Pulling versus Pushing

“Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

It’s great to believe ourselves capable of inspiring people to action — that we can influence behaviours simply by painting a compelling picture of a bright, shiny new future — but the truth is, it’s much harder than it looks. And if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we may be doing more pushing than pulling.

Positional Power versus Personal Power

Not sure if you ever use positional power?  Here are some phrases to surface those times:

  • “Do it because I said so.”
  • “I’ve been doing this for X years.  I know what I’m doing.”
  • “What is your supervisor’s name?”

You can imagine many other scenarios  – in fact, anytime we are tempted to cite our title (parent, VP, tax-paying citizen) or ask the other person what their title is, we are probably leaning on positional power to get something done.  This is pushing.

Pulling, on the other hand, is a beautiful thing.  Pulling requires us to be open and curious.  Pulling sounds more like this:

  • “Tell me more about why you prefer that method over this one.”
  • “What else do you think might work?”
  • “Who else do we need to involve in this decision?”

If you are enjoying this topic, here are some additional online resources:

Engage Employee Heart-Power — Not Just Brain-Power

The Power of Intrinsic Motivation


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