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2 min readEffective Leaders Use Push and Pull

by Guy Gage | September 7, 2020 | Business, Leadership

As a leader, you have to get results. In professional service, you get results when you engage the hearts and minds of your people. Whether you are a leader of your firm, a department or a project team, if your people are struggling to function well, you need to pay attention and do something differently. Effective leaders use both Push and Pull to make a difference.

The Difference

Push is when you focus on performance and what has to happen next. It’s the nudge you use to keep people moving the ball down the field. Your goals, timelines and other performance metrics are all used to push people along.

Pull, on the other hand, is about where you are going. It’s about an aspirational vision of reality. The metrics are different but are every bit as necessary to stoke the motivational fire in your people.

The Evidence

When your people lose heart, it’s too easy to blame the pandemic. While convenient, it’s really an indication that you may be relying too much on Push. People begin to sag in performance, energy and morale because, after a while, Push is exhausting, as I wrote about it here. There are always more things to do. Just look at your desk and your to-do list.

While Push can be grueling, Pull engages energetic aspiration. For instance, a vision serves as a center of gravity that pulls your people forward to a desired reality. It engages the energy, commitment and perseverance of everyone on the team and gives purpose to the Push of day-after-day tasks.

Most firms have mission, vision and values statements. However, each team (engagement, project, IT, administrative, HR, BD…EVERY team) should have its own sense of purpose (what we intend to do, how we will do it and the way we will work together to accomplish it) that is aligned to the firm’s direction.

Pull Questions

For engagement and project team leaders, here are some questions that, if you discussed them with your team (preferably in your initial meeting), will generate and sustain the heat of energy.

  • What does a successful project do for your client? How will they benefit? What problems does a mediocre or failed result create?
  • What are the opportunities for growth for those working on this assignment? Who will need additional support, resources or coaching and who will provide them?
  • How will this team make sure everyone knows and is committed to the results? What progress reports will be used? What specific input data from everyone will be required to make the progress reports timely and relevant?

You are used to setting targets, milestones and budgets. But if you aren’t leading your people with Pull, it’s no wonder they are exhausted and losing motivation. It’s time to use Push AND Pull, especially in this abnormal time.

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