As athletes know, the right amount of stress or tension must be present for optimal performance. In the moment between the words “runners take your mark” and the starter’s gun, a sprinter must be appropriately focused and ready. Too much and they’ll jump the gun – a false start. Not enough and they’ll lose precious seconds getting off the blocks.
This tension doesn’t just happen. All kinds of methods are used to generate it – think music (“We will, We will…”), team huddles, fight songs, pep rallies, and cheers (“We are…)! We rely on those around us to help create the right energy, atmosphere, emotion and attitude.
Dr. Henry Cloud talks about “the right kind of push” in his book, The Power of the Other. “Leaders must inject just the right amount of tension into the system to motivate their people, but not so much that their people shut down. Stretch them and they’ll move toward the goal. Stretch them too much, and like rubber bands, they’ll snap.” As leaders, we have the responsibility of finding the balance between encouragement and high expectations, between achieving goals and allowing freedom to try new things, between creating stretch targets and not overwhelming our team members.
As we work to provide “the right kind of push” for our team, Dr. Cloud encourages us to self-reflect and ask ourselves:
- Am I being appropriately pushed to be better, to be more?
- What specifically am I being challenged to do better? What specifically am I being challenged to do that is more than I am doing now?
- Am I being pushed past my comfort zone?
- When I resist or struggle, how are those feelings addressed? Do others remain firm in my need to grow?
Are you pushing your team members appropriately? Who is pushing you?