A time for pushing?

What are some other ways to consider doing the opposite of pushing people?

We're pulling for people whenever we:
  • create space for them, give them room to maneuver
  • leave things unsaid, let them come to their own conclusions
  • take an indirect approach, let the cycles involved work through the resolution
  • give them the pieces, leave the final say up to them
Is pushing people always a bad thing?
Not at all. There would be no pulling without pushing. It takes both. What's usually missing is the pulling. We seem to be addicted to pushing with all our forcing of content, compliance and consensus in relating, learning and working together.

How can pushing be a good thing to do?
We need to be pushed when we lack structure and cannot organize our own efforts. We need a push when we are wallowing in self pity, past history or perpetual misery. We need a push in a new direction when we're caught up in bad habits, pointless pursuits or poisonous relationships.

How can we know when to push and when to pull when we're looking to do a better job of relating, selling, instructing or managing people?
By living that exact question. By not know whether a situation calls for pushing or pulling. By having both options in mind as potential good things to do. By having no attachment to either one. By leaving it open and creating the space for the most appropriate approach to come to mind.


  1. Tom,

    It occurs to me that our own human-generated deadlines are often the cause of pushing, when pulling is more desirable.

    We create deadlines and then agree to them. As the time approaches and it doesn't look as if we'll make it, we begin to start pushing. If that approach doesn't produce effective results, we push harder:-)

    I wonder why we don't step back and say, "Hey, we set the deadline. Why don't we change it?"

    There are deadlines that have to do with safety and life-and-death issues. Not negotiable. But how many other deadlines are really not negotiable?

    I think I'll push harder to get heard on this one!

  2. Thanks for this Steve! You got me thinking about how different deadlines feel. I wonder if we push harder to meet a deadline against our better judgment, when the deadline needs something else. There are deadlines we avoid, make excuses about and get everything done besides it. There are deadlines we get done "no problem", "when the time is right" and "feeling good about it".

    Maybe we need the combination of a deadline and lifeline to feel good about deadline pressure. David Allen's Getting Things Done emphasizes the context of "why bother?", like you're reminding yourself why you set the deadline in the first place. Deadlines that feel like pure pressure may need more consideration for how it gets done? when? or in combination with what else? We're not making excuses, avoiding the task or listening to fears. We're on a roll by pushing ourselves to get that big picture stuff that's missing and to get a good feeling about the deadline -- which effectively pulls and pushes. We provide space and focus for meeting the deadline, or in the framework of negotiating you mentioned - we re-negotiate the rationale while living with the terms of the agreement.

  3. Tom,

    I like the question "Why bother?" a whole lot. It fits with my love of simplicity.

    Now I'm curious to see what is going to happen when I start using that question intentionally.

  4. Steve
    Operating with your (and my) love of simplicity will invite lots of great questions to come to mind like "why bother?". A few others include "what's the purpose of this?", "what is there to learn from this?" and "where is the flow to go with in this?".