Ep 111: Sharing Your Humanity
Humanity is an inextricable part of your leadership. You can’t lead effectively if you have severed yourself from your own humanity. In this episode, Adam Quiney invites you to a conversation intended to make you notice where your confrontation is, see your edges, and take them on. He talks about the notion of your edges and leaning in, sharing your humanity as a leader, and embracing the parts of ourselves that are far from perfect but still very important. Join Adam in this conversation that will have you bare your humanness and lead with more kindness and humanity.
Listen to the Episode Here:
Sharing Your Humanity
These are conversations that cause leadership. Meaning, these are conversations that we hope don’t just give you more information about leadership. There’s plenty of those in the world. There’s plenty of conversations about where people did tough things and then overcame them. Now they’re all good. Now they’re all finished. It’s all fine and good and they no longer have an edge. That’s not these conversations.
These conversations are intended to invite you to notice where your confrontation is and invite you to see your edges and to take them on because we believe that is where leadership lies. We’re going to be talking about, in line with this notion of your edges and leaning in, sharing your humanity as a leader. What are we talking about even when we say our humanity? Our humanity is first I want to say, an inextricable part of our leadership.
You may have heard the saying that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. What a lot of people do with that is they try to set down their human experience and solely operate in the realm of the spiritual. This would be like when someone does something that upsets you, rising above it. When you give a gift to someone and they’re crappy about receiving your gift and you feel hurt or disappointed, telling yourself like, “I don’t need to feel hurt and disappointed,” and rising above it.
That’s what we commonly would refer to as spiritual bypassing. It’s where we’re bypassing the human experience that is inextricably entwined with our spiritual nature. Leadership is the same way. People try to bypass their humanity and be what they believe a leader beats. When I say that it’s an inextricable part of our leadership, I don’t mean that it’s the sole source or even necessarily the cause of our leadership. What I mean is we can’t hope to lead effectively if we’ve severed ourselves from our own humanity, so we’ve got to be able to be with that.
What is our humanity? Our humanity is that part of you that you probably don’t love. Our humanity is the parts of ourselves that are anything less than perfect. The parts of ourselves that run polished. The things that we do that annoy other people or that other people do that annoy us. My humanity is the part of me that when you invite me to your birthday party, makes a little white lie so that I don’t have to go because I don’t want to hurt your feelings by saying no.
My humanity is the part of me that complains about you for the next 1.5 days to my coworkers when you cut me off in traffic. My humanity is the part of me that greedily grabs the last set of mini eggs because I want them for me and because I’m tired of sharing. It’s all these little human parts of ourselves. It’s the stuff that we do. We may have a judgment about it when we do it. We may have a judgment about other people when they do it, but all of this is our humanity.
To Be Human
Our humanity is also the part of ourselves that gets embarrassed. Our humanity is the part of ourselves that makes mistakes. Our humanity is the part of ourselves that goes red-faced when we feel like we did something wrong. Our humanity is the part of ourselves that blames other people for the things that have happened, where that feels like we are blamed and gets defensive and righteous when that’s coming our way. It’s all of these things.
If you think of your idealized model of a leader, there’s often not a lot of room for their humanity. We say things like, “When they make a mistake, I’d like them to own it,” but we step over the fact that part of our humanity is hard even to see when we’ve made mistakes. It’s been ongoing for a decade since the advent of Twitter becoming quite popular, where you’ll see someone tweet something on Twitter, and then everyone piles on and criticizes them.
One of my friends was sharing, “They should admit they’re wrong and stop talking,” which I get. That’d be beautiful, but it’s so hard to see that we’re wrong in these places, even just admitting that. Even seeing that we’re wrong requires a great deal of humility. Part of our humanity is that part of ourselves that insists we’re not wrong, the devils down. All of these different parts of what it is to be a human are inextricably entwined with our leadership.
We’re going to talk about here is why do we pull away from it in the first place? What do we tend to do to compensate for these reasons? What’s the impact of doing so? Why does this matter? Of course, what can you do about it? Why is it a challenge? Why is it that we pull away from our humanity and we try to get away from it? There are a few clean and clear reasons. First, we have a fear that it will weaken us. It’ll make us look weaker as a leader.
“If I own a mistake, admit that I was angry at you, admit that I blamed you, and admit that you said something that triggered me and what I was doing was coming back at you like a bit of a child, I’m afraid that’s going to weaken who I am, my stand, and how I occur as a leader.” We also get afraid that people will use it against us. “If I admit that to you, then you’re going to use that to then make me wrong for everything subsequent from now and everything in the past.”
You’re going to be like, “I can’t trust Adam because this is just him being a child again.” We’re afraid that people will use it the same thing to make themselves right and dig their heels in further. If I need to enroll you in doing this thing, and I’m butting heads with you, and there’s a point where I have to admit, like, “I realize I’m trying to convince you,” that’s part of my humanity sharing that. I’m afraid that you might take that and be like, “Exactly. That’s why I’m not going to do it,” so you might dig in further.
Part of the reason that it’s a challenge is because we don’t want to let go of being right or put differently, we don’t want to be wrong. If we’re seeing the world through a lens of right and wrong, which many of us do, especially brilliant people, then you’re either right and if you’re not right, you’re wrong. If I’m letting go of what I’m right about, giving that up, honoring my humanity, and allowing my humanity out here like, “I’m attached to this,” I’m afraid, then I’m going to be wrong. We don’t want that.
Finally, we’re afraid of other people’s reactions to the aspect of our humanity that we share. For example, one thing over here is when I share with people, I don’t like to share with people something I’m struggling with anytime I’m struggling. The reason being is they tend to try to fix me and give me advice, which then leaves me feeling like, “I’m sharing this with you to be vulnerable and authentic. I don’t need you to fix me.”
When I’m given advice or told what to do or fixed, I’m left feeling diminished. I don’t like that and I fear getting that reaction so I tend not to share that stuff. I do a lot of work not to stop there and choose beyond that and to share, but that’s another version. That’s another example of a place where we fear the reaction we’ll get, so we withhold our humanity. We don’t share. Consequently, what do we tend to do with this?
To Be Visible
I want to acknowledge, we’re not yet even talking about leadership. We’re talking about just you as human and me as human. We as humans tend not to share our humanity. What else? What do we tend to do with this? We tend to hide it and we hide it from two different groups. The first is we hide it from other people when I am committed to convincing you that you’re wrong and at this point, there’s nothing in it other than just proving you wrong.
If you were to say, “It seems like you’re just trying to prove me wrong,” I’m going to tell you, “No. The reason I’m doing this is because I care about you.” We hide it from other people. Second, we hide it from ourselves. When our humanity is showing up, your ego’s job is to keep it invisible to you. “No, you’re not. Don’t worry. This isn’t your humanity. You are on the high road here. You’re doing the right stuff.” When we hide it from ourselves, by the way, we don’t do that consciously.
The way I’m speaking this is almost as though it’s intentional like you’re intentionally hiding it from yourself. It’s not. It’s done subconsciously below the level of your awareness. When we hide it from ourselves, we end up operating over top of it and reacting to it unwittingly. To the things that we do, when our humanity is there, that gets us into trouble as we point to what we see on the other side of the table.
Rather than own and honor what’s going on over here with me and be willing to say, “I realized I’m attached to you seeing this way rather than doing that because I’m afraid that you’ll then use it against me and dig your heels in or whatever.” Instead, I’m going to point to the other side and say, “Look how defensive you are. Look at you doing that over there.” Rather than own what’s going on over here. Finally, one of the things we love to do is we try to occur as impervious as impenetrable like, “I got this all sorted out.”
This is the perfect leader. The leader who shares vulnerably only
the stuff that they’ve already figured out. Are you familiar with this kind of leader? This is the flavor of vulnerability where it’s like, “Yesterday, things were rough, but then I did this and now it’s sorted.” You’re like, “That’s not vulnerable. That’s a story about how some other time you were vulnerable, but there’s no actual vulnerability in it right now.” That’s a big difference. That’s the imperviousness. Either we don’t share anything or we share stories to which there’s a happy ending.
They have this middle part where it’s like, “It was challenging.” Not really. What’s the impact of all of this? That’s what matters. Specifically, what’s the impact of this when a leader is doing this? Remember, to draw those breadcrumbs out, we’ve got that one, there’s a bunch of reasons why we don’t want to share humanity. Another reason I want to put in there is that we have stories that leaders are somehow meant to be perfect.
If you show up as a human and you share your humanity, other people will not trust you as a leader. That is not what a leader does. A leader does not have human qualities. A leader somehow is magically able to do everything exactly as they need to. They’re always confident and they always know what there is to do. When we don’t share our humanity, what’s the impact as a leader? The first thing is that people are left feeling gaslit.
They’re in this experience of one thing while being told to present it something different. They’re present to the fact that something’s off, but they can’t put their finger on it because you’re doing this work to hide it from them or to insist it’s not there. First of all, that’s confusing and off-putting and it makes it harder to trust someone. They’re left with this uneasy feeling of something’s not right. That’s going to slow things down.
It’s harder for somebody to come from a place of trust and say yes and lean in when they are like, “Someone feels off and no one’s talking about it.” Second, people are left with the impact of their own unwillingness to be vulnerable. All of those reasons that we talked about you being afraid to share your own humanity and any others you want to add to that list, which is not an exhaustive list, are also showing up on the other side of the table.
To Be Vulnerable
Are you afraid that you’re going to occur weak if you share your humanity with the person you’re dealing with? They’re also afraid that they’re going to appear weak in front of their leader. If you’re afraid that they’re going to use your humanity against you, they’re also afraid, “My leader is going to use this against me.” If you’re afraid that they’re going to use it to justify their position and dig their heels in further, they’re afraid that, “My leader is going to use my humanity to justify his position against me and dig his heels in further.”
You don’t want to let go of what you’re right about? They don’t either. You’re afraid of their reaction to you? They’re afraid, “My leader is going to make this meaningful or have some reaction to this.” It’s important to understand that immediately, as soon as there’s a conversation where you’re leading someone, there’s an invisible coercive nature. There’s a way that people will look, listen, and respond to you despite whatever you try to do is going to get transmitted.
No matter what you say, as soon as you are related to this leader, people are going to have a natural way of trying to show up and impress you. That’s automatic. You can’t change that. The way you’d be can start to address that, but it’s important to recognize that’s there already. All of your own fears are also going to be over there on the other side but magnified. There’s even more cause for people to withhold their humanity from the leader.
When you withhold your humanity because of all of these things, they become the clearing that you create. When you are withholding because you’re afraid of those things, all of the rest of your team withholds the same way for the same reasons. Consequently, everyone is effectively imprisoned. Nobody’s able or willing to take the courageous action that would create freedom out of the fears about the consequences of doing so.
This is the nature of a leader. How the leader is being is how the team is being. What that means is whatever your complaints about your team, trace them back to you. “My team’s being untrustworthy.” How are you being untrustworthy? How are you creating a clearing of untrustworthiness? “My team is surface and they never seem to be willing to share intimacy with each other.” Where are you withholding your intimacy? Where are you unwilling to share your deepest truth at the moment?
Where does this have an impact on teams? All of what we’ve already said. It breaks down trust because we are always aware. We can always feel it on some level, even if we can’t distinguish it. We can feel over there, “There’s something going on.” When you can’t acknowledge and own that and you can’t share your humanity, people are left untrusting. When there’s a breakdown in trust, everything slows down.
We aren’t willing to say yes and take the next action when someone tells us to, we have to check it out. We have doubts and those doubts are like little speed bumps. They catch us. If you’d like to go deeper into that concept, check out the book The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey. It’s a great book. What do you do about this? As a starter, see if you can recognize when you’re taken out, triggered, hooked, or whatever you want to call it.
Anytime “someone” gets you, so to speak, not like they get you like they understand you, but they hooked you and grabbed you, there are some great indicators for that and some diagnostics. When you start asking yourself questions like, “Am I right? Am I crazy? Is this all over there?” When you start rehearsing past or future dialogue in your head or building and planning your case against the other person involved and you start justifying in your mind why whatever you did was valid.
These are all great examples of places where you’ve gotten out. These aren’t the only ways in which you’ll start to see this tendency and your own humanity at play, but they give you some starting points. Second, practice having compassion for yourself. Seeing your resistance as it’s showing up is incredibly difficult. Most people think they’re good at catching it and almost all of them are wrong. Even those that have worked with coaches and leaders for years are still every bit as prone to having their resistance get the better of them.
In truth, the more work you do, the more sophisticated it can become, it being your fear, resistance, and ego, the more sophisticated it becomes in hiding out and nuancing itself into your blind spot. This is one of the biggest challenges. People that have got a bunch of work under their belt and have done training, etc., get cocksure. They get like, “I’ve done a bunch of work, so I know this isn’t my stuff.” You are in trouble.
The more work you do, the more you need to take on work. Do not let a wealth of experience during transformational work be an excuse to not work with your own coach and leader. It becomes ever more important, ironically, for two reasons. One is because your ego gets more sophisticated and can co-opt all your work, but also because you start to rise up and you’re owning more, so you have more that you’re responsible for. Your mistakes and your ego getting the better of you ripples out much further and to a much greater degree.
Finally, notice what you wish there was more of with each of your direct reports and those who you work with. What do you wish they would bring more of to the table? Consider that this is your clearing and your work to take on. If you want more intimacy, practice being more intimate. If you want less excuses, practice noticing your own excuses as they show up. To share your humanity with people does not require a great deal of work or energy or effort or a structured way of doing so.
It requires a willingness to step out and be committed to something beyond your fear. It requires a willingness to be transparent and a willingness to be a leader that models both leadership in partnership with their humanity, as opposed to leadership and exclusion to their humanity. If you’re willing to be committed to that, then the times when you notice, “I’m stuck. I’m caught. I’m scared. I’m angry,” or whatever, getting righteous become simple. All there is to do is to acknowledge that. “I’m getting angry here. I’m sorry. What can I do to clean up?” If you’re willing to play that way, things will change drastically.
That’s everything we’ve got for you this episode. I’m going to tell you what we’ve got coming up next episode, but first, a little plug for The Forge. We have one spot left. It’s a nine-month transformational program for coaches and leaders. People that want to move some project in their life forward and want to deepen their being and that not only want to create new results in their life, but they want to do so while creating a new experience of creating those results.
What I mean by that is that you may already know how to make $1 million or $2 million or build a new house or whatever, but you also may realize, “If I’m going to do that, I’m going to be stressed.” You’re strategizing around this like, “I need to wait until the timing works out so that I have enough energy to cope with that stress, then I can do that thing. Therefore, my goal will be in two years’ time.” This is not that. This is about, “What if you could create that result that you’re thinking about that you’re strategizing around, but by having an entirely different experience as you do so?”
That’s the underlying being base transformation that happens. In this work, you not only get to learn how to support other people to do this, but to do this yourself and to create results from a radically different place. There’s one spot left. You can go to EvergrowthCoaching.com/the-forge. As you may have noticed, we’re back with midweek coaching episodes. If you would like to be a volunteer for that, you can send an email to PR@AdamQuiney.com. We would love to hear from you. Have yourself a great week.