When a Nudge is Better than a Shove

Forcing People to Do Things Often Backfires

Working with people who are very involved with their family members in the management and/or ownership of a business brings with it a lot of variety, as you might suspect.

However, there are many things that repeat from one family to another with great regularity.

One of those “regular” occurrences is family members reacting negatively when they feel like they’re being “pushed” to do things that they’d rather not do.


You’re Not the Boss of Me

When the relationships in a family business involve members of different generations, it’s common for the elder family members to be the “bosses” of those who are part of the rising generation.

In such instances, “telling” your direct reports what they should be doing is usually acceptable, but even then, a more subtle approach would often get better buy-in and results.

But when family members are siblings or cousins, i.e. members of the same generation, the “you’re not the boss of me” attitude is quite prevalent, even in cases where there exists an org chart somewhere that actually denotes that you ARE, in fact, the boss of me.

And that brings us to the idea that a nudge, or actually a series of nudges, is typically more effective than a shove.

The Matriarch Who Felt Shoved Out

I was recently talking to my coach about a client who recently resurfaced in my life after a chance encounter.

I shared with Melissa that “Nancy” wanted to work with me again and I mentioned that I’d see what I could accomplish with her, by nudging her to take a fresh perspective on her situation, now that she’s no longer involved in the business she once led.

My coach suggested that for this client, perhaps a shove would be more effective, and that got me thinking about this a bit more.

My “go to” move is nudging, and that can work well a lot of the time – until it doesn’t.

Newton’s Third Law All Over Again?

Maybe a nudge, and then another nudge, and another, is the way to go, as long as that works, but then sometimes you need to switch it up and try a shove.

In Nancy’s case, since she felt like she was shoved out of the business, only a shove will work to dislodge her from where she is now.

This is making me think of Newton’s third law of physics, and the “Equal and Opposite” reaction.

I guess we’ll see how it plays out in this case, but I think I’m likely to remain a “nudge first” kind of coach.

Too Many “Yes Men”

In Revealing a Family System to Itself a couple of weeks back, I finished the piece talking about how it’s easier for someone from outside the family to reveal things to family leaders, and here we are again.

People in top positions in a business, family or not, are often surrounded by folks who tell them what they want to hear, because of the self-preservation instinct.

Could it be that sometimes family members gently nudge and go no further, and then it becomes even more important for an outside coach to do the shoving?

Maybe that’s just part of the courage such outsiders need to have to earn the money that we charge.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

The nudge or shove discussion is reminding me of a great book I read a few years back, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, by Gary Vaynerchuk.

It’s about using social media for business development, and if I recall correctly, what “Gary Vee” was trying to get across was the importance of “giving” in small steps, repeatedly, before “asking”, which was the right hook.

My analogy here is that it makes sense to nudge, nudge, nudge, first, and then, if and when it’s necessary, you can always resort to a shove.

Before you earn the right to shove someone, you need to build up their trust in you first, and the best way to do that is with nudges.

Connection Is the Key

When you become a resource for people as they work to improve their lives, their businesses, and their families, it really helps when you first take the time to make a deep personal connection with them.

The expression “they don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” is valid in most cases.

That’s true if you’re nudging, and especially if you plan on shoving.