Ep 138: The Leadership Pipeline — Part 2, Recreating Trust
Most of the time, people would not seek support or aim for some form of transformation until they’ve hit rock bottom and exhausted using their existing approach. The problem with this is that by this time, they already have frustrations, resentment, and distrust. In this episode, Adam Quiney continues to discuss the Leadership Pipeline and now focuses on step two: recreating trust. While it can be challenging to recreate trust, it is nevertheless a crucial part that leaders need to do in order to move the organization forward to the next step. Join him as he explains more about why it is important and how you can do it.
Listen to the Episode Here:
The Leadership Pipeline — Part 2, Recreating Trust
In a company, it is inevitable for individuals or organizations to experience burnout that can cause dysfunction. Leadership Pipeline is often the direction needed to move the work organization or individual from a dysfunctional or management-industrial era based on a transformational and leadership based. It is an idea created through the host’s work with organizations and leaders.
In this episode, we are going to be continuing our six-part series called The Leadership Pipeline. This is part two of that series, Recreating Trust. A quick review or a summary of what we are up to here. This is part of an ongoing series on the pipeline leaders move through when they wish to go from an industrial-era managerial approach to a transformational leadership approach. In the last episode, we introduced the concept, The Six Stages of the Pipeline, and we talked about step one. In this episode, we are going to talk about step two, which is recreating trust.
A reminder of the six steps. One, the leader takes on their own work. Two, recreating trust, airing, getting and addressing grievances. Three, enrolling people in possibility. Four, a structure to support creating that possibility. Five, committed action towards possibility. Six, addressing breakdowns. Remember, these are a little bit like a spiral outwards or a 400-meter race track. You don’t ever completely leave behind one of these steps. You will probably continually be moving through them, more of a cycle than anything.
Recreating Trust, Airing, Getting And Addressing Grievances
At this point, hopefully, the leader is getting supported. They are doing their work. Meaning they are working with a coach or a leader who has got their own coach and can be reliable to be doing their work to support them. We are at the point of recreating trust. Why is it recreating trust? In most organizations, people, organizations, companies or whatever don’t tend to seek out support or aim towards some kind of transformational result until they have hit the ceiling on what is possible using their existing approach, paradigms and models. Consequently, by the time they are ready for something new, there’s almost inevitably going to be a great deal of resentment, frustration and distress that has built up.
If this isn’t the case for you or your organization, way to go. You are a unicorn. Somehow you managed to get there before hitting that wall. For most companies, unless they have already been working with coaches and leaders doing deep work, this is almost a given. It’s the same reason we tend to go, reach out and connect with coaches or support structures of any kind when we are in a moment of pain. When the pain we are feeling is high, when we are feeling a lot of angst or whatever, that’s when we go and get support. That’s what organizations tend to do as well. Why get supported when things are going well? That’s the prevailing attitude. Before we can move people forward to create the next level of possibility, we have to get complete on how things have gone. That’s what this step is about.
The Challenges Of Recreating Trust
Let’s first talk about like, “What about this is challenging? Why is this step hard?” There are a few reasons we have. The first one is because most leaders step right over their work, believing they are already equipped to receive what their staff will bring. We have covered why this approach absolutely fails in the last episode. The only thing I’m going to add here is that attempting to operate with innocent arrogance of believing that you can handle this without needing your own support structure actually further recreates and entrenches the breakdown in trust. What happens is, as the leader is inviting their team to share vulnerably what is real for them, they are going to create this natural experience for the team that it’s not worth sharing your truth.
What ends up happening is the leader is unable to hear that team. It’s not that they are not conscious and unwilling. It’s just that they haven’t done their own work so they have a natural, invisible bias that discounts what the team is saying automatically. They may even nod their head and say the words back to them but internally, their state is such that they are not getting the people. They are just hearing the words and then saying, “I can see how that would make sense.” Given that they’ve got this uninformed belief or they don’t understand the greater picture or whatever, all of which then has them create this experience for people of not being heard. When we are not heard, trust is impossible.
The second reason that this is a challenge is that most leaders would rather skip straight to resolving the issue. It’s like, “Tell me about it. I know about that. We are doing something to resolve it.” As soon as you start to tell me, “Here’s the thing, Adam, is that the other day last week you did this. Here’s what we have done. I’m making sure of that. I know the problem. What I’m going to do to solve it is this,” I’m not leaving you feeling gotten or even necessarily listened to. I’m leaving you feeling like you are a cog fitting into a machine and that I’m willing to listen to what you have to say, only in as much as to confirm for myself that I have done what I need to do to make sure it’s handled. That is quite a bit different from getting someone.
This step is about setting down everything that happens after this, setting down resolving the stuff, setting down fixing anything and sitting in what isn’t working. Set down and sit in and being willing to hear and listen to it without needing to go anywhere. Remember, in the last episode, we talked about that metal peg with the rubber band attached to it. The metal peg and the rubber band in this step are people hearing the grievances, but then wanting to fix it or, “We’ve got that solved.” That gets in the way. Your job here is to be willing to sit with it.
As a weird example but I think it will serve us, consider a leader who is in their mind like they are committed to being an open leader. Maybe they had leadership in the past that they felt was closed. They are like, “Never again. I’m never going to be like that. I’m going to listen to every damn thing my staff says.” To this leader, their openness to their employees is more important than anything else. What this means is that being open becomes a sacred cow for them. They are unable to even consider the possibility of being closed, except in the areas where they have already decided they are closed.
This is how our biases work. Whatever the thing is that you find yourself saying, “I would never do something like that,” that becomes your sacred cow. It becomes a place, in which when someone reflects you being like that, you simply cannot see it or even accept it. This leader who is committed to being open, which is a noble thing but because they are not working with a coach and not getting the support to see their blind spots, they’ve now got a sacred cow. They cannot consider that they might be closed except in the places they have already decided, the places where they can already see. Your blind spots are not in those places. You already know you do the thing.
What will happen with this leader is they are going to receive feedback and listen to their staff under the guise, both to themselves and others, of being open and yet, they are not. In certain areas, they simply won’t be open and will not be able to see this fact. They will listen but they have already made up their mind. There is no true openness. There is, at best, a sliver of possibility that things could go differently. The staff bringing something to this leader will at first be excited about this commitment to being open, but over time, they are going to conclude that this openness only applies in very narrow situations. The rest of the time, they are going to get listened to and be told that the leader is open but they are going to get the experience that they are not and nothing shifts. They are unable to make an impact with this leader.
Consequently, they will stop trying. The leader will insist on their openness but all this does is further create a lack of trust. The leader is saying one thing but leaving the staff in a different experience altogether. The discrepancy between what the leader says and what is experienced, that is to say, the clearing and the impact caused by the leader, this discrepancy creates a breakdown in trust. Over time, this grows into resentment, alienation and contempt. You can hopefully see that when the leader is not getting supported to have this reflected them to see this and have someone off the court with them point to this stuff, they go into the fray thinking, “No, I’m open.” It further wounds people so to speak.
How To Recreate Trust
If the leader wants to reinvent their organization and create transformation, it’s going to require recreating this trust. Recreating trust doesn’t begin with a statement to someone, “I want to recreate trust.” It can. My point here is, often, people try to make these bold statements thinking that’s the path. It’s great to share your truth, to share what you want, the act of recreating trust begins with a willingness on your part to receive and hear about your impact as a leader, as well as that of the organization. It requires a willingness to hear how you have breached trust.
To do so, a leader must be willing and able to listen to their people. This is why the leader must begin with the first part of the pipeline, which is their own work. If they are unable to hold space for the incompletion and breakdowns of those on their team, they are not going to be able to listen here and get the people. Instead, what’s going to happen is they will listen, and then attempt to turn things back on the staff, ostensibly in service of a leadership conversation. This is how leadership becomes toxic. Everything you have read about leadership, the ego is going to co-opt it. This is why you can see if you have ever been around people and perhaps you yourself have gone to Landmark Forum, which is a fantastic transformational piece of work.
The danger or trouble is that because the support is very in the moment, it’s high on and then it’s off, there are not a lot of ongoing support. What tends to happen is people get these brilliant distinctions, but then the ego has got ahold of them. The ego uses them to make you wrong, not the point of the distinction, or to make other people wrong. That’s not the point of leadership. What ends up happening is you get this leader that will listen and then attempt to turn the things back on the staff. For example, it would be like, you share something that’s upsetting and I say, “That makes sense that that upsets you.” What can you see for yourself in that? What opportunity was there for you? This approach recreates the breakdown in trust. The staff member is attempting to share what the leader has asked for, “What are your grievances? What is there?” only to discover then there’s going to be a turn back on themselves.
I want to be clear that it’s not like your job as a leader is always to just take it on yourself. It’s not just pure self-flagellation. The point here is that once there’s a breakdown in trust, that’s yours to own as a leader. Before anyone else is going to have any hope of being able to look on their side, you have to model it for them. The leader’s job at this point in the game is to be a yes to simply receiving how things have gone wrong and getting the staff. To better understand what I mean by getting someone and how to listen to it this way, check out Episode 78, The Foundation for Speaking as a Leader. For now, the summary I will provide is that your job here is not simply to listen to the words they are saying but to be able to truly empathize with them. To do so, that means you need to build a set aside of what you believe you are right about.
Remember, if you can’t distinguish what you believe you are right about, you have no hope of setting it aside. Don’t skip step one. You will hear me say this a lot throughout this pipeline. You have to set aside what you believe you are right about and you have to truly get over on the other side of the table. How is what they are saying completely valid? How does what they have shared make complete sense? In what way can you hold and listen to what they are saying such that it doesn’t occur to you like, “That makes sense if they weren’t as educated as me, given that they come from a broken home?” I’m just making up some ludicrous examples. Our listening always and often has that taint to it where we are getting them conditionally. “That makes sense given that. If they are this, then that makes sense.”
Truly getting someone means that you as a leader listen as graciously as you can, truly get what they have to say, share and understand it to the point where you are like, “I get that. That makes sense.” It’s not the words. It’s easy to pair with these words, which is why the danger of laying out a pipeline like this is that people are like, “I can do that. I can say the words. I get it. That makes sense.” This is about being. This is about, on some level, doing whatever work is required so you can get them, listen to them and get it in your bone marrow. Once people have shared what they have to share, your job is to be able to empathize with and understand what has happened.
As a leader, this is all your clearing. What this means is that it’s yours to be responsible for rather than putting it over on your people. Until you can take responsibility, expecting someone else to just equates to more finger-pointing. If you wish people to be responsible without the expectation that, then that means others will take that kind of responsibility where it’s like, “I’m willing to own up here provided you take responsibility.” It’s not that. If you want people to be flat-out responsible, then you’ve got to model that yourself. You have to set down your story and attitude that, “I will fess up but only if you are willing to do the same.” Instead, you’ve got to model responsibility. Full stop, period, end of the story.
At this stage in the game, your job is to get the experience people have had both of you, the experience they have had of you and the organization, and to understand how that would lead to a lack of trust on their part and get in the way of creating something different. Acknowledge and take responsibility for the experience people have had and then check to see if there’s anything more. What you will notice is as you model a willingness to listen, receive and get how things have been going for people, you are healing trust at the moment. As you do so, people may start to be willing to share more.
The challenge in this part of the pipeline is that it’s not comfortable to receive this kind of feedback and hear how we failed. We have a million ways to brush it off. “I know about that. Here’s what I’m doing to address that.” These are all ways of not fully listening. Instead, those are ways of convincing yourself that you are not as sucky as you currently feel from the feedback. Don’t do those things. Those are in the way. The other one is like, “I get that. Here’s the solution I see to enact.” That’s you finding a way to fix this and not being willing to sit with the feedback. We have to slow down and breathe in what they are giving us without doing anything about it other than getting it.
It’s important to note that it’s human to point back and see what they are complaining or sharing about is some of their stuff. That’s always going to be true because everything created has a function of more than one person. Pointing to like, “I talk a lot but that’s because you never talk,” doing that recreates the very problem in the first place. It’s not going to lead to the difference you want to make. If you have ever had a boss like that or been in a leadership conversation like that, where you brought something to the leader and it always got put back onto you, it’s maybe cool at first because you are like, “I’m going to take a look.” After a while, you are like, “Why am I the one only ever taking a look over here? You are never taking responsibility. You are always asking me to do it and then calling that leadership.”
It doesn’t work because what they are modeling is something other than responsibility. They are modeling inviting other people to look and see how they can be responsible. What that will create is a whole organization of people inviting other people to take a look and see how they can be responsible for what happened. Guess how that goes when you have a breakdown with your clients. At this point, you have done your work. You have listened to people. You’ve got them. Once you have received and gotten their grievances, you are going to need to check in and see, “Is there anything that I haven’t taken ownership of that you need me to?” What this is, is you modeling to people your commitment to leave them feeling gotten and have things go differently than in the past.
Consider that if you are unable and unwilling to receive this feedback, first of all, you have to own that and then bring that to your coach. If you can never move past that, you are never going to be able to improve. If we can’t discover how we are going wrong, we can never find ways to stop going wrong. People often avoid this part of the pipeline because they are afraid that it’s going to wind people up further like, “I get them and let them share their grievances. They are going to start piling on. It’s going to build up.” They avoid it and try to move people into the positive. This doesn’t work. This is almost rarely the case when you truly get someone to. People get wound up when they share and you listen without giving them the experience of feeling gotten. When people feel gotten, they can release something. They feel like they have been gotten, heard and received and so they don’t need to clutch to that thing anymore.
Ironically, what tends to wind people up are people’s strategies to avoid winding people up. Once there’s nothing left for people to share, once there are no more grievances, we are ready to move on to enrolling people in possibility. There’s one last thing that goes here, which is to check. For some of these breakdowns that people share, there might be some actions that need to be taken to remedy them. Someone is like, “I didn’t get my paycheck for three weeks. I still haven’t gotten it and you keep pushing me off,” and that like, “Why would I trust you about anything?” You need to make some clear commitments to write that to remedy that situation.
That’s not the case with everything. Often, at this point in the game, it’s not so much about remedying these things. It’s getting them. You have to use a bit of your judgment in this. You have to see like, “Is this something we are willing to address? Is this thing we are willing to do right now at least to get it and promise them that we are taking that onboard? We hear you. Is there anything you need from me right now to get that I’m receiving this? Why would you need a Rolls-Royce? If there is anything I can provide at this moment?” What we are looking at is like, “At this moment, is there anything else I can provide?” “Yes, you can provide a promise that you are going to look into this by next week.” “I’ve got it. I’m committed to doing that.” Make sure that anything you promise you are committed to taking on because if you don’t, you recreate the breakdown.
Don’t Do This Alone
Some tips to finish this up. Trying to do this alone and take on the second step by yourself is ultimately attempting to bypass the first step in the pipeline. Don’t do this alone. Get supported. Receiving feedback is challenging. It requires a degree of superhumanness or what I would call divinity. What is human? It’s to hold ourselves as right and make some concessions but for the most part, hold onto our position. To let go of our position, is to go beyond what is natural and human to be divine and true grace with people. That is not just there for you to tap into. This requires some work and support. You don’t need to receive all of the feedback for an entire organization at once. Ideally, you want to be working with your direct reports and modeling something for them so that they can then carry forward the same work with their people.
This process does not need to be completed in one sitting. It’s a lot for your nervous system to receive this kind of feedback. Be responsible for your own needs. Have someone that’s able to support you by reminding you of your greatness, acknowledging you when you need it and helping you receive and integrate the feedback you are getting. Don’t let this drag out for months on end. You don’t have to do it all in one sitting but be committed to complete it because otherwise, this will eat away at you. When you let some people begotten, and then wait four more months before the next group, the old breakdowns are going to get recreated. People are going to refine their way into the breakdowns. You have to be committed to moving through this so you can clean it up with everyone and then begin to take the next steps.
That’s everything that we’ve got for you in part two of The Leadership Pipeline. This has been recreating trust, airing, getting and addressing grievances. In the next episode, we will be talking about part three, which is Enrolling People In Possibility. Most people skip to that one. They are like, “Impossible goals, mission, moonshots,” without doing any of the work on the front side. You get people saying, “Moonshots, let’s do it,” but they are not enrolled in it. They are enrolled in telling you what you want to hear because you are obnoxious as a leader who’s cheering so loudly but they are not enrolled in it for themselves. They are just enrolled in having you, frankly, shut up. That’s what happens when we skip over and jump over the first two steps. That will be in the next episode.
I hope you have enjoyed this episode. If you are enjoying The Leadership Pipeline or if you have any topics that you think would be rich for a conversation on Get Lit, please send me an email at PR@AdamQuiney.com. If you haven’t already, I would love it if you would rate this show or drop a review. Reviews are the best but they take a little bit of going there and writing something out. If you give us five stars, that would be awesome. If you want to throw some support this way, I love you for it. See you in the 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.