As an executive, you understand the need for different approaches to get projects completed effectively and efficiently. There are situations where you need the team to take the lead and there are times when you need to take point and lead the process. In effect deciding between push or pull management techniques.
One way to think about push or pull management is whether you need to push your team to accomplish a project or if you can pull them in through motivation or inspiration, allowing them to determine how they complete the project. There are times each approach works best and knowing when to use them is an important skill for a leader.
According to a recent HBR article, “Pushing involves giving direction, telling people what to do, establishing a deadline, and generally holding others accountable. It is on the “authoritarian” end of the leadership style spectrum. Pulling, on the other hand, involves describing to a direct report a needed task, explaining the underlying reason for it, seeing what ideas they might have on how to best accomplish it, and asking if they are willing to take it on. The leader can further enhance the pull by describing what this project might do for the employee’s development. Ideally, the leader’s energy and enthusiasm for the goal are contagious.”
The balance of employing push or pull management can be difficult. The author of the article and his colleague surveyed more than a hundred thousand leaders about push and pull management. Their results showed that more than three-quarters were considered more effective at pushing by their colleagues. Only 22% were considered more effective at pulling, and just 2% were thought to be equally effective at both pushing and pulling.
The results of the study also found that pulling or inspiring others was the most important skill that a leader needed to be successful in their role. Pushing was rated as the fifth most important skill. As you can see, there is plenty of room for leaders to improve their ability to inspire others. If they are already effective at pushing, becoming more accomplished at pulling can make them highly effective. ‘Leaders who are willing to try hard with pulling but ultimately resort to a strong push provide a good example of the power of the combination of these two approaches. Pushing too hard can erode satisfaction but, at times, is needed, especially when pulling just doesn’t work.’
Understanding the difference between push or pull management and knowing when to employ each is important, especially now, with so many people voluntarily leaving their current positions. Pulling is an effective leadership tool to improve employee engagement. When deployed properly it signals trust, empathy, and empowerment. However, a strong leader also knows when it is not working as it should and when to employ push tactics to keep a project moving.
If you have questions on leadership techniques or have used push or pull management effectively, send us a note, and we may feature you in a blog post.