Ep 141: The Leadership Pipeline — Part 5: Committed Action Towards Possibility
We are nearing the end of the six-part series of The Leadership Pipeline. For today’s episode, Adam Quiney focuses on the fifth step, which is committed action towards possibility. He talks about the difference between our default action and committing to an action in service of a possibility. Adam points out that a leader must be able to inspire their people to take action and prevent breakdowns. He also digs deeper into the subject of commitment towards the declared possibility, why this is important, and the demand for leadership in this pipeline.
Listen to the Episode Here:
The Leadership Pipeline — Part 5: Committed Action Towards Possibility
In today’s episode, we will continue talking about the ongoing six-part series of the Leadership Pipeline that leaders move through to go from an industrial era managerial approach to a transformational leadership approach.
This is our conversation in the service of causing and creating leadership at the moment. That’s the gem. That’s why we are here, it’s having you practice stepping into your leadership, not parading these conversations and calling it leadership, they are very different things. We are talking about part five of our Leadership Pipeline. This is the 5th of 6 parts in this series. The Leadership Pipeline is an ongoing series about the pipeline through the steps leaders move through when they wish to go from an industrial era, managerial approach to a transformational leadership approach. Even as I say that, what the steps are, a leader, in any domain in their life, must step through to create re-invention and transformation.
These steps apply to your marriage, relationship with your friends and your job, projects you are taking on at your company and your company’s culture. The six steps are one, the leader taking on their own work, we always start there. Two, creating trust, wherein getting and addressing grievances. Three, enrolling people in possibility. Four, structure to support creating that possibility. Five, where we are now, committed action towards possibility. Six, addressing breakdowns. Before we get to this episode, I want to put in a plug and it is just going to be for some resources that I have that I’m happy to share with you.
These are resources specifically about the arts and craft of coaching, which serve any leader. If you are a leader, you want to be coaching and if you are a coach, you ought to be a leader. There was no separating those two even if they are distinct but also overlapping. I have several infographics that I have created that I use in service of the courses I teach and the work I do with my clients that I’m happy to share with you. The three that I’m going to talk about are creating a client. These are the six steps for anyone in any kind of entrepreneurial venture to recreate the relationship with creating clients and learn the foundational pieces which what we are doing is building a pyramid from the bottom up. Traditional sales are building it from the top-down, which flips the pyramid on his head, which is a losing proposition. That’s the first infographic.
The second is when someone you are working with, quits. This is especially applicable as a leader. We will talk about this in number six of this pipeline. If you are helping people lean out onto their edge, out into the skinny branches of their work and if you are supporting people to be out there in the unknown, they will be confronted. One of the ways that we as humans deal with our confrontation is to quit. This is how we support people moving back from that quitting conversation to being re-enrolled impossibility, getting back on board with their own breakthroughs and the work that you are here to do. It’s important stuff as a leader.
If you want to be a transformational leader, you will have to become comfortable and make friends with the fact that people will quit. Number three is supporting people to get to a yes. This is supporting people to be a yes to something beyond the edges of their fear. We all have fear, whether you are creating a client, supporting someone to take that scary step at work or anything else. It’s our fear that has a stop more often than not. That’s okay. We don’t have to stay there but this infographic details how you work with someone in this place. If you would like those, send me an email PR@AdamQuiney.com and say, “I would love those infographics you mentioned on your blog,” and you will get all three of them. You won’t be added to a list unless you want to be. You won’t be spammed with anything. I want to plug these because they are amazing tools and I think more people should have them.
Let’s get onto our topic, which is Committed Action Towards Possibility. This is step five. Where we are in this pipeline now is we have cleaned up the breakdown in the past. We have taken on our own work, reinvented our relationships and recreated trust. We have enrolled people in possibility and created a structure to support bringing that possibility to existence. Now it’s time to get into action. Not just any action, committed to action in service of that possibility. There’s a distinction here between committed action in service of our possibility and our default action.
We need to start by distinguishing these two. In most companies, the measure of success is receiving your paycheck and avoiding too much blame. I’m not saying that’s what you are striving for. I’m saying that’s the default measure of success. That’s the context for someone at your company succeeding. There are also annual or semi-annual reviews. By and large, we get those but there’s only so much stock put in those. You’ve got some high performers or some over performers that are making their raise on that. The measure of success is, “Do I keep making money? Do I keep my job? Do people say they like me? Did I get a raise?” That’s what we are working through. That’s the default. People would like to achieve and cause a greater impact than that.
Generally, they have a genuine desire to do so of their own accord but most leaders are not inspiring them to do so. Instead, the predominant conversation we are in is that, “People should do what I tell them because I pay them. Why is this even a conversation about committed action? They should just do what I said.” Even leaders moving beyond this approach can still get pulled back into it through their blind spots and from a need to avoid breakdowns rather than causing breakthroughs. With this being the conversation, the dominant context, the default solution for people is to take action. We have created this big possibility and some structure to support us, “Now go and get into action.”
If you are confronted by this, if you are not sure about your action, what direction to take, then where you are going to fall back down to is, “I don’t want to lose my job and I, not to need to blame. I would get into action. As long as I’m taking action, I’m doing something. As long as I’m doing something, it’s a lot harder for me to be held to blame. I’m doing that thing.” There’s another flavor here, another context I want to bring in to be clear. What we are talking about is the stuff that separates from committed action towards our goal. “The other side of this coin is the idea of a declaration towards an impossible goal.” An impossible goal is a common trope in pop psychology self-help and a lot of coaching circles.
The idea is that if you make a bold proclamation about something you want, that in itself is sufficient or will benefit you in some way. People will make these pronouncements and then they will go and get into the same action they have been in before. They will be like, “I would like to triple my profits this year.” It’s like wishing on a penny and throwing it into a fountain. It has that same energy to it because once they have done that, they go back to life as normal. They go back to doing the default action. There are no committed action towards that impossible goal because they have already deemed it impossible. Why would you take any committed action towards it? You are not committed to it. The very notion of calling it an impossible goal removes the possibility of you being committed to it. That would be stupid. To committed action, we have to be committed to the possibility that we are enrolled. Even, and especially if we can’t see how to get there. There’s a distinction between something being impossible and something being possible but we don’t know yet how to get there. That is where we are aiming at those goals. That’s what you have enrolled your people in. The step in this process provides you a check as a leader.
This is where you need to check-in. “Are people enrolled in possibility? I tried to enroll them in step three and they are enrolled in that or is there something in the way?” If so, if there’s somebody in your way, you may need to go back to the start of this pipeline and address further breakdowns that are only surfacing now. Remember that this pipeline is more of a circle feeding back into itself than a straight linear progression. As you uncover certain breakdowns and move through them, sometimes other stuff will come up. It’s a little bit like peeling an onion. Now it’s also possible. Your people may already be committed and onboard in which case you don’t have to worry about this. Having said that, many leaders want to skip going backward. They are insisting, “We don’t have time for this. We should get started. I already did that stuff. It’s done.” That would be insisting that you need to start the motorcycle trip right now even though all but one spoke is missing from your whee. It’s a setup for failure. If you want to break the paradigm, if you want to push beyond this, be diligent. Sit with yourself, be in your own committed action towards this. You are committed to acting as a leader involves in this pipeline. Get back into a commitment for it rather than the default of, “We need to make this happen. We are out of time.”
It’s important to note that this pipeline demands leadership from everybody, to create something outside of what is predictable, the team, as well as the leaders, will need to venture beyond where they already know. This calls for leadership. In the face of the unknown, we will fall back towards what we know and what gets us out of being and feeling confronted. Predictably, your team members will do the things that save them from the discomfort of not already knowing what there is to do. This will test your leadership. Will you step in here and simply take over for them or will you tell them what to do? Will you micromanage to ensure that no breakdown occurs but also precludes the possibility of a breakthrough or will you courageously stand for your team members to create their own solutions and support them in navigating the breakdowns as they occur even if it means an impact on your timeline or the direction you have stepped?
If you, as a leader, are unwilling to allow for breakdowns to happen, you will be unable to create anything beyond what is already known. That would be like someone who walked their whole life and sets this goal, “I want to get from here to over there in 30 minutes,” and walking is simply not possible. It turns out, “They are going to have to learn.” Let’s say that the solution is it’s outside of their paradigm. It’s like, “Ride a bike.” You then as a leader say, “I want you to do this but don’t look at it. We can’t have any breakdowns.” That would be keen to a leader, expecting someone to magically get on the bike and make it there the first time without falling. That’s inhumane, foolish, foolhardy. You must be willing to allow for the breakdowns to happen so that the breakthrough can occur on the other side. That breakdown tests not only the metal of your team members but also your own leadership. What most people do while all of this but certainly, when it comes to action is they take action to avoid the feared breakdown rather than to create the breakthrough. This would be a little bit like having a hockey team where the breakdown is losing and what they want to do is win. Imagine you have one team whose commitment is to play so is to never lose and another team whose commitment is to play to win.
That first team, the way they are playing their actual commitment, is about avoiding the breakdown. They don’t want to have that breakdown of losing happen because of, “How are we going to win if we are losing?” Whereas the other team is willing to lose in service of winning. That’s a greater commitment. At the end of the game, there’s a point where the team committed to winning will pull their goalie to put an extra man on the ice. The team that’s playing never to lose would never do that because that’s crazy. The goalie is what stops you from losing. They block the puck. That team will never lose but they will also not win very many games relative to the other team. In all of this, the breakdown is something we have to be willing to have happened and service of the greater commitment. That’s what committed action affords us. Committed action moves us towards the breakthrough even if it generates breakdowns.
The default action or merely being an action tends to be in service of resisting the breakdown. Your structure to some extent will need to support this. That’s why you have this structure in place. We check-in, find out and look. You, as a leader, need to have your eyes open. “Are we moving towards the breakthrough or is this more of us moving back towards the existing paradigm? Is this more of us avoiding the breakdown that I, as a leader and they, as people under my leadership are frightened of? Am I willing to stand for the breakthrough even knowing it’s scary?” You can think of this whole process a little bit like you would be erecting a new building up until this point.
We have identified and cleared out the existing rubble. We’ve gotten clear on how we created that rubble in the first place and ensured that it is no longer present. We’ve gotten clear on the building. We want to erect to move drawn it plans to support, enrolled people in this being here and set up the scaffolding. At this stage, we begin the act of building. The hasty leader at this point wants to see their building constructed moments after the ground has been broken but the transformative leader recognizes that before we start to see anything rise out of the ground. A significant portion of our time is spent deepening the hole, building a foundation and ensuring that we are on a solid foundation.
Is this action in service of creating the breakthrough? You can check in on this stuff like, “Are we moving towards that?” That’s part of the beauty of a project design. It’s that you might set up like, “This is when we want to be finished. Here are our milestones. At month one, we should be here.” Come month one then, given your structure, you check-in, “How are we doing?” If it’s way off, “Maybe we need to adjust our plan, our expectations, revise our goal or what we are shooting towards?” The structure supports you having that conversation. That’s what it’s there for. Committed action in service of that possibility.
That’s everything that we’ve got for you for this episode. The next episode will be the last in our series on the Leadership Pipeline. We will be talking about part six, Addressing Breakdowns. That feedbacks into part one. All the steps are all important but I love part six. It’s crucial to this kind of work. If we can’t allow breakdowns to happen, then we can’t do very much. We don’t have much hope of creating a breakthrough, but if we just let them happen and walk away from them, then there’s never an opportunity to grow from them either. I hope you are enjoying this series. I would also love to hear from you. If there’s something you are getting from this, if you are finding this valuable, if you have feedback or questions about this, send me an email to PR@AdamQuiney.com. Let us know how it’s going. What about this landing with you, if anything? That is all we’ve got for you in this episode. Bye for now.
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.