I was recently in a car driving from San Francisco to Palo Alto with Infusionsoft CEO, Clate Mask and our CFO, Sam Blackham. Sam and Clate were both telling me how terrific our new senior director of finance was doing. I said “Great, what’s so special about him?” They first went to his experience and his resume. And I wasn’t super excited about that, though it was an impressive resume. I really pressed them on what made this new employee so terrific. Because if we could get our finger on it, then we could leadership-model it. We could teach it. We could measure it. We could have the rest of the leaders understand the principal and have them live up to it.
Sam got quiet for a moment and then Clate said, “You know, he sent me a quarterly report summary from a public company last week and I didn’t have to pull it out of him, he pushed it to me.” I said, “That’s it right there: push, pull.”
Take a moment and think to yourself. Does my boss have to pull things out of me? Or do I push things to my boss?
Said another way, is it like pulling teeth to get something out of me or out of my direct reports–as opposed to them pushing ideas and new initiatives to me on their own.
The best leaders are pushing ideas out. They’re creating. They’re making things happen, instead of waiting for things to happen. Next time you’re evaluating all of your staff or you’re going into review for yourself, ask yourself: Am I pushing or am I pulling?
When looking at the push-pull axis, I think direction, frequency, and context matters. Far too many managers and so-called leaders are push-only in all directions, including to their teams. That ‘directive’ approach becomes a crutch and doesn’t contribute to developing and growing others. Teams and clients are less engaged when they are on the receiving end of those who are always pushing content, ideas, etc.
If I am always pushing into you, I am never asking questions, never allowing you to grow and explore things on your own, and never factoring in your own wisdom. Pushing is not synonymous with actions, nor is pulling synonymous with waiting.
It’s possible that leaders should push more often in an upwards direction, and pull more often from their teams and clients. I think it is more context-based than absolute.
The best leaders, regardless of their level, create a culture where push-pull is in balance.
Heather Dopson (@heatherdopson) says
This post should be required reading for people managers at Infusionsoft.