A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you

A Little Bit of Pushing Is Good

I gave a presentation yesterday on employee engagement.  In my spiel, I talk a little about what the data says, a little about how a company can go about defining the ambiguous term, and a lot about what supervisors can do to help get more of the elusive “engagement” from their employees.


I typically have the participants discuss my “suggestions” among themselves.  I ask them to start the discussion by answering the following question:

“Of the activities or strategies I just suggested, which one most resonates with you?”


Once the talking starts, I spy.  I listen for their stories, I listen for their reasoning, I listen for what motivates them, etc.  This is the way I get to know them and it helps me adapt the rest of my presentation to better align with them.  This is also the way I build my story bank for future presentations and, as luck would have it, today’s post.


This particular group of professionals were not supervisors and instead, were identified by their employer as the “emerging leaders.”  That being said, I asked them to discuss which of my suggested strategies would make the biggest difference in their own work.


The majority of folks keyed in on “pushing” employees outside of their comfort zone.  This strategy is self explanatory…I suggest that supervisors could better engage their team by encouraging them to do something new, something scary, something different.  I challenge them to find that “sweet spot” where a bit of risk and even fear can turn into motivation, dedication and excitement at work.


While spying, these are the things I overheard:

push me

  • “I’ve gotten lazy…this is partially my fault and partially my supervisor’s fault. Looking back, he should have slapped me upside the head and made me do that part of the work.”
  • “I don’t know if I can step out of my role…I wasn’t taught how to do that particular job. No one else steps out of their role so I don’t think it’s allowed.”
  • “I can’t remember the last time I was told I did something wrong, although I know I have made mistakes because I have found them later.  I think she (supervisor) is just too nice to say anything.”
  • “I’d love to learn how to do that but my supervisor told me to “just do your job.”
  • “I don’t like messing up so I don’t do extra stuff unless I have to.”
  • “The last time I did something outside of my job, my teammate threw a fit.  He claimed I was stepping on his toes.”
  • “Five months ago, I told him (supervisor) I could handle more work and would like to learn more.  I don’t think he knows what to do with me because every time I remind him, he just tells me I’m doing fine. I don’t even know what that means anymore.”


If you are a supervisor, what would you think if these were your employees?  
Would you be willing to take accountability for the role you played in these feelings?


When was the last time you sat down with an employee, identified where his/her comfort zone was and chose one or two things he/she could do to step out of that bubble?


pushingIf you have an employee who has become complacent, have you called him/her on it?


Do you forgive staff when they make mistakes or when they try something new and it flops?


When was the last time you encouraged staff to look and learn outside of their own roles?


Have you recently encouraged your employees to share their work, to share ownership of both success and failure?


Are you consistently providing constructive feedback to your employees, regardless of how difficult it may be for you to say it, or for them to hear it?


I believe these types of things help employees find their sweet spot.
Trust me, a little bit of pushing is good!



ChangeComfort ZoneEmployee EngagementEmployee RelationsEncouragementEngagementForgivenessHuman ResourcesLeadershipPerformance ManagementRetentionSatisfactionSHRMSkill DevelopmentValueWorkforce Satisfaction

Heather Kinzie • July 26, 2013

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