“I recently found myself discussing with a colleague the benefits of Pull Managers over Push Managers. Which one are you?” asks Roger Green, CEO of Spotless Commercial Cleaning.
At the extreme Push Management is the autocratic, dictatorial management style where results are achieved through diktats and determination. The manager pushes their team hard to achieve better results.
Leaders whose style is based on Push Management tend to:
- Do everything possible to achieve a goal.
- Focus on achieving goals on time and within budget.
- Do a great job of following through to ensure that goals are completed successfully.
However, the approach can be demotivating and discourages employee engagement. There is minimal discussion within the team of the ‘why’; the task is clear, “you know what to do, so just do it”.
At its best Push Management is very efficient. It works well in the Military where instructions are issued and the importance of discipline means there are expectations that ‘orders’ are carried out unquestioningly.
It relies on powerful authority and a very loyal workforce, or one where engagement is not a pre- requisite to success.
But in most modern work places it lacks long term benefits and can be exhausting and counter-productive. You might as well be pushing string.
Most of us prefer a more modern approach and aspire to being Pull Managers. You know what you want your team to do, you discuss its context and importance, you set clear goals, you make sure everyone is invested in the task, you agree time frames and you let them get on with it.
At Spotless we have three directors who were once cleaning operatives, and now manage over £12m of annualised turnover across their 3 divisions.
Their rapid rise and continual development has been made all the more possible because of the positive, respectful and supportive Pull Management environment we encourage at Spotless. To be fair, their success has also depended on their own excellence and determination.
Pull Managers tend to be good at inspiring their colleagues and can:
- Energise people to achieve goals and objectives.
- Encourage high levels of effort and performance.
- Bring more energy and enthusiasm to their teams.
As you can see, Push Management tends to be more task-oriented and Pull Management is more people-orientated.
Of course, Push Management can often go wrong. A lack of clarity, unrealistic outcomes, not having the right skills and poor leadership support will all scupper and undermine a perfectly good project.
Without the core ingredients, Pull Management is wishy-washy and ineffective. The well-intentioned Pull Manager who does not give realistic outcomes, or fails to supply the necessary support or tools will easily become frustrated and might be tempted to take on the mantle of the Push Manager.
8 Tips on How to Make Pull Management Work
In my experience Pull Management really only works when it’s done well, so here are 8 thoughts on how best to get Pull Management to work in your business:
- Make sure that goals are agreed, fair and realistic, but challenging.
- Ask your teams to develop their own plans on how they will achieve their goals, with your input.
- Regularly ask your people how they’re getting on and ask what you can do to help them.
- Celebrate small victories along the way.
- Express confidence in the individual’s ability to reach their goals.
- Reinforce all movement in the right direction.
- Demonstrate enthusiasm by talking about why the goals are important.
- Focus on why goals ‘can’ be achieved rather than on why they ‘cannot’.
In their book, The Extraordinary Leader, Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman studied over 20,000 managers; they discovered that leaders who possess the ability to ‘Inspire and Motivate Others to High Performance’ outperform all others. It is the single most powerful separator of the most effective leaders from average and poor performers. It is the quality most appreciated by subordinates. It is also the trait most closely correlated with high levels of employee engagement.
The good news is that this is a skill that people can learn, so most leaders can learn to inspire.
Of course, in practice it’s usually important to strike a balance between Push and Pull Management. Leaders who can use both methods effectively have a 77% probability of being an extraordinary leader, versus less than 1% probability of being an extraordinary leader if only one style is used.
Looking back, I know I’ve made mistakes in trying to Pull staff through. I’ve set out the task, left the team or individual to the task and I’ve hoped for the best. But I’ve learnt from mistakes and moved on.
I’m interested to hear other people’s experiences of Push vs Pull Management. Please feel free to share them by email.
This article on Pull Management v Push Management has been written by Roger Green, CEO of Spotless Commercial Cleaning.