Ep 113: Standing in Possibility
The ability of a leader to stand in the place of possibility is one of the determining factors in their team succeeding at creating breakthroughs and generating the impossible. But what does standing in possibility mean? On today’s podcast, Adam Quiney sheds light on this subject and shows us why it matters and how it works. He also shares why when the leader loses sight and the ability to stand their possibility, everything falls apart.
Listen to the Episode Here:
Standing In Possibility
These are conversations that cause leadership and transformation, or so we hope. Maybe they’re doing nothing while it’s possible to, but that’s the commitment. We can’t guarantee results, but I can guarantee the being of commitment over here and continually checking to see, “How am I doing along the path towards that commitment?” What we’re talking about is standing in possibility. This is going to get confusing because we could say on the heels of the last episode, standing in impossibility.
What are we talking about? We’re talking about the fact that the ability of a leader to stand in the place of possibility is one of the determining factors and their team succeeding at creating breakthroughs and generating the impossible. When I say generating the impossible, I mean that which is outside of what is predictable. That which is outside of what you can currently conceive of achieving. Everything you can currently conceive of achieving is usually inside the realm of what is predictable for you.
Impossible is everything that currently exists outside of the realm of what you and your team already know how to achieve. Either with your existing knowledge and skills or the knowledge and skills you know you don’t yet have, but could work to learn. Remember from the last episode, it’s everything you know or know to do and everything you don’t know or don’t know to do. This is different from that third domain. It’s different from the knowledge and skills that exist outside of the realm of you and your team’s current frame of reference and worldview.
Let’s use a simple example to start us off. Imagine a CEO, a leader, and correspondingly a team, even their organization that operates with the belief that it’s rude to approach and talk to strangers about sales. In fact, it’s unacceptable to do so. Before you’ve had, count them five conversations, so you must have five conversations with someone before you can sell to them. You can ridicule this example. You can say that’s silly.
That’s so true because they can go out there and find information and knowledge and whatever and be proven otherwise. While you might think this is a silly example, you yourself hold certain values and beliefs that make similar things impossible to you and they’re every bit as silly. It’s just that you simply cannot see them and in fact, have created an entire world leveraged on top of those beliefs. That’s counter to this example where we’ve made it express and explicit, and it’s easier for you to knockdown.
I heard this as I was listening to Robin DiAngelo and Resmaa Menakem on a podcast called On Being with Krista Tippett. If you don’t follow On Being, it’s a fantastic podcast. Great interviews with great people. They were talking in the context of racism, white fragility, and what white people can do. In this conversation, people get into like, “I’m not a racist,” like it’s a binary I am or I’m not thing. Robin was saying, “It’s so easy to see the places where we’re going against the current. It’s so easy to see the places where we’re not racist or to see the places where we’re not X, Y, or Z, but it’s so hard and almost impossible to see the places where we’re moving with the current.”
It’s tough. That’s the nature of this stuff. That applies in a broad cultural context around a cultural framework like racism, but it also applies in the individual context and team-based. If we have this CEO, this leader, and then corresponding with their team that operates under this belief is going to make some things possible and some things impossible. Remember, how the leader be is how the team bes, and then correspondingly, the organization.
What’s possible for this team leader, CEO, etc., is to put extra effort into the amount of conversations they’re already having in order to have them faster. Let’s say they’re currently bringing in 1,000 sales every month, and they want to double that. They’re going to be like, “In order to do that, maybe what we have to do is hire more people so we can have those five conversations faster,” or they could learn how to have five conversations back to back.
They could have five conversations without any breaks, five hours solid. I’ll have the conversation with you and I say, “That was a great conversation,” and then I hang up the phone and I call you right back, “Let’s have another conversation.” “We could hire more people to trade off so we can fit the conversations and faster or stagger them or avoid burnout or whatever.” Notice that all of these solutions operate on top of that underlying belief.
They’re all dictated by what is already possible inside of what they already know and they already know they don’t know. A result that is not possible that is in fact impossible inside the script’s worldview and frame of reference or better put, their context is a result that would be consistent with selling a product after a single conversation. The best result they can come up with is that which would maximize their ability to have five conversations.
Anything other than that is outside of what they know and don’t know. What they know they don’t know. It’s in the realm of impossibility. There is simply no room for a result like this inside the existing beliefs that this group holds. That’s your primer on a possibility. When I talk about standing in possibility, that means that the leader of this group is standing inside the possibility. That even though it couldn’t be achieved based on this five conversation model and on what they currently know to do and currently know they don’t yet know to do but could figure out.
Even though this result is impossible based on those things, the leader is still standing for it like it’s a possibility. It’s still standing in the fact, idea, and notion, “I believe we can achieve this. I have no idea how to yet. Everything I can look at least at this moment, says that’s impossible and yet, I believe that there might be something or there’s some possibilities, some way we can get there that we simply aren’t even yet aware of.”
Standing In Possibility
That’s what standing in possibility means. When we talk about standing in possibility, it’s the leader’s ability to one-stand for the possibility of that result, even though it’s outside of what is currently possible, given the current way things go. It’s also their ability to stay standing in there, work themselves out when they get knocked down or thrown off, and get themselves back to that being a possibility. Why does this matter? How does this work?
With your teams, as soon as the leader loses sight and the ability to stand their possibility, everything falls apart because your teams, everyone below you is generated and caused by you as a leader. Once the leader stops seeing that this is possible, gets discouraged, and tries a few things that haven’t worked, it’s human to be like, “I’m standing for results outside of what’s predictable for us and what we already know how to do. We’ve tried a few things and it doesn’t seem to be working. It’s hard for me to keep the doors open for this. Frankly, we’ve tried a couple of times. It’s time to throw in the wrench.”
What do you throw in? Throw in your hat? Whatever you throw in, that means you’re given up. Throw in the cards, muck your cards, or whatever it is. It’s the point that we get to as leaders. We are like, “I can’t keep standing for this.” As soon as we can stand the possibility of creating something outside of what is already known, the team will quickly fall to pieces and follow suit. Have you ever worked for a leader that wanted you to achieve something, but didn’t feel like they believed it was possible?
A simple example of this is a little distorted, but it serves to tell the point. When you’re working on a project and the leader is clearly disempowered around it, maybe the company has been bought out by another company. They’ve then tasked that leader with doing something that probably won’t come to fruition and probably won’t be done before the changeover. There probably isn’t going to be that much accountability, so the leaders effectively have given up.
How do you imagine the team feels in these situations? How motivated are you to keep pushing outside and keep pushing against the belief that there’s something available beyond everything we can already see and conceive of seeing? That’s tough. In truth, the exact same things happen with coaches. Coaches specifically aren’t able to hold a possibility for their clients. If a client tells their coach, “I want to walk on the moon in a week’s time and I have no experience as an astronaut,” the coach is either able to see how that could be possible for that person or they’re going to end up getting in the client’s way.
That’s a wacky example I’ve given you. In that situation though, that coach is probably innately going to be dissuading their client, inviting them to consider something else, trying to give them advice, and saying, “What if this doesn’t work?” As opposed to supporting them and standing for them to create that possibility. As both coaches and leaders, even though we can’t see how, we have to be able to see that this person on some level, some way that we may not yet be able to see could achieve this.
I can tell you that even though I have no idea how to get there, I could stand the possibility of me hang gliding by myself tomorrow evening. It would require something tremendous from me. It would require a breakthrough, which I’m not interested in creating, but I can tell you I can stand in that possibility. Part of what happens here is we often get caught on the how rather than the what. The what is like, “This is the result.”
Getting Clear On The What
When we are casting our line into the ocean of possibility, we’re playing the game purely of like, “What is it we’re committed to achieving regardless of how and often, in the face of how because we don’t know how?” What my wife says is when we put how before what, meaning, when you put how are we going to get there before you declare the result you want, which is like, “What do I currently know how to do in order to achieve a result? Great. That’s the result I’m going to aim for.”
You put how before what. You turn what into but, so the thing you’re going for becomes riddled with your doubts. You’re here, but why not? On a personal level, you can’t create what you can’t hold as possible. Most people get stuck on the how, and then they stop ever getting to the what. It’s like if you want to take a trip somewhere you’ve never been before, but because you don’t know how to get there, you never get clear on where exactly you want to go.
You never get clear on the what, so you get perpetually stuck on the how. You’re like, “I would love to go on a trip, but what do I currently have? I have a car that’s broken and I can walk.” From that set of circumstances, you ask yourself, “What can I do base on what I currently could see how? I could walk probably eight hours, and then this coach is challenging me to think big, so I could walk sixteen hours.” Already, you have limited the scope of what you can aim for because you were looking inside of what you already know.
The place that we look for the how almost always begins inside those first two domains. Here’s a simple example of how this might play out in someone’s life. One of the things I often see in the lawyers in my practice is a tension between having a life outside of the work that they want and having the money and repute that they want. Life outside of work, that life part of the work-life balance, and then money and repute. They end up trying to balance this equation.
If they want more hours away from work at home, then they inevitably will include a calculation that reduces the amount of money they earn. If they want to make more money and more repute, then they’re like, “That means that I’m not going to be able to spend as much time at home with my wife.” There’s an absolute truth to this calculation. If I ask them what they want, their thought out answer is going to be within the confines of balancing this equation.
There’s a complete lack of possibility and therefore, a lack of ability to ask for or even want something like earning $200,000 a year and working twenty hours a week. That’s impossible, so they can’t even ask for it. They look to the confines of the current worldview, and then figure out what’s the best result I can go for here? This is an example of the cost of being unable to stand in possibility. We can’t aim and we can’t declare a result we would like outside of what we can already see.
Instead, we will be able to create at best either a rearrangement of what is allowed by the existing context or we incrementally improve, but no breakthrough results and no massive exponential 10X kind of thing. What do you do about this? The most important thing is to be able to recognize when you have fallen out of possibility yourself. How do you feel about the current project you’re working on? Have you had any setbacks lately? Any breakdowns? Have you been avoiding breakdowns?
In the face of any of these, are you still present to the possibility of creating something outside of what is currently predictable and known for you? It doesn’t mean, do you still know exactly how to get there? It means, are you still present that it’s even possible for you? Have you fallen out of that? Even just starting to be able to recognize when, “I’m saying the words, but I’m relating to this like it’s not going to happen. It’s not even possible.”
As soon as we relate to something as not even possible, we can be as committed as we want, but it’s like a death march. We trudge towards that because we’re not going to quit whatever the story is, but we don’t generate the result. All of that action is for not, and for yourself, you can practice noticing how this shows up in your life by asking what you want your life to look like. If you could wave a magic wand and design it any way you wanted, what would be different? What would you have that you don’t currently have? What would be gone that is currently there?
Once you’ve done that, go back and look at what you wrote in the first practice. “What could I have if I could have it anywhere I wanted? Ideally, how would it look?” Go back and look at the answers you’ve done. Get a nice list there. “These are all the things I want,” and then go back and take a look. Can you see concessions you’ve already made? Where have you already made concessions about what you want? Where have you conceded to work 60 hours a week that would be amazing, instead of the 30 that you’d like? Whatever it is.
Ask yourself, what do these reveal about the things I always find in opposition to my life? What do these reveal about the hidden truths that keep me from declaring a result inside that infinite realm of what is currently impossible inside my worldview? The hard part about all of this is that to create breakthroughs, we start by standing for a result that’s outside of what we can currently see how to create. That’s scary for people because we’re like, “It’s scary because you’re going to have to confront the comfort of your existing worldview.”
Put better, because comfort suggests it’s nice, “You’re going to have to confront the familiarity and safety of that familiarity of your current worldview.” A lot of people are like, “My comfort zone is discomfort.” You’re familiar with being uncomfortable. That’s its own familiarity. That’s everything that we’ve got for you this episode. We’re going to talk about putting the reins back in your hand and having the client or leader or team generating as opposed to the person leading them or the coach on the next episode.
That’s a cool conversation because it’s a place a lot of coaches and leaders falter. If you find that you never seem to have enough time and you’re like, “I don’t have any time,” then this might be part of what you’re up against. If you have not already got into a conversation with us and you’re tired of me talking about The Forge, but like that I keep talking about it and are thinking, “Maybe someday, sometime,” now’s the time. Reach out and don’t keep delaying. Let’s get into a conversation about it.
It’s our nine-month transformational program for coaches and leaders. You will absolutely shift the way you show up in the world. From that deep internal way of expressing yourself as something truer and closer to who you are innately, everything else shifts. That’s the beauty of transformational work. The surface doesn’t change, but what’s going on underneath does and from that place, everything shifts drastically. It’s an amazing program. I hope you enjoyed this episode and we’ll see you next episode.