Ep 137: The Leadership Pipeline – Part 1
Feeling burnout is pretty common in a workplace, and it can cause dysfunction within the company. In order to resolve this, Adam Quiney suggests taking action through the Leadership Pipeline. It is the direction needed to move the leadership of a group or organization from dysfunctional to transformational and leader-based. While it is challenging to get through this pipeline, Adam says that one must resist moving forward and embrace slowing down to be able to diminish the behaviors that cause burnout.
Listen to the Episode Here:
The Leadership Pipeline – Part 1
We are going to jump right into it. I have a sense this will be a fairly meaty episode. It might be a little bit longer. What we are going to be talking about in this episode is called The Leadership Pipeline. This is an idea I have created through my work with organizations and leaders. This episode is going to be the introduction and part one. What is this notion of the pipeline? What is part one? It’s a six-part series. I’ll summarize here for you what are the six parts. First of all, as a broad concept, what is this idea of a leadership pipeline? When I’m brought into a company to support their leadership, to create transformational results, there are usually a number of things in the way. These things are the same things that an individual would have in their way. It’s that they’re more pronounced in a company and the stakes tend to be higher especially when you have shareholders or finances at stake.
The leadership pipeline is often the direction we need to work and to move the leadership of a group organization or individual from dysfunctional or management industrial era-based to transformational and leadership-based. The pipeline for leadership is challenging because we resist slowing down and doing the work that is here to be done now. Collectively, societally, we are obsessed with moving forward because we have a lack of ability to be right where we are now. Think about it. When you have a problem where you are losing money, you don’t want to hang out and sit in that. You don’t want to sit and be with the experience of losing money. You want that problem to have been fixed. It’s this need to speed forward that keeps us stuck. We cannot stay put where we are and understand what is going on. We continually trip over ourselves.
Imagine you are on a cribbage board that is life-size. It’s like you have a metal peg in the ground where you are standing and a rubber band attached to your waist in that peg. We have no ability to slow down and get where we are because we feel where we are as bad or not good enough so we run and run. What happens is you end up moving forward but you have to expend increasing energy for decreasing progress. The farther you get from that metal peg, from that place where you are, the more tension is on the band and the more energy you act to exert even to maintain the gains you have created. This creates this experience that a lot of people have of burnout. They get a diminishing returns graph on doubling down on the patterns, the ways of being, the behaviors that got them here but won’t get them further.
To break through to get to the next level, we have to be willing to slow down and sit where we are. Sometimes even go back so you can remove that rubber band from that peg and then start to move forward. The thing about this notion of a leadership pipeline is that each of these steps along the way, you can’t skip. You are probably going to predict this but because of the fact that we are so fixated on getting the heck away from where we are, we want to skip. We want to get forward as fast as we can. That is pretty self-explanatory. I don’t think I was going to explain more and then I realized that is not needed. There are six steps to the pipeline. In this episode, we will be talking about the rough layout. In subsequent episodes, we will be discussing the specific steps. We are going to talk about the first one here too.
The six steps are one, the leader takes on their own work. Two, creating trust, airing, getting and addressing grievances. Three, enrolling people in the possibility. Four, structure to support creating that possibility. Five, committed action towards possibility. Six, addressing breakdowns and then a repeat loop through it. Most of the things I teach and work with, it’s not necessarily a perfect circle as you move through these. You might move up and then take a few steps back. As you are starting to create a structure to support people, creating possibility, you may make some missteps. “I have got to go back and do my own work. I’m holding on them that they are wrong. I got to be willing to hear where that landed with them and how that felt bad for them.” It’s not that you move through this pipeline and then you are finished. It’s more like a 400-meter race track. You are constantly going around this as you increase. You can think of it like a spiral expanding ever outwards.
The Leader Takes On Their Own Work
Step one, the leader takes on their own work. If you have followed me for any period of time, if you have read this show, even one episode you are probably not surprised to know that this is step one. The leader must take on their own work first. Hilariously or maybe ironically, this is almost inevitably the step that gets stepped over. Most challenging, this step will tend to be stepped over by a leader who is insistent that they’re doing their work. The way this works is that the leader will attempt to their work in ways that are safe or involve collusion with their existing beliefs. We got to talk a little bit about this notion of cognitive bias. Your cognitive bias includes everything you know and everything you know you don’t know. Your cognitive bias is the whole paradigm for how the world works. It’s everything you can see, have decided as true and as wrong, all of that.
There is a leader that is not doing their own work. When I say not doing their own work, I mean not getting supported by someone outside of themselves. A book doesn’t count because you read a book through your own lens. A movie, a video, a tutorial doesn’t count because you listen to it through your own lens. Even sitting in a class where you were taught something doesn’t count because you will receive the teaching through your own lens. It does require coaching or leadership development. Those are the same thing to support you to get beyond your cognitive bias. Instead, what we have are leaders that earnestly read books, take tutorials, attend classes, watch videos, maybe even go to Tony Robbins events and get super pumped. They take all of that great stuff and use it inside of their existing cognitive bias or existing paradigm for how the world and leadership work.
This is the safest way a leader can attempt to do their work. It doesn’t even occur as safe. It occurs as the way life is. It doesn’t occur as a thing being done safely. When I say it’s safe, it precludes or relieves them of the vulnerability that comes from getting supported by a coach or leader. I want to be clear that reaching out to a coach or leader and saying, “Could you support me?” That is a courageous act. That requires a tremendous amount of vulnerability. The safest way the leader can attempt to do their work is through measures and means that don’t require the support of someone else. It allows them to avoid the vulnerability of admitting and acting in alignment with the idea that they can’t do everything on their own.
This is an incredibly sticky myth about leadership. It’s often the first sacred cow a leader must slay before they can move forward in their pipeline. They have to come to surrender to the idea that you cannot do your own work on your own. It doesn’t work that way. That’s not to say you can’t progress. Having that rubber band attached to the metal peg is not to suggest you cannot run forward. You can run the whole rest of your life and keep making gains. It’s just that they will be at a diminishing return. Books, watching videos, self-lead courses, even taught courses in the leg all provide convenient ways to simultaneously fill your head with more knowledge, avoid the intimacy and vulnerability that would come from opening up to someone else.
You can read a book entirely from the safety of your own seclusion. Some leaders will go away to workshops or events, Tony Robbins, transformational retreats, Ayahuasca or other plant medicine ceremonies and the like. These will certainly provide some value but they provide the work in a one-off manner. They give you a big chunk of like, “Here’s the truth.” A leader committed to moving through the pipeline needs ongoing support. What is showing up at the moment will transform and shift with the moment. Going off to that big retreat, coming back and thinking you’re doing your work is a little bit like being in your car, getting out and walking around your car, checking all your blind spots, starting to drive and being like, “I have done my work. I don’t need to look at my blind spots.” That is not the way it works.
The work so to speak is a moving entity. The truly committed leader commits to ongoing moment-by-moment support and a commitment to that support. The nature of our ego in our blind spots is that we cannot see what we cannot see. What I mean by this is that we have this subjective experience of being aware of what is in our way while simultaneously being unaware of what is in our way. I want to draw that out so it’s clear. On the one hand, we have the experience that we are aware of what is in our way. At the same time that we have the experience that we are aware of, we are unaware of what is in our way. Without the ongoing support from another individual who is off the court with us, the leader is going to insist they are doing their work, attempt to move through this pipeline or never addressing this first step. That rubber band remains attached to the peg of the first step. They cannot move forward.
The Leader Empowers
The leader doing their work begins when they empower a leader who is truly off the court. That leader is working with their own coach or this leader in question hires a coach. At this point, the work can begin. At this point, step one can begin for them. The second part of this first step is that the leader empowers their coach, empowers their leader. It can take a while to break down resistance to the subjective experience that we know what is in our way. This is human. To some extent, it’s going to create some cognitive dissonance for us. We are going to argue with the coach and their reflection. We are going to argue with the leader who is pointing to something. We will insist that we do know what is going on and that our intuition has the answer but our ego has access to our intuition. Our subjective experience will hide the deeper truth. We cannot move forward until we are willing to empower the coach or leader beyond our own subjective experience.
This is a scary thing for a lot of leaders. Many of us spend a great deal of time resisting it. What this triggers in us is the fear of being taken advantage of. We are willingly trusting someone beyond or trusting someone over our own immediate feeling at the moment where the leaders are pointing to something that is in our blind spot and we can’t see it. Further, the way our blind spots work is that we actively would dispute that that thing they are pointing to is not real. To empower the leader, to empower our coach, we have to be willing when they point to something to say, “Even though I’m having a reaction to this and want to set it aside, I’m going to take a look. I’m going to take this on,” rather than saying, “Do I agree with this? Do I disagree with this?” That is scary.
When we do that, if we have not chosen a leader or a coach wisely, even if we have, the fear is still there. What do I trust then if not myself? What if I take on board this person and then it turns out they were trying to take advantage of me? Finally, coaching and leadership as professions are quite saturated and broadly speaking, have a lot of diluted, well-intentioned bullshit. Bullshit means people that aren’t in their work. They are well-intentioned but they are not very deep. People, in general, have a good reason to resist the very surrender we are talking about here. The solution to this is to hire someone that shows up powerfully for you. When you are with them, do you have this subjective experience that is powerful? Do they feel safe to be with? They see you in a potent way but at the same time, they can see things that you can’t. They can hold the flame to your feet if that is what is required.
I’m not talking about the results they are promising you or even the results they have generated in their own life. The results are tangential to the experience you have. When this leader or coach is being with you, did they occur powerfully? Do they occur like they have a lot of access to their being? Is there a depth of expression available in them? Do they occur free in their ability to share all of themselves with you? These are the things you look for. Once the leader has empowered someone, this leader moving through this pipeline has empowered a leader or a coach, the next part of the first step is for them to let go of all of the other six steps. Rather than, “I have hired my coach. Let’s get to airing and grievances. Let’s get to him rolling impossibility or something.” The leader’s job is to set all that aside and instead sit here at step one.
Here are a few examples of how this might look. One, perhaps the leader is frustrated because their team does not do what they say they will do. The conversation might be where can the leader own that they themselves show up this way. Where does the leader themselves act out of integrity where their thoughts, words and actions are out of alignment? Perhaps the leader is annoyed because anytime something gets challenging, emotions rise and they feel there is no place for emotions in leadership. The conversation might be what can the leader distinguish about their own relationship to emotions. In this case, basically they have not. They shouldn’t have emotions at work. How this showing is up is a bias in their leadership?
The leader in both of these cases is going to have a natural resistance to looking in these areas. Initially, this isn’t going to occur like a belief they hold or something for them to take on. It will occur like an abject reality. You don’t bring emotions to work. That will be the truth. That will be the law. Everyone knows that is what is professional. That’s how work gets done. Here is a bunch of evidence I have to support that. Except the truth is you are a human and humans have emotions. Insisting that people don’t bring their emotions to work is like insisting people not be human. I want to be clear that this wouldn’t be a case where we are advocating that everyone comes and sobs all over the floor. You still have work to get done. It’s not an all-or-nothing, black or white kind of thing that we are talking about. What I’m pointing to in this example of this leader is that they have an absolute rule. That is where they’re going to get stuck and that is where their work lies.
Instead, the leader is going to immediately want to move to the next step of building trust but they are going to be unable to do so because they themselves are not yet trustworthy. They do not have the ability to own and honor their own truth because it’s undistinguished for them. It doesn’t occur like their subjective truth. It occurs like the truth. That will make real trust impossible. The people on the other side, the people that are operating in a different subjective truth are going to show up. The leader won’t be able to own like, “This is my belief about stuff.” They are going to own, “This is the way to be.” That leaves us not able to trust the leader. This stage of the pipeline for the leader takes time and is often frustrating. It involves confronting a lot of cognitive dissonances. Our attempts to resolve cognitive dissonance tend to derail progress.
Resolving Cognitive Dissonance
What I mean by that is our attempts to resolve our own cognitive dissonance. It’s not wrong that it derails the process. It’s part of the path. We want to have the leader present to this predictability upfront so that when it happens, we can point to it and acknowledge what goes on. Here are some of the ways that we as humans attempt to resolve cognitive dissonance at this stage. To lay the planks for you, you have got the leader that is empowered, a coach or a leader. That coach or leader is reflecting something to them. “I noticed that you have this belief. It seems like you have this story. I noticed that you have a way of showing up about emotions.” It lands in their blind spot what is being pointed to and that will create cognitive dissonance. In order to resolve that feeling, the person being supported can do a number of things to try to resolve this dissonance.
They can do an ad hominem attack on the coach or leader or what the leader has said. They can be like, “Adam is this way. He says those things.” It’s not the way I am. It’s a mild ad hominem attack to be clear. Rather than taking the reflection internally and sitting with it, they are dismissing it by dismissing the person that has provided to them. They can resolve the dissonance by not even considering what has been shared as a possibility. They can dismiss what we have said as playing wrong, not making sense or not understanding. They can listen through the lens of, “Is this right? Is this wrong? Do I agree with this?” What that does is anything you don’t agree with gets set aside or thrown out whereas if you agree with it, it gets in.
The trouble there is that the only thing that can land with you is the stuff you have already agreed with, which is already a function of the world you know. It’s already in your paradigm. Finally, you can reduce the dissonance by dismissing what was provided in favor of the comfort of what you already know or believe to be true. All of these get in the way of you seeing something beyond what you already know and can see. The next step requires getting what is in the way of trust. People feeling heard by you as a leader. Until you can own your side of the fence, you will not be able to hear people and leave them gotten.
You will experience an undistinguished need to hang onto your position. That position and that need to hang onto it will be invisible and untouchable to you. You will have no access to it because you are operating over top of it. You will remain in denial of it. It will be hidden by the subjective experience that you have awareness of. Consequently, what will happen from here is you go through the motions of hearing your people. You attempt to get them. You use the right words but this is all you achieve. The actual embodiment of this next stage will fail. Another way to put this is that in order for you to set down your position, you have to begin by being able to see that you have one. Most people, intellectually, will concede that they have a position. It’s an intellectual effort at best rather than viscerally letting go of all of their beliefs and empowering the coach to help them see that the sum total of the beliefs and biases that they are bringing to the table are invisible to them.
Once you can start to see that, what happens at this stage is that the leader starts to be able to notice this showing up as it’s showing up. Typically once they start to do that, they want to fix it immediately. We leave them at this first stage. Can you sit with seeing your bias in play? Notice how you are relating to certain people positively and other ones negatively, how that’s a function of the bias that you are getting present to. Once you can start to do that then you can start to change things and not until that. This is the stage that’s the beginning of it all. I am going to end by saying that one of the things that makes this so challenging is your ego is going to help you believe that you can do this on your own. Reading this show is sufficient. It’s going to get you over the hump. “A lot of people need a coach but not you.” That is an example of why it’s so hard to move beyond this first peg. Our stories, our internal conversation convinces us that we are not stuck here. What that does is stops you from unsticking yourself.
That is everything that we have for this first part of our six-part series. Next, we are going to be talking about part two, recreating trust. That’s about airing, getting and addressing grievances. How do we get people? How do we listen in a way that’s potent, powerful and leaves people fully gotten? What that does is it doesn’t overcome their objections. It dissolves them. Part of the way you do that is by dissolving your own stories and beliefs, letting go of your own side of the fence, your own beliefs. To do so requires a great deal of your own work. Remember, you can’t let go with them until you have been able to see them. There is nothing, in particular, I would like to plug other than the fact that our Creating Clients Course, the second iteration, is underway.
If this is a course you have been considering or thinking about, I highly recommend it. You can read testimonials about it on AdamQuiney.com/clientcreation. It has been amazing and profound both for me and the participants. What we do in this work is simply untrain you in the crappy story you have learned about sales. In fact, it is not about sales at all. What you discover is that the most potent way you can enroll people in your business and your service, what you are up to in the world is through service and building relationships. When people go through this course, what they discover is a real joy.
They find an innate delight. We will call it selling to people because they lose that concept of selling. It is no longer something they have to force people through. They look like, “How do I connect deeper with this person? How do I create more relationships with this person? How would I serve this person at this moment?” That changes people’s lives. That is everything we have for this episode. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. We will talk to you in the next episode. Bye.
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.