How to Push Without Being Pushy
If you are in my circle of influence you can expect one thing for certain: I will push you. Push you to grow and to expand your limits.
I believe leaders should push others intentionally and aggressively. And they should push kindly and respectfully. Sometimes I fail at that. Sometimes I push too much, other times I push too little. As you and I grow as leaders, we must learn how to urge others forward in the right timing and to the right extent.
Why pushing is key…
Because I care for those around me, I push people.
Because I want to lead amazing teams, I push people.
Because I see myself responsible for the progress of those on the journey with me, I push people.
But as I grow my leadership, I am cognizant that I want to push without being pushy. I want to honor people and give them dignity.
I also desire for people to push me. Not just teach me. Not just show me. Not just advise me. All these things are good, but push me. Don’t push me past my breaking point. Don’t destroy me as you push me.
So, how do you push without being pushy?
Get to know someone.
That’s where leadership really begins, getting to know people. The more you know people, the more you can impact them. A word of caution here: don’t force people to open up. Knock on the door. But let them open it.
To be able to push someone successfully, you must begin by discovering their dreams, fears, strengths, hopes, previous successes, and biggest failures. This takes time. This takes intentional effort. And, this requires that you care enough to do it with sincerity.
Sometimes people give me advice in the name of “pushing me forward,” but honestly they don’t listen to me first. They make a few assumptions, and just start blurting out thoughts that sound good to them. While it is appreciated, it’s rarely helpful.
If you have not pushed yourself anywhere worthwhile, chances are, you will not be capable of pushing others anywhere worthwhile either. Are you committed to a life of growth and excellence? A life of humility and learning? A life of asking, instead of answering? A life of listening, instead of preaching? Only when you do that, will you be ready and qualified to push others to grow.
Wait for the right time.
Teachable moments. Those are key. Not all moments are teachable moments. We are not always ready to receive. You may think someone needs to learn something or be pushed, and while you may even be right, they may not be ready. If you have to ask them if they are ready to learn, then you are not doing it right. If you have to ask, then you don’t know them well enough to push them. Develop the sensitivity to know when it’s the right time to push.
Do not be confrontational.
Pushing may be misconstrued as being confrontational. I don’t mean that at all. Gently pushing is what I’m talking about. Sometimes I have to wait for months, or even a year, to develop a solid rapport. I must gain the other person’s unspoken permission to allow me to give them a push.
Make pushing normal.
This last point is the most important when it comes to the application aspect of this discussion. In any relationship, there are habits, norms, and unspoken rules. Make pushing people forward a part of the norms of the relationship. You push me, and I push you, because we care about each other.
I think leaders must exhort, press, persuade, and urge others forward in their personal growth, and in their professional growth. Don’t let people settle for the mediocre just because that is what they know, all they think they can do, and feel very comfortable doing. We all go through times where we surrender to who we have become, and see nothing more. Thus, we stop forging onward.
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