Ep 106: Sharing Authentically vs. Sharing Responsibly
There are conversations that cause leadership and transformation. As leader, we hope that through these conversations we are sharing authentically and responsibly. However, there are stark differences between these two. In this episode, Adam Quiney discusses sharing authentically versus responsibly. He also talks about the three stages of speaking as a leader. As a leader, you develop leadership through your conversation and through your speaking. If your speaking is not clear, there’s not much that you can convey. Tune in to this episode and find out if you’re speaking creates your desired results and generates leadership from your audience.
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Sharing Authentically Vs. Sharing Responsibly
These are conversations that cause leadership and transformation. At least, that’s our hope. We’re going to talk about the distinction of sharing authentically versus sharing responsibly. We’ll be talking about the difference between those two and we’ll be talking about the three stages of speaking as a leader. The crux of this is that what you see when people step has the first stage of speaking as a leader into the second stage of leadership and how they tend to get stuck there and never progress to the third.
This is a loose take or an adaption or using David Deida’s notion of the three stages of masculine and feminine practice or embodiment or moments or whatever, and then applying it to leadership. Specifically in this case, to our speaking as a leader, which is important. The three stages of speaking as a leader, first tend to be a form of censoring ourselves. There are two forms and we’ll cover both of those. The second stage tends to be blurting, and then the third stage tends to be responsibility.
We’ve got censoring, blurting, and responsibility. People get stuck here because the third stage often occurs like a return to the first stage when we’re first being supported and invited to step into it. Let’s talk about the first stage first. This is where most people begin. Most of the world is in this stage. Most people do not have much practice in sharing authentically. We learn early on in our lives to button up or if we’re not buttoning up, we share with so much noise that there’s a little signal of authenticity that can get through and be heard.
In the one case, you’re like, “I’m not going to share how I feel about this.” “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say something at all.” “But I’m hurting. I’ll shut myself up.” We clam ourselves down. The other side is where people, on the surface, might seem quite distinct from one another. You’re like, “That person is not saying anything and that person won’t shut up.” There are different manifestations of the same first stage of your speaking as a leader.
They’re both forms of avoiding sharing what is most authentic to us in such a way that people can hear it and then respond to it. It’s the response we’re afraid of. We avoid that response either by clamming up entirely or by sharing with such volume quickly that before people can even provide feedback, we’ve moved on. You’ve been around people like this, where they share way too much information with you like classic TMI moments, but then they keep talking and more and more.
You’re like, “I was going to address that thing you said and it almost seemed vulnerable, but now we’re talking about your dog’s ears, and now we’re talking about nudity. Now we’re back over here.” There’s hiding in plain sightedness to this version of the first stage. What’s important is that they’re both first stage forms of speaking as a leader. Not wrong, but first stage. When you’re training someone speaking here, one of the things that we do when we work with leaders is we train their speaking.
As a leader, you develop leadership through your conversation and through your speaking. Absent in speaking, there’s not much that people can work with. That’s the whole notion of a conversation that causes leadership. If your speaking is not clear, there’s not much that you can convey. When we’re training someone speaking at the first stage, what we want to do is support them in speaking with some clarity.
What are you feeling? What is it you need me to know about what you’re telling me? Will you slow down and will you let that thing you shared just sit in the space for a while? What do you need to say? What does your body want you to say? If they’re clammed up, what’s the noise that would be made by how you’re currently feeling? These are questions that start to have people get from the first stage into that second stage.
As we’re developing someone and they’re speaking as a leader to that of the second stage of leadership, the focus is on authenticity. What is there for you to share? What we’re working to do here is to have someone put their truth in the moment into the space. At this stage, we’re less concerned with the content of that truth because the transition from 1st to 2nd stage is about getting the valve open and having something communicated.
We’re calibrating the bandwidth of the communication either by trying to open it or by trying to narrow it, so it’s a little more focused so that something is being communicated. Often, my people got busy brains like I do. We’ll get on the conversation on the phone and sometimes, it can be quite funny. I’ll say, “How’s it going?” They’ll speak for fifteen minutes and I won’t say a word, and then I’ll ask them, “What was the most important thing that you shared with me in all of that?”
That’s not a question designed to make them wrong for what they’re doing. It’s a question that brings them back to getting clear for themselves, “What is that?” They’ll usually speak for another ten minutes, and then I’ll ask that question again and they’ll speak for five. Ultimately, what we’re trying to do when the throughput is too large and too much has been shared is have them start to think about their speaking rather than just having it be a big stream that flows out.
We can ask questions like that. All we’re trying to do is get someone to put their truth into the space in such a way that then the next person or the next thing can happen. The whole first stage is designed to stop whatever the next thing is from happening. It’s designed to protect us from having the next thing happen because we’re afraid of it. “They might judge me. They might think I suck. They might not like what I said. They might say I’m wrong for it. They might tell me I have to stop. I don’t want any of that. I’ll just climb up or I’ll just keep going and get this all out.”
The transition from the 2nd to the 3rd stage is where things start to get tricky. Up to this point, we’ve been supporting someone to share authentically to put something into the space or to get clear on what there is to put into the space. Now hopefully, they’re doing good. They’re speaking their truth and we’re clear on what they’re sharing. At this point, you start to notice that these people you’ve been working with are interrupting meetings to let you know that they think your idea is dumb or they don’t feel the colleague you put in charge should have that role.
Never mind the fact that that colleague is sitting right beside this now outspoken person on your team. This is where a lot of leaders shove the person back down into the first stage. “Can you not do that? Can you stop? That’s wrong. That doesn’t work here.” That’s a lack of leadership on the part of the leader and a lack of ability to move beyond the second stage speaking to third. This is the point where you’re now going to be inviting your team members to curtail their speaking.
It’s not true that you’re going to be inviting them to curtail flatly or just say less, but it’s less about curtailing and more about having them become more discerning in what, how, when, and why they’re sharing. However, to them, having done all of this work to stop putting so much into the thing to be heard, it can often occur like we’re asking them to go back to leadership. The focus at this transition point from 2nd to 3rd is about whether or not what is being shared moves the group toward the collective goal that has been agreed upon.
Sharing about Roger getting a promotion when he’s a bonehead. Is that kind of sharing going to move things forward or is it going to slow them down? Is it creating consternation and frustration on your teams or creating discord? Is your share supporting that person that is leading this meeting or is it giving them another thing they have to deal with and causing problems in the group and making the meeting slow down?
There’s also a conversation about timing. Is this the time to share that? As we move into the second stage of speaking from the first, it’s almost like our whole focus is just on like, “I’m feeling a thing, blah.” This is what’s there in the moment. As we go from the 2nd to the 3rd, we start to become more responsible from the place of our timing. We ask ourselves in this transition, “Is this thing going to move stuff forward? Does this need to be said? I don’t like the sound of Roger’s voice. Does that need to be said? It does. Is now the time to say it?”
We start to become more masterful and more responsible. We start to become able. We hone this ability to feel into the moment and see what’s going to move the moment forward. Sometimes if it needs to be said, maybe the time to say it is to your boss after the fact. “Roger is not the one for this. I’m not sure what to do with that.” This is at this stage where things like telling jokes, interrupting to share status updates, or provide offers are, while those are well-meaning, start to get pointed out and you get invited to look at what had you share that and whether or not it had the impact you intended. We’re putting at this stage a lot more intention on the impact of your speaking so you can be responsible for it. It’s common here for team members who are having their speaking developed to say, “This is nonsense. You told me you wanted me to be more authentic. You trained me in this. Now you’re asking me to shut it down. I don’t get it. This makes no sense. You’re contradicting yourself. I feel like I’m being gaslit.”
All common experiences for people to have as they create the next level of breakthrough. That’s what makes the transition from 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 3rd so challenging. People mistake responsibility for censorship. They haven’t yet created the breakthrough and being able to speak and be responsible for their speaking and their impact. What they do is they hang on for dear life at that second stage. They are unwilling to return to those dark old days when nothing they said was getting heard.
Now it feels so good to be heard and now they’re going to set aside being heard a little bit so they can create something deeper at the moment with the collective. Why does this matter as a leader? Let’s talk about the personal front first, you as a leader. The leader that is unable to be responsible for their speaking is unable to be responsible for their impact in the world. We convey our leadership through a language.
You could even make the argument that that language is all there is, especially if you think of your actions like speaking louder than your words, then your actions are just another form of language. Language being however we communicate. Without the ability to be responsible for your speaking in this manner, you will forever be a victim to that, which is being communicated to the impact you’re having and blaming others for it.
It’s another place that people get stuck in the second stage. They’ll say things like, “I just say the truth. It’s none of my business what you think of that.” As a leader, it is your business to have your truth being spoken in the moment lens with other people. As a human, if your commitment is just to say your truth and not worry about any of what the world says, that’s fine. That is your prerogative, but a leader doesn’t get that luxury. A leader gives that luxury over in service of a deeper commitment.
That commitment being, “I am committed to creating something. In order to do so, I’m going to need to impact certain people a certain way. In order to do that, I’m going to need to get responsible for my impact.” When you’re unable or unwilling to be responsible for your speaking, you create a clearing for the same to happen on your teams. You end up with a whole bunch of “truth-tellers,” people that say the truth and it’s not their business how you feel them and it ends up being a bunch of people shouting loudly.
As people notice that you are speaking to them, they either have to just take what you get or not listen to you. Those are the only real options because you’re unwilling to receive feedback about your impact, they’ll stop listening to you. That tends to be what happens with people that are “truth-tellers.” They start to get tuned out by the world because the world’s not interested in someone that’s unimpactible. Your teams will end up being frustrating and distracting.
You’ll run meetings for people who either stay quiet or overshare or interrupt and cause distractions. You can get over this by bulldozing them, of course, which is where most leaders attempt to resolve this from, but no breakthroughs will happen from that place. You’ll control the speaking of your team rather than supporting them to be a leader about their speaking. The team member ultimately learns a new form of censorship that is specific to when you are in the room.
They’ll speak even more loudly, more obnoxiously, or whatever to make up for the lack of expression they experience around you. That creates the leader where as long as they’re in the room, things go a certain way, but as soon as they leave, their teams are ever more chaotic. They maintain a balance in an interesting way, but not the one that you want as a leader. It’s ultimately a zero-sum game. What do you do about this? You can start by distinguishing where you are at in your own speaking and identifying where your direct reports are.
It’s important to avoid the conversation that goes like this. “Am I a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd stage speaker? I wonder. I’ll probably say second because I’m not yet at third because that would mean I’m already there, but I’m definitely not first.” The truth is you’re always moving in and out of these. The more you deepen yourself as a leader, the more you’ll tend to come from the third stage of speaking, but you’re always going to be moving in and out.
There’s always going to be moments when you’re censoring yourself. I still catch myself making jokes on calls. I’m like, “That was the second stage. That didn’t move us forward. That didn’t need to be said. That reduced some of the power at the moment. It was true for me. The joke was funny and it was there for me to say but I’m going to step back from that.” Start getting curious about the stage you’re at and noticing and which level of training is important for that.
Also, look for your direct reports. Which stage are they in and where do they need to be nurtured? What’s the transition that we’re working on? You want to make sure that the coach you work with is supporting you by training you’re speaking from time to time. This can be as simple as asking questions that we mentioned at the top. What do you need me to know about what you’re sharing? What is the most important thing about what you’re sharing? What is the key issue here in a single sentence?
One question I like is when I ask people a question and they give me a long rambling answer, as just to check in and say, “Do you remember the question you’re answering?” Most of the time, they’ve forgotten, which is great because it brings them all the way back and it helps them start to see it. If you can do this without any judgment, just love this person. They’re learning. They’re in the process of learning. If you can love them, then they can trust you to help them. That’s a beautiful thing.
Stand for the clarity of those that you lead and stand for them speaking their truth if the transition is from 1st to 2nd and/or saying what they need to say concisely so that people can get it. Be careful both for yourself and other people about trying to transition people directly into the third stage while they’re still in the first stage. If you haven’t got a clean established second stage of speaking, trying to get people to be responsible for their speaking will simply push them back down into the first stage of censorship.
You can’t skip these. If you’re like, “Why can’t they just be responsible already? It’s so annoying.” The answer is because that’s not how it works. You have to move to the second stage before you can get to the third. There’s no step skipping here. Remember that you have to walk through these stages sequentially. You cannot skip the steps. This is true everywhere in life. One of the things I see so often is people are life hacking and what they’re doing is delaying walking through the steps that are there for them to walk through. That might be a topic for another day.
For now, that’s all that we’ve got in this episode. I hope you enjoyed this conversation. If you’ve got feedback or there are any situations you’d love to hear more about. If you’ve got questions, places, scenarios, and situations around leadership that you’d love to have brought forward and run through on this show, send an email to PR@AdamQuiney.com. We’d love to hear from you. Next episode, what we have coming up is transparent leadership. How do you lead transparently? What does that look like? How do we partner transparently? What are we up against when we’re doing that? That would be a good conversation.
As you know, I am going to tell you about something awesome. I am once again going to talk about The Forge. I cannot share how great this is. The thing that I’m excited about is the fact that we have former graduates that have gone through this program and now we’ve opened up a graduate track. The first level is getting these distinctions and having them worked with the second level of The Forge, the graduate track is for people that want to have their leadership honed at the moment.
You’re going to see them leading and getting feedback on their leadership as it’s happening. That is an incredibly potent thing. We don’t get to see that ever. What happens is that leadership, most of the time is modeled or addressed, if it’s addressed at all, behind closed doors in the safety of a 360 review debrief. There’s nothing there. We don’t get to see our leaders’ humanity. We don’t get to see them doing their work. We have no idea what feedback they got and we have no idea if they’re taking it on.
All of that is transparent here. It’s not done through 360 reviews. It’s done at the moment. “Roger, I noticed you’re speaking quietly and you seem to be trying to make people like you. Can you have another go with this?” “Jennifer, I noticed that who you’re being in this moment is telling a lot of jokes but not getting to the point. Can you take another swing and bring this to these people?” “John, do you notice that you lost the people? How do you feel about the energy in this room right now?” “It’s slow and dull, but we’re getting there.” “It feels boring over here.” “Does it feel boring to you?” “Yes. Kind of.” “Great. What do you think you need to do to shift the energy so you can enroll these people back in what you’re providing them?”
All of that conversation happens in real-time and we break down what’s going on. The beautiful thing is that everyone generates leadership from getting to witness that. It’s a beautiful, crucible, and powerful container. Please go and check it out if any of that sounds exciting or even interesting to you, EvergrowthCoaching.com/the-forge. Thanks again for reading and we’ll see you next episode.