“Pushy” isn’t an adjective we normally embrace. Pushy people are to be avoided, not cultivated.
But there’s a scenario where “pushy” works to the advantage of both the pusher and the pushee (yes, you can get pushy with a pushee).
Chip and Dan Heath talk about the positive side of pushy in their book The Power of Moments (seriously, why are we still talking about this? Go buy your copy right now). They say:
Mentors push, mentees stretch. If you mentor someone – a student, an employee, a relative – you might wonder about the best way to give them a productive push. A good starting place is a two-part formula cited in a paper by the psychologist David Scott Yeager and eight colleagues: high standards + assurance.
Yeager described a study in a suburban junior high school in which 44 seventh-grade students were assigned to write an essay about a personal hero. Their teachers then marked up the essays, providing written feedback.
At that point, the researchers collected the papers from the teachers and split the essays randomly into two piles. They appended a generic note, in the teacher’s handwriting, to each essay in the first pile. It said, “I’m giving you these comments so that you’ll have feedback on your paper.” The essays in the second pile got a note reflecting what the researchers call “wise criticism.” It said, “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know you can reach them.” (High standards + assurance.)
After the papers were returned, the students had the option to revise and resubmit their paper in the hopes of earning a better grade. About 40% of the students who got the generic note chose to revise their papers. But almost 80% of the wise criticism students revised their papers, and in editing their papers, they made more than twice as many corrections as the other students.
How about it, leader? Do you push those that you’re mentoring? Do you nudge your followers in a positive direction? Do you combine your high expectations with the assurance you know they can do the job?
Mentors push. Mentees stretch. Get a little pushy today.