. I shouldn’t be speaking truth to power. I shouldn’t be pushing back against authority. I shouldn’t be making my employee feel uncomfortable. I shouldn’t be creating conflict or any disharmony or discomfort.” Not true should is all a story that’s just villain mode. You’re villaining yourself. You’re blaming and judging yourself.

You might also start blaming and judging them, either for the thing that you were initially challenging them on or for how they’re responding to your challenge. You might say, “Hey, I’m challenging you and you’re supposed to turn into a creator now and I’m…” Wake up. You’re trying to change them. If you’re trying to change them, it means you’re seeing them as incomplete, as unresourced, as there’s something wrong with them. That’s a form of blame.

As a challenger, we hold space for that person to figure it out on their own. What do they care about? What resources do they have access to? You’re trying to challenge them into facing reality and become that creator that you know they are on the inside. If you feel like at any point in this challenging process that you are losing control, or you’re losing somebody’s approval of you, or you’re losing your safety, then you very well may slip into villain and just keep mindful of it. Stay with the process. Do your very best to keep coming back to your own centered place. Breathe. Move. Expect resistance from yourself inside and out and from them. And all of it is okay. The only way to learn is to try. The only way to grow is to experiment. And we toddle. It’s fine. You’re being of service, keep at it.

So if you are turned on by this and you’d like to see the challenger role in action and you’d like a safe place where you can toddle, and fail, and do it wrong, and be a little uncomfortable but with a lot of safety around you, forward Fearless group includes a lot of that kind of work. And like I said, we are closing enrollment at the end of this month, at the end of March, 2020. So please check it out. We only open up the doors for this every few months. And the link is at Expect to grow, expect to be held, expect safety, love, expect pressure, expect to be challenged to be the best leader you can be.

I challenge each of you to step back into the role of CEO of your own life, creator of your own circumstances. The one who actually hires and fires all of the characters that are in your life, personally and professionally through the choices that you’re making. If you don’t believe me, even better. I challenge you to see it and I will keep doing so.

Please leave us a little rating on iTunes. We’d love it. And sign up for Forward Fearless. I can’t wait to see you there. See you next week.


Discover experiences that give your life purpose in your Zone of Genius

Executive Coach Dr. Caneel Joyce reveals a life-changing framework that can help you overcome self-doubt, uncover your hidden talents, and radiate with confidence, one small step at a time.