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Less Push, More Pull

| October 15, 2013

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Tuesday Reading is a guest reading from the pen of Greg Busby, Director, Planning and Program Management, Office of the CIO, Cornell University.  It first appeared as a Reflection to the ITLP 2013 cohort.  

Let’s face it – we live in a Push world. Things to do arrive on our desk all the time, pushed there via email, meetings, texts, phone calls. And all of these are SOMEONE ELSE’S PRIORITY.

We do the same thing to our staff, of course – we push work to them, directing, assigning, compelling. We can make these things their priority, but it didn’t start out that way. And this forces us to manage them.

The Push world is all about management – managing the work pushed to you, managing the staff you push work to. Time Management, People Management, Project Management. All PUSH.

But Leadership is not Management. Most of the things that Leaders should be practicing are really PULL activities – things we have to seek, to make time and effort to do. These things won’t push their own way on to our to do list. We have to pull them there.

Even in working with our staff and colleagues, we will find that we should use Pull activities. COACHING is a Pull activity – taking the time to probe, question, and elicit from your communication partner the things that you and they need. DIRECTING and ADVISING are Push. In gaining support for our ideas or direction, STORIES are a good way to impart information because they Pull the audience in. PRESENTATIONS Push information at the audience, and are both less memorable and less persuasive.

So why do we Push? Consider:

–    It’s efficient. In many forms of Push, it’s completely asynchronous.

–    We may be hard-wired to Push. Evolution and advancement tend to favor those who compete.

–    We’ve done it all our lives. Our parents, teachers, and bosses did it to us.

–    It’s mentally easy. Pulling literally means we must decide where to go. Being pushed means another decides, and we can coast. But LEADERS CAN’T COAST.

Why should Leaders Pull?

–   It’s effective. Most Pull activities are synchronous, and result in improved relationships and shared goals.

–   Others may be hard-wired to resist Pushing, but Pulling brings them toward us to follow us.

–   We can do it for a much longer time. Pushing is a sprint. Pulling is a marathon.

–   Pulling is inherently an activity that favors the important over the urgent. It allows us to be choosy – about people, tasks, direction, amount

The Push world is not an easy one to resist. Push exerts a lot of pressure, and it can build up. Push is fast, and we all need more time. Push is a habit, and it is difficult to break. But Push is stressful, and can be counterproductive. The Pull world offers many advantages. Pull brings us the help we need to overcome time pressures. Pull gets everyone moving in the same direction. Pull focuses us on the goal, not on the obstacle. Pull, Push. Push, Pull. Both have their places. But in the world of Leadership, less push. More Pull.

So, as you go about your activities this week, think about where you should be pulling more and give it a try.  .  .  .   jim