Long gone is the so called “tyrannical” rule wherein top management pushes and spoon-feeds the lower end of the organizational chart. An increasing percentage of work done today mainly depends on discretionary effort which is “the life blood of today’s economy” as Tammy Erickson, McKinsey Award-winning author, would put it. Success of leaders hinges on their ability to entice people to want to go the extra mile for their business. Using “pull” approaches to management is one way to elicit this kind of effort from employees.
“Pull” approaches to management are geared to encourage individuals to share their ideas more widely and constructively, and to push the boundaries of what’s possible – or to be more collaborative and innovative. Instead of pushing individuals telling them what to do, you “pull” employees to share that which positively contributes to the company. Pull management is about encouraging and motivating individuals to do extra and go beyond the responsibilities given to them. It is about motivating and empowering people to do their jobs in the best possible ways without having to closely monitor them all the time, to do their jobs to the 101%. In contrast with “push” management which is about mandates from top management and spoon-feeding on what and how to do things, pull management is about allowing employees more space for creativity and innovation using their own ideas.
In her research, Tammy Erickson speaks about the significance of the approach. It indicated that leaders cannot make anybody collaborate and innovative. There is no correlation between traditional push management techniques (directives, power-based approaches, compensation and performance management), and people’s willingness to do their jobs with greater energy, passion, creativity and focus. The essential duty of present leaders then is to encourage people to do a little extra and go a little bit farther.
Consider this data: In the U.S., the number of total goods-producing jobs has declined sharply from 36% of all jobs 50 years ago to 15% today; education and health-related jobs have gone from 5% in 1959 to 14% today; professional and business services, from 7 percent to 13 percent. Since most manufacturing jobs require employees to be in the same place at the same time, in-process activities can be easily monitored by supervisors. Knowledge-based work, on the other hand, is often done virtually, making it difficult to assess an individual’s performance. Quality of output is often evaluated only after completion. Leaders count on individuals to give their very best while their work is in progress. Instead of pushing the what-to-do and how-to-do, taking in pull approaches to management will provide employees the leverage to do things more freely and with less constraint. It is easier to engage employees to innovate and create when no one or nothing, or perhaps less, is keeping them from stretching the boundaries of their imagination. Given all the resources, don’t you think it is more comfortable to have a free hand and enough space at doing things?
Some features of pull management include:
- The CEO actively works to create an environment that unlocks people’s inherent motivation (their own motivation “pulls” them to sustainably achieve).
- Work and company culture are usually energizing, enjoyable, nurturing, collaborative.
- The company trusts employees to pull what they need from management (advice, information, and help) as necessary.
- All employees have an opportunity to include their voice/feedback in company goals and priorities.
- Every employee has transparent access to (or feeds to) updates on the company’s priorities and goals, so they remain in a constraint state of alignment.
Companies are neither push nor pull. There would be a sliding scale of, for instance, 70% pull and 30% push. How will the pull approach work depends on some factors. One may account the culture and the type of work the organization has. Pull approaches will work for organizations that have a culture where people are empowered and are expected to do their share without much supervision. It may also be effective in knowledge-based work where teamwork, collaboration, and innovative thinking are highly utilized.
Surely, there are many ways to implement pull techniques in organizations. Because pull approaches imply leader and member relationship (the “one pulling” and the “one pulled”), it is reasonable to start with the way leaders are. Are you the pull or the push type? Is your style likely to elicit discretionary effort from your employees? Are you likely to “pull” employees? Tammy Erickson gives three characteristics of leaders able to entice greater levels of discretionary effort.
Interesting and intriguing: able to capture people’s imagination and create excitement.
Tolerant of ambiguity: open to considering a wide range of ideas and respectful of divergent points of view.
Authentic: offering a consistent deal and delivering on commitments reliably.
Written by: NIEL DIESTRO