Ep 136: Putting The Reins Back In Your Hand
Leaders create more leaders. In this episode, Adam Quiney talks about what good coaches and good leaders are perpetually and constantly doing, putting the reins back in your hands. He dives into transformational leadership and navigating through the great unknown. Get to know the importance of having a direction and steering towards it with your own conviction and drive. Adam also shares his recent time off and the anxiety he usually faces coming back to work. Tune in and learn how you can get the reins back in your hands and achieve that real breakthrough.
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Putting the Reins Back in Your Hand
These are conversations in service of transformation and leadership. I hope you’ve had an amazing set of holidays. You’re presumably coming back from the time off, over December. I always take all of December and all of June off every year. I usually do these shows ahead of time so that doesn’t interrupt our flow because I like to provide something every week, but I take that time off. One of the things that I’ve been doing over the years is getting more and more intentional as I take the time off. When we want to create something new in our lives, often the first thing is to create the circumstance. Once we created the circumstance, we have to learn how to be in that circumstance.
What I mean by that is, once I created the circumstance, that actual time off in my business, that didn’t mean that I got the experience of feeling relaxed during that time off. Often, I was in this halfway point between like, “I can’t relax until I’ve done some work.” I can’t do any work until I’ve relaxed and I’d bounce back and forth and sit playing video games with my laptop, open at email on my lap. Frankly, it was miserable because I was neither taking time off nor working. It was actually even less relaxing than just working. A lot of people find this and I ended up choosing, “Screw up.” What’s the point of a vacation This is part of the failing of The 4-Hour Workweek. In my opinion, not so much the book itself, but the romance of that idea that you could take this mini retirement and get the idea of, “How do you got to get residual income and then I can do what I want.”
There’s some truth to that. Often what happens is they get to that point where they’re like, “I’ve done it. Now I can relax or go on my boat,” or whatever. Discover then that they’re left of, “What do I do?” That creates its own anxiety. It’s often the same feeling that people have, where they work like a dog, all their life, and then suddenly retire. They’re like, “It’s going to be so relaxing,” except it’s not because they’ve built their life around working like a dog. They’ve stripped that away from them, what they were getting from doing that is no longer there and they’re left adrift. This December off was quite relaxing for me. I was very intentional about it. Made sure not only did you take the time off, but to be intentional during my time off and what that looked like me was empowering a lot of my routines, my structure that supports me on a daily basis. Still getting up regularly, still working out, exercising, and watching what I eat and what I drink.
Usually, most mornings I would do a bit of correspondence, maybe some email, maybe I would chat with people and then the afternoons from about noon onwards, roll out to my own. I realized I could tell, I didn’t want to do any of that. I was at the point where I was like, “I don’t want to have any more routine.” I completely drop every practice and every structure give or take. Let myself asleep and do all that stuff. Come this Monday the 4th, I was back to getting up at 5:30.
We’re fully back in the structure, I’ll say Saturday and Sunday, we’re always a little stressful for me. I’ve been off for a month. I’m like, “What lies in wait, I don’t know what’s going on.” It’s the being away from something and returning that causes me anxiety once the day starts and I’m in it, I’m like, “It feels good to be in structure again.” I’m in the thing. When I’m doing public speaking events, waiting in the wings to get called out to stage is the worst moment, once I’m on stage and I’m talking great, I can do that. That’s no problem. It’s leading up to it that I hate. That was my time off. I hope yours was nourishing, relaxing, rich and all of those good things.
Let’s get to our topic at hand, which is going to be about putting the reins back in your hands. This is what good coaches and good leaders are perpetually and constantly doing with the people they’re supporting. Putting the reins back in your hands is what distinguishes someone that creates more leaders versus someone that creates followers. A lot of people that are touted or hold themselves up or believe themselves to be great leaders are good at creating powerful followers. They have people come to them for answers and requests for support. What that does is it has the people able to produce as long as the leaders there, but when the leader leaves, all those people slow down, it grinds to a halt. That’s because they haven’t been put in the reins back in the hands of those that they are leading.
What is it that we’re talking about here? When people start getting supported by a coach or a leader, one of the first things they look for is, “What do I need to do?” That’s the client or the person being led being developed. “What do I need to do, coach? What do I need to do leader?” That’s a natural question because that’s the way getting supported tends to occur for us. It’s the way it tends to work in the real world. I ask you the holder of knowledge, what I need to do. You give me the answer. That’s the way we are raise. That’s the way it is for children. For the most part is get permission, get the answer from the adult and then carry it out. This does make sense and to be fair there’s a degree of vulnerability involved in asking for an answer.
Having said that, once you have the answer, you can breathe a sigh of relief and rest easy. This is the way most consulting works. I hire you because you’re the expert. You might ask me some questions to get some context, but only as a prelude to giving me the answer. “Here’s what you need to do once we have the answers it’s all good.” This is the opposite of leadership. I suggest that there aren’t times when you might need to go and get an answer. The deeper truth here is that the leader acts before they know. A reminder here that the leadership we’re talking about is transformational leadership. This is not about how to optimize the existing process or do things you’re already doing faster. In that kind of leadership, the leader has to act before they know by definition because leadership is moving into the great unknown.
If we already knew how or what there was to do, there wasn’t much of an opportunity or a call for leadership. It’s already been done, just do it the way it was done before. It’s a requirement to an extent for the leader to forge into the unknown and thus asking for an answer, especially when it becomes a go-to becomes self-defeating. Let’s look at that why this is challenging for people to what are we up against. As a starting point, this is challenging for us because our very instinct suggests that we’ve empowered this leader or hired this coach and now they’re asking us, “What do we want to work on?” The obvious answer is, “You tell me, coach me and lead me. What should I do differently?”
This question is rooted a bit in the idea that leadership can exist simply in the moment free of any other context like I can come to you and you can bestow leadership training on me like, “You should do X or maybe try to be nicer to people.” Leadership only arises when we’re committed to making something happen. Now, to be fair, it can arise. The opportunity to step into leadership can arise for almost any result we’re trying to create. At the same time, we have to be committed to something. That’s why the leader or the coach is asking you, “What do you want to work on?” You have to set a date direction. Before we get into that, we’re going to talk about how it typically goes. The path that most people find themselves on as leaders is that initially they’re simply trying to put out fires.
That’s usually the way most leadership initially occurs. The nice thing about fires in your life is that it demands a bunch of your attention and it gives you something external that you have to address. I say external, because you haven’t created putting out the fire is a deep driving desire inside of yourself. It’s not like you’re like, “My purpose on this planet is to put out the fire at my company and their mail.” That’s not the vision that we create. That’s not your call into leadership. It’s not something you’ve declared out of nothing and chosen to make happen. Fires, metaphorically speaking tend to be more, something created out of urgency. “This thing is on fire so we must put it out. It’s obvious. Let’s do it. We got to do it, put it out.” What tends to happen after getting supported in this regard is that the leader pretty quickly puts out all their fires.
They start getting support on their leadership and they might initially bring fires to their coach and their leader. “This is happening. I got that. I’m freaking out.” They get some support to not freak out. There’s the resolution. Eventually where they end up is a bit of a void. There are no more fires. There’s nothing urgent that you can rely on any further to give you your direction. Where we’re left is, “What do you want to create now that you have the space to do so?” This is usually the place where the leader in question comes back to either looking for more fires and/or creating them. If that’s how you’ve learned to create value for yourself, you’re going to go and find or create fires or trying to get an answer.
“What should I be creating?” That’s the question they might bring to the leader or the coach. “What should I be working on? What should I be making happen? What are the blind spots I should know about?” This is a sophisticated version of looking for fires. This question is a common one. People are, “I want to be coached powerfully. Point to the stuff that I don’t know.” What this question is about ultimately is, “What fires might exist that I’m not aware of so then I can then put those out.” It’s not a conversation in service of forging towards something that you are committed to creating in the world. It’s not a conversation that pushes you towards the impossible, towards the unknown, the demands you generate some declaration, some direction for yourself.
It’s more like, “Tell me what I’m doing wrong so I can fix that and I can do what I want to do on this planet.” “What do you want to do on this planet?” We always come back to that question. Your blind sponsor is only relevant once you start to move. As long as you’re sitting still in a car, it doesn’t matter that you have blind spots, a parked car has a ton of blind spots, but those aren’t problematic or even worth addressing until you’ve decided to go somewhere. This is where that conversation about, “What are the things I don’t know, help me see my blind spots.” It’s almost a pointless conversation. It’s not that you can’t generate something from that. You can certainly create some awareness. It’s just that all of that’s a little pointless. We’re back to where we started.
“What do you want to create?” The upshot of all of this is that leadership happens once we set a direction, as long as we’re trying to figure out a direction to move in, we’re stagnant. We’re sitting in place hem and haw, trying to figure it out. This isn’t to suggest that leadership necessarily means you need to move forward. There are times when, what is required is moving backwards. We need some direction, some place to go to, some result to create in order to have work to do, to support you as a leader. What we’re pointing to here is the temptation to wait until you know what you’re supposed to do to, what the thing is to create, and until inspiration hits you.
From your inspiration, you know what to create and how this in itself represents a blind spot that many leaders get caught in. Every now and then it’s a perennial thing. I’ll have clients in my practice who are very successful. They often have an experienced, had been a little resentful of the people they work for. They’re feeling bored and less, and they want purpose in their life. They want direction. They want to be inspired. They want to live a life where they feel turned on. What they’re hoping is that through some conversation with me, they’re going to magically become turned on. If we talk enough about what they want, suddenly, a Thunderbolt will strike them and then they’ll be inspired. They will boldly go towards that thing.
Sometimes that’ll work, but rarely, and it’s not how inspiration works. The way inspiration works is that you show up, you do the thing that you want to do. If you don’t know what you want to do, you do a thing and you see, “Is this driving me, is turning me on.” If not, then you choose a new direction you pivot. If we’re willing to choose something and move towards that, if we’re willing to make some commitment, we will discover whether that’s the thing that we want to make happen. If you don’t know, choose something anyhow, because at least then you’ve spent weeks moving a thing forward rather than weeks sitting still trying to figure out what you want to do. The myth in all of this is this idea that you can somehow figure it out, which is trying to use your head to get an answer that can only come from your heart.
The temptation on the other side of the table, when a leader or a coach has presented with this way of being is to provide an answer or to teach, to try to help you figure this out, but that’s getting into the arena with you. That’s getting into the weeds with you because the whole problem is that you are actively trying to figure out what you want. It’s like sitting there looking at a menu for three hours, waiting, hemming, hawing, weighing pros and cons. “The chicken could be good, but at the same time, the beef.” You spend three hours since you’ve eaten and then you just eat croutons and you go home because you’re filled up on them. How did that work out for you? Trying to help you figure it out is, where a lot of coaches and leaders fall down.
They do what we call, “Get on the court with you.” They’re in the weeds with you playing out the same game that you’re already playing out in your life. There’s no breakthrough for you in that. The real breakthrough comes when someone like me or whoever points to you, “I noticed that rather than choosing something I’m moving forward, you staying stuck, thinking about choosing something and saying, you want to have something you’ve chosen while not choosing anything. How’s that working out for you?” “It’s frustrating.” “Do you want to keep doing it?” “No. I want an answer.” “It doesn’t occur when it’s coming to this way. How else might you find the answer.” These are the questions that we would ask rather than getting into the weeds onto the court with you and playing with you.
We stay off the court. Instead, what we do is we put the reins back in your hand. We don’t take the reins from you and help you get somewhere. We invite you to steer. When we do that is we give you questions, like, “What do you want to create? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? If you didn’t know, what will you choose anyhow? How long would you be willing to commit to this before you make the decision about what’s next?” Until we have these elements in place coaching or trying to develop your leadership has going to get in your way. You have to choose your way first. What they ended up being is convenient ways for you to stall further, taking action and moving your life forward,
To be clear most of this is rooted in a fear of choosing the wrong thing, because then we’ll waste time. The irony is that trying to figure out the right thing just stops you from choosing anyhow. It wastes a ton of time. You end up living off of croutons. I’m not a guy that doesn’t like croutons, just to be clear. I love a good crouton. I just don’t want that to be my meal. I anticipate that you don’t either. That’s everything that we’ve got for you. Welcome back from your holidays. We’re going to be introducing a series called The Leadership Pipeline. I’ll introduce it a lot more. It’s a six part series.
Part one is going to be the introduction and the leader doing their own work. The pipeline is this idea of when I indeed any leader when I come into an organization and start working with a leader, there’s a series of steps. The leader must move through with themselves and the organization to get from the dysfunction where they usually begin to the point where they’re creating the impossible. These are the six steps that the leader moves through to create that, how to regain trust, enroll people in possibility, to create the impossible, all that stuff. I hope you enjoy this episode. We’ll catch you next time.
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.