Ep 119: Leadership Sandtraps #5 – Oh Yeah, I’m Actually Doing That
How people react to feedback is a huge factor in determining how much growth they’ll have both as professionals and individuals. Feedbacks are usually directed by the leadership to point out how you’re doing this and that while having improvement in mind. In this episode, Adam Quiney tackles receiving and reacting to feedback as a sandtrap in leadership. He discusses the different methods you can utilize to identify if this is something that’s happening to you or to the people you work with. He also gives some tips on how to confront such behavior in order to get your message across without any altercations. Learn the positive impacts of reacting to feedback with an open mind as opposed to being on the defensive.
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Leadership Sandtraps #5 – Oh Yeah, I’m Actually Doing That
One of the things we love about living in Victoria up here in the north is that the summer nights get long. You’ve got daylight, or at least dusk, until about 10:00 PM at the height of summer. There’s always a bit of a sad feeling as the long, fun days of summer start to wind down and we start to move into maybe a little bit more of a contemplative season. For me, fall is a season of change and transition. It’s also the season that I get excited about the opportunity to dress in layers. Fall and spring are the best seasons for fashion because you get to wear layers and have different stuff showing. I don’t know if this is necessarily a conversation that I’m in that’s causing leadership, but that’s what’s going on for us.
How It Gets Created
We’re going to be talking about our Leadership Sandtraps #5. This is Oh Yeah, I’m Actually Doing That. That’s the name of it. This sandtrap is most apparent. It will show itself most when you’re providing someone with reflection or feedback for what there is to take on. You’ll provide that feedback and the response you’ll typically get is, “Oh, yeah. It feels good because I’m doing that yesterday with this manager,” and then sometimes, a story about what happened yesterday with this manager. How does this get put together? What is the cause or the creation of this? This sandtrap tends to get created when people have grown up with a history of being corrected and made to feel foolish, stupid, or lacking.
There are a lot of similarities between this particular way of showing up and the way we were looking at last week. The, “I’ve got the solution,” kind of way. This is a response to receiving feedback. The way of receiving the feedback, the reflexive response is a need to prove to themselves and others that they aren’t doing so bad. If you imagine, feedback typically was equated with like, “Here’s how you’re falling short,” then this is the corresponding response, “Here’s how I’m not falling short.” It’s like, “If the feedback you’re giving me is something I’m already doing, then great. I’m not such a bad person. I’m not so far behind. I don’t have to be with the feeling that having an edge and space for me to grow into provides.” That’s the place where this becomes a sandtrap.
We’ll talk a little bit more about that, but that’s how this gets put together. I want to explain why why doesn’t matter and why is it that how this came into being doesn’t matter. The belief is like, “If I understand how this got put together, maybe I could tackle that in some way.” “If I understood the thought pattern that created this, then I could attack that thought pattern, and then I wouldn’t be afraid any longer to show up differently.” That makes sense in a way. The faulty thinking in that is that the way that the mental model for how that would look is there is this stressor or this event or this series of events that happened in the distant past. All of this stuff got put together in a chunk like, “Step one, think. Step two, reaction. Step three, now you’ve aged and you’re at this point in your life.”
If only you could go back and fix step 1, then step 2 and step 3 would fall into place. You’d start acting differently, and then the way life currently occurs would be different. That’s not how these patterns, sandtraps or otherwise, get built. The way they get built is we start with a little bit of a stressor, the stimulus that leads ultimately to the sandtrap. Your uncle looks at you funny when you do something and that, you make mean, “I’m dumb for having done that.” We get a little bit of the stimulus and we do when we’re young, a small version of the sandtrap you’re now in. “That creates a response, and then what that creates then impacts the world around me.”
“My uncle looked at me funny. Instead, I’ll tell a joke. He laughed and now, I feel good. What’s going to happen is next time, I’m going to be like, ‘Here’s a similar situation. I’m going to tell a joke and everyone laughs and it’s all good.’ It’s more of a cycle because everyone laughing then feeds into proving to me that when I get that response or that stimulus, the correct response is this, and then the way the world should arrange itself is to laugh. Not necessarily to take me too seriously. Maybe to move past is what I’m trying to do but at least I’m not stupid.” This gets spun up. You could imagine a spiral that keeps increasing outwards. From this humble, inauspicious beginning, we end up with this big pattern that’s playing out.
It’s not just the thinking any longer that’s causing this. It’s that thinking affects your actions, which affects your environment, which reinforces your thinking. You might have friends with this or you might have fallen into this yourself or you might have tried to work with a coach that wasn’t particularly sophisticated and found yourself disillusioned. A lot of attention goes into, “If I can just change my thinking.” That alone is never sufficient. It’s not what this is about, but like, “Who do I need to be now?” No amount of change in your thinking will shift that that’s going to be a bit scary in the face of a world around you that was created from that original patterning.
The Receiving And Giving End
That’s why we don’t put too much emphasis here on the why. We’re more interested in noticing the thing as it’s happening, sitting in that thing, and then choosing something different because that’s what creates a shift. Let’s get back to this, “I totally was doing that. What is it? I’m actually doing that.” Let’s look at the two ends of this. On the receiving side, people operating in this sandtrap occur like they are open to feedback while actually being unable to receive it. Think about that. What’s happening is you’re giving them feedback that is like, “Here’s what there is for you to practice next.” How they receive that is, “I’m already doing that.” Ultimately, because having an edge pointed out to them is interpreted as a place where they’re failing or not enough, all feedback would open away to some new possibility for them.
It gets put inside the framework of, “How do I not suck?” From that lens, the conversation stops being, “Here’s a new place for me to grow into.” It becomes, “How am I already doing this?” Any new space opened up immediately gets filled in because the vacuum created, so to speak, between where they are currently and what’s possible for them next gets equated to, “Here’s how you’re not doing well.” They then have to fill it in. The way they fill that in is to find evidence that, “I’m already doing this.” If they’re finding evidence that they’re already doing it, then it’s going to take away their ability to practice. Instead of looking for, “Where and how am I not doing this?” They look to, “Where and how am I already doing that?”
As you provide feedback with these kinds of people, you’re going to have them go out and practice. They’ll come back and they’ll give you a bunch of stuff, but they’re going to give you the places where they were already doing this. “There’s nothing new there.” On the giving side, people operating from this sandtrap will relate to providing feedback as pointing out your flaws and where you’re not showing up because that’s how they relate to receiving it. This tends to lead to 1 of 2 things. First, feedback can be provided in a wishy-washy, vague kind of way, with a lot of apologetics and avoidance, or a lot of prefacing. Rather than just give you the thing, they build it up or they provide a lot of explanation or qualifying around it.
What that does is it leads the person to feel like, “Here comes the gut punch.” That experience where someone’s giving you a lot of qualifiers, you’re like, “What the heck. This is crazy. If this person just wanted to ask me out for a milkshake, they wouldn’t do this. Why is this thing so significant?” It creates the significance that they’re afraid of. The second thing that happens or the alternative is when an opportunity to provide feedback shows up, the leader giving the feedback tends not to see these things as opportunities for new growth. Rather, relate them as a place where you’re not showing up or you should already know better.
I’ll lay that out a little bit. On the receiving side, when you’re the one receiving feedback through the sandtrap, as soon as you get, “Here’s the place where you might look next.” It’s like, “Where and how am I already doing this?” The reciprocal of that, when you’re the one giving feedback, you tend to not relate to that like, “They’re doing great. Here’s an opportunity for their growth.” You tend to relate to it the same way you relate to when you’re receiving, “Here’s where they’re not showing up. Come on.” That makes it hard for people to get your feedback. How does this sandtrap grab people? We’re going to start with a giving side of this. This is someone providing feedback and this is how they’re relating to it.
From the giving end, we end up giving ineffective feedback or feedback that leaves people feeling made wrong in some way. When people feel wrong on the receiving end of feedback, they tend to try to avoid it or to resist it. Where that leaves us is that people are unable or unwilling to lean into their edge because they’re like, “That means I’m wrong. How do I prove that I’m not wrong?” Your way of giving feedback will naturally create a clearing for people to show up inside of this. What that looks like is the receiving end of this feedback. Further, if you’re safeguarding against occurring or showing up or being wrong for something, that’s going to make it hard to lean into your edge because leaning into your edge is inevitably going to result in you making mistakes and not doing things perfectly.
If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be your edge. It would be what you’re already reliable to do. Consequently, leaders on the providing side of this sandtrap end up creating the exact same thing they’re doing themselves, whether or not people deflect or avoid feedback. Leaning into their edge the same way means that it’s largely irrelevant. Instead, what you get a lot of is these frustrating conversations where you’re thinking like you’re providing feedback to someone and they seem responsive, and then nothing changes. It makes it a good call for us now to look at how this plays out and how this is the center on the receiving end. This is a little trickier. The person that is on the receiving end of your feedback is going to take everything you provide, but then put it into the context of, “How am I already doing this? How do I already know this? How is this like what I already know and do?”
From this lens, feedback can never truly be received. The protection from looking stupid or foolish or bad or whatever it is gets in the way. Instead, the operative conversation becomes, “How does this not showcase my lack?” What makes this such sandtrap is that people operating from this place will occur as open to feedback and eager to receive it. They’ll even ask for it as this is deemed an important part of them moving forward, which they want to do given that part of their concern is not showing up, adding up, and being enough. However, because all of the feedback they’re going to get is going to get put through this lens and never makes it in and never makes a difference.
Working With This Sand Trap
What you’re left with is this illusion of someone that occurs receptive to feedback while not ever letting it have the impact it could. I’ve talked in the past about people being closed under the guise of open and this is a flavor of that. It’s alluring to the leader because they’re like, “At least this person on my team takes the feedback,” but they don’t let it in and never have the impact it could be having. As long as we’re looking to contort feedback into a reflection of what we already know or already are doing, we’re never going to gain access to something truly new. How do you work with this sandtrap? As always, most important is our ability to distinguish it in ourselves. How do you relate to feedback? You can take some time to sit with these questions. Ask yourself.
You can write, “Giving feedback is,” and then write whatever words come to mind. “Receiving feedback means.” “People that need feedback are.” What are the qualifiers? If you can start to get clear on the meaning you’ve assigned to feedback, you can start to catch this as it’s showing up. Your answers to these questions will start to shine a bit of light on how you relate to feedback and how you relate to feedback as all of what is showing up. You can also notice your team members that seem to always have a deflection for your feedback or look for people where every time you provide someone something, they’ve got an example of how they’re already doing that.
When you catch that, you can ask them, “Can I share something I notice?” You then point to this tendency. If they’re always doing what you’re suggesting, then, “Why are you having this conversation?” Sometimes, the most powerful thing to do is simply invite them to consider that they aren’t doing what they’re saying they’re doing. That might sound like, “I notice every time I provide you something, you have an explanation for where and how or why where you’re already doing it. It’s possible I’m not providing you anything ever that’s new. Although that’s not how it occurs. Rather than explain how you’re already doing this, I’m going to invite you to consider that you’re not. Whatever you’re pointing to is not what I’m putting in front of you.”
They might want to then respond and your job in those situations will be like, “Could you consider that? Just sit with that, that I put in there. What if that thing that I want to point to is me already doing this is not what I was pointing to? That can be what is required.” Finally, you can invite them to notice that pointing to how you’re already doing this or where you’re taking this on is often a deflection, a way of making them feel better about something. From there, you can get curious like, “Is there anything you need at this moment that might directly address whatever is showing up for you?” Rather than indirectly getting that need met by explaining how you’re already doing this. Often, this is a need to be recognized for the work you’re already doing. Sometimes, this is from a paucity of acknowledgment on your part as a leader.
Maybe they’re left feeling like, “Adam is always pointing out what I’m doing and what there’s next, but I wish he’d see some of the work I am doing.” For you, as a leader, be willing to acknowledge people for the work they are doing, and then invite them to let go of the need to already be doing whatever’s next. First and foremost, be willing to be generous in your acknowledgment. If you do that and you can practice this, you’re going to start to address that unmet need that lies beneath this pattern and that will start to break the thing up. That’s all that we’ve got for you in this episode.
If you haven’t already, I would love it if you would share this show as a whole with someone that you think would enjoy the conversation. I would love it if you would go and write a review for us on iTunes or even give us a rating. You can do that right from the app. I don’t think you have to do much. It means so much and it helps it get into more people’s hands. I always am truly grateful when people express love that way. Next episode, we’re going to be talking about Leadership Sandtraps #6 and that is Oh Wooooooooow, What A Breakthrough. That’s the sandtrap. I’ve finished and launched a new course. This course is called the Client Creation Course because I seem to suck at coming up with names.
The name is not what’s important about it. What’s important about it is that it provides an opportunity to learn for anyone in a service-based business how to sell not as a strategy or a thing you have to do, but how to enroll people in what you offer as a natural, organic expression of simply creating relationships with people. The way most people get to is they get this strategy, and then from a resigned place, they find a way to empower it. What that looks like is, “I hate this. How can I find out how to hate it last? There we go. This is the best of the worst. This is as good as it’s going to get.”
What I’m intending to show, teach, and provide the transformation necessary to allow in this course is that selling becomes something as innate as connecting with people, as effortless, and as joyful. If that sounds like something that you’re interested in, send me a message. You can reach out to me at Adam@AdamQuiney.com. It’s a low-cost course. It’s $1,000. It runs for ten weeks. Bye for now, and we’ll see you next episode.
About Adam Quiney
I’m an obsessive perfectionist, high-performer, former lawyer, and now an Executive Mentor. I know what it’s like to succeed easily and quickly. To blindly put my happiness in the hands of achievement.
All the success, money and possessions in the world couldn’t cure my boredom. Couldn’t produce a loving, intimate relationship with my wife…and definitely couldn’t fulfill me.