Do you remember the special animal in the movie “Doctor Dolittle“? The pushmi-pullyu?
The challenge these animals faced was this:
“They had no tail, but a head at each end, and sharp horns on each head.” and “…no matter which way you came towards him, he was always facing you.”
I always thought that an animal like this would die out, because if the heads were equal, it would never be able to go anywhere.
We all know about “too many chiefs and not enough Indians”, which has a similar problem.
So how do you handle a situation where there’s either too much push or too much pull?
In t’ai chi ch’uan (commonly referred to as just tai chi), one of the techniques has to do with pushing. Pushing takes on many different aspects, from forceful lifting/pushing, to a gentler slower movement. As I think about how we work with teams and organisations, it occurs to me that all too often we’re either pushing too hard and too directly, or not enough.
Consider, first, what happens when you try to push someone. What do they do? They brace themselves, at a minimum. Sometimes, they prepare to push back, and then they do push back.
How about if you come up on them gradually? Let’s say you’re standing next to someone, and you slowly shift your weight so that you’re leaning on them – pushing – more and more, little by little? How do they react? Most typically, they will notice when you cross some threshold that is very specific to them. Many times, it will be when some “significant” amount of pressure reaches their awareness. If you were walking down the street, then they’d realize at some point that you had steered them by either physically leaning on them or by entering their “personal space”.
If we are working with a group, team, or organisation, in helping them to adopt new principles, practices, and/or methodologies, some of us – myself most definitely included – have a tendency to push. To be emphatic, zealous, excited, energetic, passionate, insistent,…
We must be aware and wary of creating resistance through our pushing. We must consider whether it’s more effective to lean on them rather than to push them.