Social Enterprise

My "Push-Me-Pull-You"management pledge


If any of you have listened to National Public Radio lately, you know that they are airing a series called "This I Believe," in which people speak about what they strongly believe in (one of their own undeniable truths)--in essay form.

Today I’m putting a slight twist on this, and I'm going to state one of my undeniable management practices--a practice that I will engage in every time I have the opportunity to supervise a person or a unit. I call it my Push-Me-Pull-You pledge.

Here is how it goes:

I pledge that to the extent of my resources and abilities, I will do all that is in my power as a manager to help you grow as an employee--challenging you to become better at what you do, or if you have mastered your skills, challenging you to add new skills to your repertoire. In essence I am going to "pull you."

I am going to pull you because my goal is to create a work environment that is never stagnant. To borrow a phrase, I want to have my people "master the mundane,” so that there is both time and energy left to do new and challenging things.

As manager, I am going to set a direction for us to go in, give you (to the best of my abilities): the time and resources you need to be successful; a plan to get to where we need to be; and my expectations of what you should achieve. I will pull you--kicking and screaming if I have to--where we as a unit need to be and where you need to be skill-wise in order for us to excel. You have a choice in this, though; you can choose to achieve or we can part company. There is, after all, a measure of personal accountability and desire that come into this.

I will also strive to create an environment that you will want to come to every day, in spite of the fact that I am going to pull you to a point where you could make more money elsewhere. In short, I am committed to making work an enjoyable place and make the decision to leave a heart-wrenching one for you. If you do go, I will support you wholeheartedly and know that I helped you to be successful wherever you go.

Conversely, I challenge you to push me. I want you to show me new technologies that I have not found time to investigate and make a strong business case as to why we need them. I want you to ask me for training, to come up with unique and successful ways to stretch our training dollars, to ask me to buy you new tools, and to tell me what you did yesterday that you think was cool.

I want you to ask me why we do things the way we do them and offer suggestions on how we could do them better or give me a good reason for not doing them. I want you to push me to get more money for our team, to be shrewd in my budgeting, to be visionary in my planning, and never to let me forget that I am surrounded by energetic, sharp, hard-working, creative people.

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. The reasons for this are obvious: A successful manager surrounds himself with good people. Perhaps, because I have been in public service the majority of my career, I have never had the luxury of being able to hire the top dogs; my budgets never accommodated that. I have always had to grow my own superstars. And to be honest with you, I like it that way. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to build a team that I have invested in, and my experience has shown me that those that I have invested in appreciate it and reciprocate with productivity, excellence, and longevity in their positions.

Another reason for my "pledge” is a desire to create an environment that I want to come to every day. That is the purpose behind the “push me” portion of the pledge. No matter what else is happening in the organization, I feed off the energy of my people and their successes. This is not unlike sports coaches who do the same with their players.

Bill Parcells, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, frequently mentions that he is driven by the energy and enthusiasm of his players. He says, “It keeps me young”. Of course, he is surrounded by people decades younger than himself, but in the workplace--youth is not a requirement. In fact, I find it advantageous to have a blend of younger workers and mature workers who still are challenged by their jobs and, in turn, are challenging me. I get the bonus of having wisdom and experience, combined with the “energy” we often attribute to youth.

The fact of the matter is that many times, we make the mistake of thinking an older worker has "lost his edge" when, actually, he's just bored to tears in his current position and is no longer being challenged. Think about that the next time you are assessing your employees.

Lastly, the underlying philosophy behind all of this is lifelong learning. Lifelong learning is an attitude--that you should always be open to new ideas, decisions, skills, or behaviors. Lifelong learning throws the axiom, "You can't teach old dog new tricks," out the door.”

I’m a big believer in lifelong learning and, obviously, it shows in my pledge. I don’t know if this will work for you as an IT manager, but it is the way I work and has proven to be a sound management philosophy for me. One note of caution though; I take this very seriously. Half-hearted attempts and lip service will not work, and your commitment is even more important than your employees'. If you aren’t committed to it, your employees will sense it, and you won't be successful. So with those words of caution, I extend to you my pledge: try it on, see if you can commit to it, and then give it a try. It just may become one of the most successful things you do in your management career.

22 comments
miyer1960
miyer1960

Hello: Thank you for sharing this excellent thought process and pledge with the rest of us. A group of us -- living across continents but working together -- created an organization where we enjoyed a similar environment for almost a dozen years. I can confidently say that this philosophy has stuck. If you have not already done so, I urge you to visit www.arbinger.com and read a couple of books that are published by the institute ("Leadership and Self-Deception" and "The Anatomy of Peace"). I believe you will find the books very interesting and powerful.

reidb
reidb

If you don?t like people, don?t get into management. It?s obvious that Ramon is a ?people person?, and it shows in his philosophy. Without one mention of a specific technology he has spoken to all IT managers.

emwiss
emwiss

In the spirit of Jim Collins, in "Good to Great", you definitely sound like a Level 5 manager! If not already great, you certainly can be! Best of luck going forward...

celtic0123
celtic0123

Last manager I had believed in dominating the employees. Insulting, and degrading them with other employees ,who believed ass kissing was an art. I have had wonderful managers that fit your "Push-Me-Pull-You" thought process. Makes for a productive work environment. Can I work for you?

Ramon Padilla Jr.
Ramon Padilla Jr.

Feel free to use it and it is your choice as to whether you acknowledge where you got it from (unless of course you are trying to sell it :-) ) My purpose in these blogs are to give you ideas, suggestions and tools that may make your work easier or stimulate you to a new level of management. As I said in the blog though, you can't be half hearted about this - your employees will see through you in a heartbeat. In fact, most will doubt your sincerity until you start proving to them that you are serious. How? By setting the goals, providing the resources and then holding them (and you) accountable. In regards to whether forwarding to your manager is a good or bad idea, a note saying something like "I came across this on TechRepublic and found it interesting and wanted to share it with you" shouldn't get you into hot water. As to how to create an enjoyable work environment, I think I have blogged on this topic before - but in short - Allow levity - if work is like a tomb, it will feel like one. Encourage flexibility, think out of the box, reward enthusiasm with enthusiasm, do a lot of managment by walking around, accept criticism well, be a leader, let your staff know you are giving your all for them, remember that "life happens" and be as family friendly as possible, and listen. That will get you a good start :-)

Jim Lit
Jim Lit

If I forward this to my manager, or his, do you think they may get the wrong idea? It truly is a great ideal to strive for though. Hopefully you have the people around you that make this work well for you.

keji
keji

I think it's a wonderful approach to management. I reckon it gives the whole team (including manager) a chance to work and grow. But apart the challenges you present on the job, how else do you create an enjoyable environment?

steven.auerbach
steven.auerbach

Immediate disclosure - I work for Ramon. He came to an established IT organization as the first outside director since the founding of the group 27 years ago. While there has been gradual replacement of staff over time, the culture and style were in place. The shortest term staff member had 3 years tenure already. Sea change! Nothing less describes our world now. Every principle expressed plays out in our world every day. Life is not easy or comfortable here, but it is exciting for the first time in years. There is no 'ready-shoot-aim' going on here. We are targeting learning and professional development first. We have major projects awaiting on the near horizon, and a challlenge to become qualified to participate in them. I have seen a blossoming in self-confidence and accomplishment in the most quiet and meek among our staff as individuals rise and make their marks. We have all had to move out from behind the old sacred pillars and into the real contest. I am stunned to see the playing field leveled for all of us on the staff. We are learning the skills of the game in order to play. We are just about to enter a phase of developing new team strategies for interplay. For the first time in a long time there is real exhilaration in coming to work.

mklinz01
mklinz01

This has been my philosophy over the years, however I have never been able to verbalize it as well. If Ramon doesn't mind I'm going to use this with the people for whom I am responsible, obviously with credit to the author. Thank you.

kovachevg
kovachevg

Thanks for the pledge, Mr. Blatt. I'd love to see your ideas in practice. I believe this falls into the "push-me" category :). Sincerely, George Kovachev IT Manager European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium

lkeppel
lkeppel

Great post. Now, how do I get a seriously insecure manager with sociopathic control issues to take this philosophy to heart...?

mauricio.beltran.c
mauricio.beltran.c

If you do not mind I would like to quote that pledge in the near future. I must say that you have fully gotten the grasp of "what really being a boss is".

jim.hartzel
jim.hartzel

This is just the type of commitment I've been looking for to give to my guys. I plan on talking to them this week about this and plan on signing this commitment. Fantastic!!

a.kruijf
a.kruijf

When can I start working for you?

Bork Blatt
Bork Blatt

This is the kind of thinking that is missing in management. It is rooted in an "abundance" mentality, which says there is plenty for everyone. The typical style is rooted in a "survival of the fittest" mentality, with some of the following consequences: - I refuse to train my employees, because making them more qualified means they can find better jobs, and will leave the company. (Actually, it will probably make them more likely to stay and give you more value, although there are some sponge-like beings who will take advantage). - What we know works, so why spend money to learn something new? (While new technologies are flooding the market, and many have questionable value, a few are tremendous and will pay for themselves after a while) - If someone doesn't immediately conform to the way we do things, out they go. (This is very expensive in terms of money and morale, creates a "cover your own butt at all costs" mentality in employees. - We reward success and punish any failures. (Instead of encouraging the right type of failure - when an employee sincely tries to improve business with a new idea, which fails.) Sounds like your department would be a pleasure to work in. I wish we could infect more managers with this type of thinking.

Wing6
Wing6

Your pledge is excellent. Thanks for sharing this. It goes to say that if you are passionate about lifting the morale of the team and improving your people leadership skills, this could be the first step. Live it and breath it. I will share this with my peers and team members.

keji
keji

Thanks a lot for the tip on creating an enjoyable work environment.

keji
keji

Thanks a lot for the tip on creating an enjoyable work environment.

TheTinker
TheTinker

I get accused of overstepping my position, or even worse, disloyalty if I fulfill the push portion of this pledge. I just want the IT department do be better. If my manager would see this and work with me instead of stomping on me we could foster a really proactive team. My ideas may not always work or be the best, but it beats standing around in a stagnant pool of yesteryear. He hoards information to the point of refusing to have staff meetings even though some of the staff are housed in other facilities, then slams them come review time for not knowing what is going on outside of their primary responsibilities.

maxwell edison
maxwell edison

You mentioned people who, [i]"...refuse to train employees, because making them more qualified means they can find better jobs, and will leave the company."[/i] Nope, not me. I not only train people to become more qualified, but I help them grow and excel. In many cases, people I've hired and trained have been promoted out of my department into positions that I'm actually accountable to. Your description does not fit me or my company. You said, [i]"What we know works, so why spend money to learn something new?"[/i] Again, that's not me or my company. We want to empower people, and we realize that people are our greatest resource. People I hire and train, and are the ones who initially "ask questions", often go on to become people who eventually answer questions. I often turn my training sessions over to people who were once the trainees, but have become the trainers. You said, [i]"What we know works, so why spend money to learn something new?"[/i] We're always open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. Change is inevitable, and we accommodate it. You said, [i]"If someone doesn't immediately conform to the way we do things, out they go."[/i] This is a harder one to get a grasp of what you mean. I've seen new hires, for example, who are stuck in their old way of doing things, unwilling to be open to change or a different way. I hate it when a new person continually harps on "the way we always did it was....", and then refuses to adopt to our established norm. It's not possible to suggest a new way for the better, for example, without having a good grasp of the status quo. Being open to change is, after all, a two-way street. You said, [i]"We reward success and punish any failures."[/i] Of course we do. What's the alternative? Reward failure and punish success? The problem here is that people often have different definitions of "success". Success is not a bad thing, but a good thing. Success is the steady progression towards the fulfillment of a worthy goal. If a person stumbles along the way, that's okay as long as one learns from a failure and applies the lesson learned towards the fulfillment of the stated goal. Failure, in this case, is actually an educational investment not to be discarded. However, if a person continually "fails" to make progress towards the goal, there's a problem that will probably result in parting of the ways. If the stated goals and desires of an individual and the company are different, why prolong a situation that's not good for either party? Just like the best companies realize that employees must "win", the best employees also realize the company must also "win". A "win-win" scenario is better than any "win-lose" or "lose-win" -- in which case, it usually ends up being a "lose-lose" all the way around. As a side-note, I'm amazed at how many people complain about "management" and such. In most cases, those people have no grasp of the concept of a win-win. I like the initial article, by the way. It sounds like the ?Push-Me-Pull-You? management pledge is right-on.

Bork Blatt
Bork Blatt

Hi Maxwell. I'm glad you don't subscribe to the "Manage by Fear and Change Nothing" philosophy of management. But perhaps you misunderstood my points on failure and conformance. Yes, success should be rewarded, unless the way the success was achieved is *not* good for the company. For example - Salesperson A achieved the highest total sales in their department, but it emerges they used underhanded techniques, mislead the customers as to the product's abilities etc. Do you reward this kind of success? I would hope not. If you just grab one metric and reward by it, people will do everything to push up that metric. What about a good failure: An employee approaches you with a revolutionary idea (not a gung-ho sink the whole company if it misfires idea, but a risky one). You give them the go-ahead and all doesn't go according to plan, despite the best efforts of all involved. Do you punish the employee for contributing a new idea? If you do, you will squash new ideas, and your company will eventually be entrenched in it's "successful" rut. There is a similar philosophy behind my thinking of immediate conformance. Obviously you don't want a rebel, or an absolutely inflexible employee, but chances are, when they're new they are most willing to give new ideas and are most enthused about contributing to the new environment. If all they hear is "we don't do it like that here, stick to the rules", they will become just another cog in the machine, instead of a driver. An outside eye is the most objective eye, so you should make use of the new hire's outsider perspective while it is fresh. Just my 2 cents' worth.

JamesRL
JamesRL

You mentioned people who, "...refuse to train employees, because making them more qualified means they can find better jobs, and will leave the company." Not here. We pay for courses and tuition for people to grow out of their jobs. And if someone has a target of getting a better job in another department, we can help get them there. But even if all they want to do is to improve their knowledge, you support them - thats one way to retain them. You said, "What we know works, so why spend money to learn something new?" I hope thats how the competition manages. We always look for ways to do things better, and sometimes that means spending a little to save a lot. We can't just throw money at problems, but we can make intelligent considered investments. "If someone doesn't immediately conform to the way we do things, out they go." There is strength in diversity, when it is positively harnassed. I take Max's point, I've been the one saying - well at X we always did it this way. There are ways of promoting change and improvement without framing it in the "my old place was better" light. There are some days when some of my non-conformists drive me crazy. And others when I am glad they are around to strength the group. "We reward success and punish any failures." As Max suggested we must reward success. Punishing failures is a blanket statement. You can't reward failures, but punishment isn't necessarily the right thing either, depending on the situation (you should punish malfeasance). Every failure I've seen has a learning, and punishment gets in the way of learning the lessons. The whole organization should have the opprotunity to learn from our mistakes. Thats how we avoid them the next time. One thing I would mention about Push me - pull you. Many employees are great at complaining but not so great at taking charge of their own career and asking their management for help. Management can't drive a career path for employees at the top level of their job - they have to take the initiative and set some goals. Once the employee sets a goal, the management can do what they can to help the employee get their - coaching training etc. James

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