Leading Employees in a Positive Direction

Knowing when to push people or the organization forward, and when to hold back while still getting forward movement, is an important part of the art and science of leadership. Being a leader is about being able to manage the gap between where people are and where they need to be. Too much pushing can shut people down. Too little pushing will not create enough action to achieve the goal.

After observing many highly effective people at work, we’ve come to realize the best time to push is when things are going well. Why? Because that’s when people are feeling the most confident. Jack Welch, past CEO of GE, said that people and organizations with self-confidence work more quickly and smoothly in all aspects of their work.

On the flip side, when an organization or person is not achieving the desired outcome, support may be the best way to lead. The key is to build self-confidence. This doesn’t mean accepting poor performance. It means pulling a person or an organization out of a self-defeating mind-set. Methods vary from saying, “I have confidence in you, and we’re committed to your development” to saying, “I understand what happened, and I know we will do better.” Other effective tactics are making a gesture of sincere caring or simply moving on to what comes next.

How do you determine when to push and when to hold back?

Moving the Team Forward

An excerpt from Maximize Performance.

I knew a sports medicine physician who at one point worked with a team in the NBA. I happened to see one of their televised games during that time. I was excited as the game started and thrilled to spot the physician behind the bench. But as I watched, I became more and more dismayed as the man’s team endured one of the most lopsided losses I had ever seen. They were normally a much better team.

The next day, I called the physician to let him know I had seen him. I told him I was curious about what the coach, Don Nelson (who is now in the NBA Hall of Fame), had said to the team. Frankly, I had imagined a really challenging locker room scenario. The answer I got surprised me at the time, but as I have gained more experience and knowledge, I now see why this coach was successful.

The physician said that when they got into the locker room, the coach gathered the team around, handed out the scouting report on their next opponent, went over the report and how confident he was that they would be ready, and then went into his office. He literally acted as though the game they just lost had not happened. That’s because he understood that his job as leader is to move the team forward.

I thought if the team won, he would have gathered them around, acknowledged the win, and pointed out areas they need to improve on. Good leaders know when to push…and when to push in a much different manner that doesn’t feel like pushing.
– Quint Studer

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