Pulling Instead of Pushing

I have been in leadership positions for over 25 years, from raising kids and teaching martial arts to business management and personnel coaching roles.  One of the secrets to my success, as I pointed out in my booklet LEAD!, is pulling people instead of pushing them.  Very few people are motivated by pushing, but almost everybody responds to a pull.

What’s the difference between pushing and pulling?

  1. Pushing:  “Did you forget that the deadline is tomorrow?  If you don’t make that deadline it’s going to be a disaster!  What are you doing to make sure that you’re going to make the deadline?”
  2. Pulling: “We’re going to need to work together to hit that deadline tomorrow.  What do you think we should do to make sure we do?  What can I do to help?”

Pushing is like shoving a person in the direction you want them to go.  Pulling is like taking someone by the hand and leading them toward a mutually beneficial destination.

Just now I saw a tweet (see below) and I clicked the link.  In it, world famous life coach Tony Robbins talks about the three types of motivation — pushing, pulling, and incentive — and relates a story about how he used pull motivation to encourage President Obama to change his second term governing strategy.  Not a huge fan of Tony Robbins, but this is basic stuff, and he got this right.  If you’re not using pull motivation, your leadership engine is not running at maximum potential.

The same goes for martial arts.  If you are not using pulling strategies in addition to pushing ones, you’ll never fully control the space in which the conflict takes place.  There are three ways to get an opponent where you want them — you can push them, you can pull them, and you can draw them — and they all have their time and place.

On the mat or in self defense you can use pushing to your heart’s content.  You are, after all, involved in a conflict.  But in leadership, use pushing to your peril.  People don’t like conflict and they don’t like to be pushed.  They’d much rather be pulled.

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