Ep 115: Leadership Sandtraps #1 – TIMWATDIZZCRY
Starting off a series on Leadership Sandtraps, Adam Quiney talks about the sand trap that is TIMWATDIZZCRY that stands for Tell Me What to Do so I Can Resist/Resent You For It. Someone operating in this sandtrap tends to be incredibly reliable in finding out and/or looking for what needs to be done and do it. Consequently, they tend to suffer from a chronic lack of having their own needs met. Tune in to this episode to learn if you have the tendency to create this sand trap.
Listen to the Episode Here:
Leadership Sandtraps #1 – TIMWATDIZZCRY
This episode starts the kickoff for our series on Leadership Sandtraps. This is Leadership Sandtrap Number one. We’re going to talk about the sandtrap that is TIMWATDIZZCRY that stands for Tell Me What to Do so I Can Resist/Resent You For It. The previous episode was quite a long one. This may be a little shorter. We’ll see how it goes. I’m playing this out as we go. We’ll see how much detail we get into. Let’s start with a summary of the sandtrap. Someone operating in this TIMWATDIZZCRY sandtrap will tend to be incredibly reliable to find out and/or look for what needs to be done and do it. They’re reliable to determine what is required of me, what needs to happen, and then to do it. They’ll probably do it incredibly efficiently. Simultaneously, they will struggle a great deal to identify what they want to do or what to do in the face of not having any direction. Consequently, they’ll tend to suffer from a chronic lack of having their own needs met. We’ll come into why that is the case later on.
The crux of it is people that are in that space where if there’s direction, if you tell them what there is to do, they’re reliable to do it, which is a little bit like an exceptional follower. These are the things to do, you give them some direction. Once they’re presented with something that’s in the unknown, “We need to create the profits doubling.” “Do you have thoughts on how to do that?” “I want you to take a look into that.” Now they’re in that. You can see already leadership, at times, when it’s forging into the unknown, is going to clash greatly with TIMWATDIZZCRY as a leadership sandtrap. In the unknown, there isn’t a precedent, there isn’t a thing to do. Instead, there’s forging forward into the unknown and trying things and seeing what happens.
First, let’s look at how this gets created. How does this get put together? This tends to arise as a result of someone being told frequently growing up about what they should do and having imposed upon them a strong commitment toward doing the “right thing,” whatever right happens to be. If we pause here for a moment and you think about right and wrong, you can see that these are made-up concepts. There’s no right and wrong in nature. Nature does what it does. Some wasps lay their eggs inside the body of another creature and that creature is then eaten alive as the baby matures. It’s horrible. To our human sensibilities, that strike us as grotesque, horrible, wrong, painful, awful, and cruel. In truth, this isn’t wrong. It’s the way nature works. We’ll vilify that wasp, “What a jerk. You jerk species of wasp.” That’s life, making do as life does.
This isn’t to suggest we should then throw away morality or anything like that. The point is simply that TIMWATDIZZCRY as a sandtrap gets created when people are raised with right and wrong as the main filter for how they view the world. They start to create categories of what is right. What is the right thing to do? What is the wrong thing to do? The right thing to do tends to be what needs to be done. As these people are encouraged over and over to put their attention on what needs to be done, it means that their desires, especially those that fall outside of what is deemed the right thing to do in any given moment, gets subsumed for what is deemed right and what needs to be done as opposed to what you want to do. As these people who are raised this way move through their life, they get better and better at identifying what needs to be done, subsuming their desires to accomplish that, and then after that, the same point needs to be done next.
Growing up, there was what I wanted to do and then there was what I needed to do first. I wanted to eat ice cream but I needed to eat the vegetables first. I wanted to play video games but I needed to clear the table and wash the dishes first. I wanted to go out and play with my friends but I needed to do my homework first. Since that was a strong filter in the way I was raised, I got good at identifying what I needed to do. The game became before you can have what you want, you have to do what you need to do.
Over time, if you keep doing this, you’ll discover that there are always more things you need to do, especially as you become an adult. As a kid, there’s 1 or 2. As you get older and older, there’s an infinite number of things that “need to be done.” Instead of, before I can have what I want, I have to do what I need to do, it becomes, I have to do what I need to do. People get better and better at identifying what needs to be done and they become more and more distanced from what they want from their direction, their ability to choose, absent some external factor telling them what they should or shouldn’t or need to do.
Two Ends Of The Spectrum
Let’s look at the two ends of the spectrum for this sandtrap. I’ll introduce this concept here and I’ll probably do this each time. Every sandtrap has two ends along a spectrum. You can think of it a little as you being on the giving end of the sandtrap and at the other end is you being on the receiving end of the sandtrap. For example, if you have this story that causes you to disrespect people with less money than you, you’re naturally going to hold yourself above those that earn less than you. If you had some resistance to that, try it on. Sit with it for a while. I’m not saying that’s true. Imagine that was the case. The people that earn less money than you are worthy of less respect from you for whatever reason. We don’t care. It doesn’t matter.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, you’re going to be on the receiving end of this. You’re going to bring great deference and reduce your sense of worth in the face of those that earn more than you. It’s never one way. You’ll hear this when people say, “I never do this. I don’t feel a sense of worth with these people, but I would never disrespect those other people over there.” You’re wrong. The truth is, we both give. We play this sandtrap out as both the giver and the receiver. You might not be able to see it. It might be below your level of consciousness, but you can best use these sandtraps for yourself by coming to an acceptance of this idea that whatever you’re playing one way, you’re also playing the other way.
Part of what is worth noticing at this point is that if you have people you notice exercising one into the sandtrap, it’s quite likely you will be acting out the other end of the spectrum with them. With TIMWATDIZZCRY, at the one end, these people tend to be reliable to seek out answers and determine what they should be focusing on. If you’re leading them, you’ll notice that they’re great at checking in with you, “Here’s what I’ve got going on.” They’re going to be on a constant check for feedback. They’re going to want to find the answers from you, “Tell me what I should do.” They may even be exquisite at anticipating what you need to have done and then doing it. These are the people that have truly mastered the sandtrap. They’re attuned to what needs to be done based on what you, the leader, want to have happened. They can preemptively anticipate it. They’re playing this game at a level. That’s them on one end of the spectrum.
On the other end of the spectrum, these people are going to be incredibly reliable to provide answers and help other people do what needs to be done. When these people are asked by someone, “What should I do here?” There’s almost an undeniable lure for them to answer to provide guidance. These are people that will look above for the answer and seek it. That’s the receiving end. On the giving end, they’re going to be giving a lot of answers. They’re going to be giving a lot of guidance, giving a lot of direction.
If someone’s exercising one of the spectrums, they’re going to end up in a leadership conversation with someone trying to pull them into the other side of it. What I mean by that is if you have someone come to you who is answer-seeking, rolling this sandtrap, like, “I need answers. Adam, tell me what to do.” You’re going to feel a strong pull to give them those answers. The universe tends to bring us people that are like us. Their need for an answer will fit with your need to give them an answer because you’re operating from the same sandtrap. Even if you don’t have this, they’re subconsciously, almost magnetically going to be trying to pull you into this dynamic with them.
I’ll give you another brief example. We all are unwilling to do certain things. Some people, historically, what would have happened is their parents would yell at them, smack them, or do whatever, and then they do the thing they’re unwilling to do. It’s like, “If I waste enough time and dick around, eventually, someone’s going to yell at me and that will spur me to action because I don’t want to keep getting yelled at.” They simultaneously will do the thing they don’t want to do and will resent the person that yelled at them, “That person is rude.” They’re not going to be able to see that they’re creating that. They’re also going to seek out the people that play out the other end of the spectrum that yell at them. They’re going to seek out the yellers and the yellers are going to seek these people out because they form a perfect circle. They play this out with each other. If you are leading someone like that, the sandtrap would be that they’re going to actively be trying to pull you into kicking them and you’re going to feel a desire to kick them because it’s annoying. Our job as leaders is to rise above this.
Bring us back to TIMWATDIZZCRY. On the one end, we’ve got people reliable to seek out answers. This is when they’re in the receiving mode, seek out answers, ask for what they need to do, get direction, and anticipate direction, and carry it out probably better than anyone else can. On the giving end, they’re going to be super reliable and highly responsive to people asking for help. People who seem like they need guidance are going to be reliable to lecture, to tell them what to do, rather than to stand for their leadership. That’s the two ends of the spectrum. What is it about this tendency that makes it sandtrap-y? What is it about this that has you caught? There are a couple of ways this works. First, being asked what we should do, which is effectively being asked for advice, is incredibly seductive and alluring. You felt this. You and I can share at this moment knowing we love to give advice, it feels good as a human, so much so that we tend to give advice regardless of whether it was asked.
There are a few reasons for that and they’re understandable. Providing advice and, even better, being asked for it gives us the opportunity to be an expert. It gives us the opportunity to be someone in demand and to be valued. It means that we get to have an impact. People often get drawn into teaching, not necessarily teaching children but teaching whatever they are for this seductive nature. It’s not to say that teaching is bad. I’m more intending to point to how alluring the sandtrap is. As a leader, you’re going to be drawn to supporting people this way because it’s going to inevitably stroke your ego. Your ego has a desire to be valuable. It has a desire for you to be impactful. It has a desire for you to be in demand and an expert. That is social standing. Part of the ego’s job is to have you raise your social standing. When people come to you for this, this opportunity is undeniably alluring. The ego is not even bad. We want to be conscious of that. That’s the first thing that makes us sandtrap-y. You’re going to get drawn into this.
Second, as the student, as the person seeking the answers, this becomes a real sandtrap when what is called for is something where we do not already have an existing answer for how to proceed. When we’re working on something new or trying to create a result for which the ways we’ve done things in the past simply will not work, seeking out expertise becomes a hindrance. Members of your team with this tendency will get stuck, unwilling, or even unable to take the next step into the unknown. Instead, they’ll wait for someone to tell them what to do or go around in circles trying to figure out what they should do. They’ll do research. They can end up spinning their wheels madly caught in analysis paralysis looking for the right answer until someone comes along and tells them to move on and start doing something. You can find these people when they’re caught in this doing a lot of make-work, doing a lot of stuff but not moving forward because that saves them from the risk of moving forward and doing the wrong thing, which is part of what the sandtrap is designed to avoid.
It’s sticky for you as a leader trying to work with someone with this because you’re going to be drawn into it with them. You’re going to want to lecture, give them advice, especially if this is also your sandtrap. That’s the giving end of it. It’s sticky on the receiving end because rather than forge forward and be willing to create breakdowns and make mistakes, you’re looking for the pattern, the thing to do the precedent that will have you like, “I can do it. I’m doing the thing that needs to be done.”
How To Work Out This Sandtrap
How do you work with this sandtrap? As with all of these sandtraps, the first part of our work has always been able to distinguish them. Start by noticing the places where you desire to lecture, to teach, to give advice. Notice this tendency to create this with your staff. In what ways do you cause yourself to be an expert? How do you draw your staff into this? How do you have them relate to you as the expert in this? You can also notice the other end of the spectrum. Where are you seeing yourself seek out expertise? Where do you get stuck, unwilling to make a wrong decision, or seeking answers outside of yourself, whether it be books, history, other people, podcasts, etc.? Look for where you’re on the receiving end of this and where you’re on the giving end of this. Take a look and see the impact of this on your life.
Often, people that act out TIMWATDIZZCRY find themselves with an incredible scarcity of time. In part, that’s because they’ve created such an obligation upon themselves to provide answers and on their staff to seek answers from them. People with this sandtrap often find themselves caught in tons of meetings and frustrated about this fact wondering why they have to spend so much time doing this unaware that they are creating this thing. If you’re in the sandtrap and you have set yourself up so that one, your staff seeks the answers from you. Two, you provide them the answers about what needs to be done. You’ve locked yourself in there. They have to ask you for answers.
The way you move beyond this is by being willing to acknowledge, like, “I recognize I’ve been doing something. There’s a sandtrap that I’ve been operating in and I don’t think it’s serving you or me. I want to stand for your leadership. I’m going to stand for you taking more action and less consulting with me. It doesn’t mean not at all.” You can start by having people come to you all ready with an answer for how to proceed. There’s going to be a point where you got to move on. Part of the hard part of leadership is a willingness for us to remove ourselves entirely from the picture. Many leaders struggle with that because we’re like, “I’m not being impactful.” You are. Your impact has become energetic more than something directly transmitted.
Another part of the impact of this particular sandtrap can be that leaders create a need for their presence as a leader. What they’re doing here is rather than being a leader of leaders, by which I mean rather than creating their team as a bunch of leaders, they tend to create them as magnificent followers who then create the people below them as magnificent followers. You end up with a hierarchy of leaders of followers rather than people creating true leadership, leaders of leaders. Take a look and see, like, “How am I inspiring people to follow me rather than to step into their leadership?”
That’s all that we’ve got for this first leadership sandtrap, TIMWATDIZZCRY. See if you can catch that and notice both ends of it, both the giving and the receiving. It’s worth mentioning that these are not things we used to do and never do anymore. That’s not how our ego works. It tends to be more that we overcome a particular automatic tendency in one area of our life or in the game of our life that we’re currently playing. As soon as we step into the next strata, you can think of it like concentric circles. As soon as you step into the next bigger game, all of your former childhood fears are going to be right back. If it’s a fear of you looking stupid, you’re going to overcome it in whatever area of your life you’re currently playing in. You step to the next level and you’re like, “I’m terrified that these people are going to think I’m stupid.” You’re going to see those same patterns try to reassert themselves.
This is why it’s worth being a little skeptical when people tell you, “I used to do this but I never do it anymore.” They’re touting that as though they’ve created some breakthrough. At least for me, what that tells me is that they’re a little shallow in their work. They haven’t got the depth of awareness into how they work and into being truly vulnerable with themselves and learning to love this part of themselves so that it can exist and be chosen as opposed to, like, “I overcame this part of myself that was crappy. Now it’s never there. That sucks.” You learn to hate yourself better than ever before.
Next episode we’ll be talking about the leadership sandtrap, I call it generosity in spades. In the following episode, we’ll be talking about seeking safety and those will be good sandtraps. If you have a particular way of someone showing up that you find stymied by, there’s a particular leadership sandtrap you think you’ve recognized in the wild or don’t have distinguished but you’re like, “People do this, Adam.” Let us know. Send us an email at PR@AdamQuiney.com. I would love to hear from you and to include that in one of our episodes.
If you are still interested in taking this conversation deeper, if you’d like to learn more about not just these concepts but have them ingrained in the marrow of your bones such that you’re able to exercise them and work with them free of having to think about it like driving a car, you don’t have to think about that so much, that’s what The Forge is for. Nine months of transformational work. It’s going to be a blast. It includes a retreat somewhere gorgeous. We’ll figure out how that’s going to work with COVID but it’s going to happen. If that’s something that sounds interesting to you, go check out our website at EverGrowthCoaching.com/The-Forge.