The push or pull method of leadership?

The push or pull method of leadership

Do you ever feel as though you have to stand behind some of your team members and metaphorically ‘push them’ to get any movement forward in completing work to the standard or timeline you find acceptable or to encourage them to join in team activities or help others in the team?

Have their been times when you have felt as though you were standing on higher ground – the point where you want your team to be – and as you dangled down the rope of guidance and tried to pull everyone up, their lack of effort seemed to double the burden?

A manager in either situation soon becomes exhausted and disenchanted. They either try harder or just give in. The team members feel the manager exerting more effort and power and they just seem to dig their heels in harder.

The next time you feel you are trying too hard and your team is not moving, stop and draw breath. Here are 5 actions to help you reflect and determine where to head next.

  1. Has your leadership slipped into the ‘Push or Pull’ style? Describe at least 3 interactions with your team (or individuals in that team) that characterise either style.
  2. At what point do you think you transitioned from ‘leading with’ to having to exert more effort/force to affect any progress forward with the team? Looking back now, can you see any obvious points of resistance? List these.
  3. Now pick 3 or 4 team members who seem to have shown the most resistance. One at a time put yourself in their shoes and view the project/situation from their reference point. Reflect back on some of the comments you might have heard them say but not really taken notice of. What aspects of their work do they avoid or spend less time on? What information or assurance do they usually need to move forward? Have you provided this? Write down as many ideas as you can for each.
  4. Draw up a plan to meet with each of these people to ‘gently’ test your assumptions. Ask open questions to find out what they need to be able to unlock their resistance.
  5. Together, develop and implement a detailed, S.M.A.R.T.E.R. action plan.


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About the Author

Catherine Gillespie brings a wealth of skill to her clients. With particular expertise in teaching communication and workplace conflict resolution skills, Catherine has made a marked difference to the organisations she has worked with. She empowers teams and managers to adopt constructive styles that support harmony, productivity and progress in the workplace.