the Problems
Managers often need to find appropriate ways of directly challenging or con-
fronting problems with individuals and how they might be resolved.
Managers require language skills for challenging problems and to pinpoint how
each problem should be tackled. These specific “challenging skills” will help
individuals identify and establish the way to handle their problem(s).
The manager will, in the course of practicing challenging skills, know exactly
what skills to use and when to use them. With the use of challenging skills, the
manager also assists the employee to declare a statement of intent. It forms the
foundation with which the problem will be handled in the future.
MATERIALS Handouts 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, and 5.4 for each participant
IME 1 to 2 hours
ROUP SIZE Suitable for management development and training of groups of 6
to 12 people
ETHOD 1. Introduce participants to the idea of confronting problems.
Explain that problems will remain or become worse if they
are left unchallenged.
2. Explain how challenging skills are dependent on what the
employee actually says. For everything a person says, there is
an appropriate challenging skill. For example, if a person says:
“I am going to organize my time more efficiently,”
the manager should not respond by saying “Fine” or “That’s
good” or “That will solve it.” The appropriate challenging
skills used should be:
“What specifically will you do to better organize your time?”
3. Tell the group that the challenging skills should be addressed
to a statement of the problem. Allow them to open with
questions such as “What do you think about how you might
overcome/change/resolve this problem?” or “How would
you go about sorting out this problem?”
50 Activities for Developing Counseling Skills in Managers
4. Distribute Handout 5.1 and provide an outline of the five-
finger format for using challenging skills. Explain its use in
challenging skills and how each of our hands signals what is
being said by the employee and what appropriate challenging
skill is required and should be used.
5. Explain that the left hand acts as the recognition hand and the
right as the response hand. Each of the fingers on each hand
represents different aspects of what the person is saying and
the specific counseling skills needed to challenge the problem.
6. Distribute Handouts 5.2 and 5.3 and ask participants to prac-
tice recognizing the responses that are required to challenge
problems. Divide participants into twos or threes and ask
each to practice challenging skills with the problem that they
are currently working on and that are significant to them.
7. Using Handout 5.4, have participants make a statement of
intent as a result of using challenging skills. This should
form the basis for taking further action on their problems.
8. Feedback/summary: Provide feedback and emphasize the
importance of challenging skills, the five-finger format, and
how these clearly focus on the specific intentions for action
that will deal with their problems.
Handout 5.1
Reproduced from 50 Activities for Developing Counseling Skills
Roy Baily, HRD Press, Inc., 1991, 2008
Challenging Skills Five-Finger Format
The five-finger format for dealing with problems literally lies in our own hands,
with each hand playing a different part in challenging problems. The left hand is
the recognition hand and the right, the response hand. The left hand or
recognition hand is used to detect what is being said. The right hand or response
hand is used to signal the appropriate challenging skill required.
Recognition Hand
(Left Hand)
Response Hand
(Right Hand)
All ALL?
Should/Shouldn’t WHAT would
Verb HOW
Comparison In WHAT WAY…?
Handout 5.2
Reproduced from 50 Activities for Developing Counseling Skills
Roy Baily, HRD Press, Inc., 1991, 2008
Challenging Skills Exercise
This exercise illustrates the main points in using challenging skills. Managers
should look out for them in counseling sessions. Recognize when to challenge
individuals and identify what skills are required to effectively challenge problems.
Recognition Response
ALL of the team are against my
(This is a generalization that needs
to be challenged.)
I SHOULD not tell the manager
about this.
WHAT would HAPPEN if you
did/didn’t? (challenge the rule)
I will improve this situation.
improve this situation? (challenge
for clarity)
I want to move to a new job.
you want to move to? (challenge
for specifics)
I think he is more dynamic.
Than WHOM?

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