Pam Fox Rollin (@PamFR) is an executive coach, facilitator, and strategist with extensive experience in senior team development, especially in healthcare and tech. She’s worked with many clients in the Fortune 100, fast-growth startups, consulting firms, and NGOs. She was a Guest Fellow and Master Coach at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and has lectured in business schools and boardrooms around the world. She’s the author of 42 Rules for Your New Leadership Role: The Manual They Didn’t Hand You.
In this conversation, we explore a lot of ideas that will help you show up more powerfully as a leader, and create an environment where people can come fully alive, and be decisive in chaotic, unknown spaces.
We also discuss how to know when you need to change your approach as a leader, a different definition of what leadership is, and among other things, how we should actually approach personality assessments like the Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram.
This conversation was a lot of fun to have and I hope it’s equally fun and thought-provoking for you to listen to.
Enjoy learning from Pam Fox Rollin how to be a decisive leader who helps people come alive.
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- Pam Fox Rollin – website / Twitter
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- Bob Dunham – Institute for Generative Leadership
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Andrew 00:01:22 Pam, welcome to the show. It’s so good to be with you today.
Pam 00:01:27 It’s really great to be with you, Andrew.
Andrew 00:01:29 All right. Well, I’m so excited, but you know, I was, I always like to start these conversations on, um, something a little bit farther, a field from our, our main, you know, our main topic of, of the things that are a little more close to the heart for you. And one of the things that really stood out to me about you as I was getting ready for this conversation is how much you love design. And I was wondering if you could tell me how that started for you and which designers in particular move you.
Pam 00:01:56 Wow. Um, you know, it’s not like there’s particular designers that move me because I like design in all sorts of fields. I like design in education. I like design obviously Oxo and kitchen to all this right. Who doesn’t love that handles. Right? Yeah. I like pens that slow easily. These are my very favorite. Um, it’s really simple. It’s a pilot G two Oh seven.
Andrew 00:02:31 This is literally what I have right here as well. If I got a blue one, now here’s this black.
Pam 00:02:37 Hello. Right. They’re so good. And it’s so funny because I’m not in general a picky person about details. And yet when I facilitate, I want to make sure I have the super sticky stickies, because if you’re doing a multi-day thing, you come in the next morning and all stickies are on the floor. Right. That’s not fun. Um, so yeah, that’s so interesting. I do care a lot about design Andrew.
Andrew 00:03:08 How do you think it influences you though? Right. Do you, I mean, do you, have you ever done any design work in terms of like a visual design? Obviously you do lots of systems thinking and sort of abstract design.
Pam 00:03:17 It’s more like experiential design. I think a lot about the experiences when I podcast did 10 years ago, what are they like way in the early wild West days? Um, what are, what will be the experience of the guest? What will be the experience for the listeners? I think about that as I facilitate strategy sessions, what are the experience of somebody who’s coming in, who maybe hate these sort of meetings and how do we set them at ease? So that we, my favorite comments are, I just wanted to let you know that I hate these meetings and I didn’t hate this one, or this was worth all the things I hate about. Um, so when leadership development, there’s often that moment when you’re doing something experiential where you can look at someone’s face and you just know they’re thinking, I don’t know how to do this.
Pam 00:04:22 I am scared that I’m going to be embarrassed. And if you have people standing in small circles, rather than people flanking them to the side who they wonder might be snickering at them, I rolling that sort of thing. I think a lot about how I have people sitting and together and then often standing and moving around and that sort of experience. And also how do we create opportunities in leadership development, but also in the days of actual leaders so that they can reflect so that they can kind of go to the balcony so that they’re not just caught up in the drift of the day. And they’re running from the frustration of their nine o’clock meeting to the annoyance of their 10 o’clock meeting to the 11 o’clock meeting they were looking forward to, but they came in annoyed and pissed off already. And the people are like, why does he hate our team when that’s not the case? So how do we design moments in the day where you pause, you breathe, you set yourself in like, wow, why was I intending to accomplish with these people? Right. And to me, that’s designed to
Andrew 00:05:41 Riffing on the design thing. There’s a book you recommended to me the last time we talked that I got, but I have not actually had a chance to read yet. I’m excited to, uh, and it’s called the timeless way of building. And I was hoping you could, uh, you could tell me a little bit about that and, and what was so impactful about for you.
Pam 00:05:58 Absolutely. So one of the things you’ve probably noticed if you’ve picked it up is that it is not designed like many modern books are because this was written some years ago by an architecture professor at Berkeley and theoretically it’s about building. And if you substitute the word building for leadership or teams, the whole bullet still makes sense, except for the bit of about the design of windows,
Andrew 00:06:31 We’ll get rid of the windows, but the rest,
Pam 00:06:33 It’s a really, it’s a big book in that. It makes really big claims and it is not possible to make a great buildings for great towns, beautiful places where you feel yourself, places where you feel alive, except by following this way, it is the process through which the order of a building or town grows directly out of the inner nature of the people, animals and plants in it. It’s a process which allows the life inside a person to flourish openly in freedom.
Andrew 00:07:15 That’s beautiful.
Pam 00:07:16 Isn’t that amazing? The whole book is like
Andrew 00:07:19 You were saying that in my mind, I was swapping in the word team and I was just like, Whoa, this might be my new handbook.
Pam 00:07:27 Yes. And he has a followup book, which has been, my husband tells me, cause he’s a software guy. He tells me has been very influential in object oriented programming. And the, his second book, this architect’s second book is a pattern language. And it talks about what are the patterns that enable us to build great buildings and towns and all of that. And you can port that over easily to object or to do programming because it’s about patterns that you can combine in different ways. That make sense. Right. And we haven’t been thinking that way in leadership. First of all, it requires thinking that it’s actually matters that people come alive in organizations. And for some people that’s a fresh way of thinking about it. Like why does it actually matter? Aren’t they supposed to just do the stuff?
Andrew 00:08:19 Yeah. Are they just supposed to do their jobs, Pam? Like, what do you mean? What does this allow?
Pam 00:08:26 And yet if you ask people, even people hold those views, are there some people on teams you’ve had who do the same jobs as other people, but they bring something to it that is more brilliant, more creative, more inspired, more dedicated. They do it within the same footprint. There’s no extra resources there’s, they don’t work longer than anybody else. But because of what they bring to those tasks, you have a different result and everybody can think of somebody.
Andrew 00:08:59 Yeah. I was just thinking about one of the guys I work with really closely who always brings like, he’s that person that I know when things are going terribly is going to make it, he’s going to pull people together and, you know, get a telephony joke or do that, whatever, to get somebody through a rough day. Um, which I think is so invaluable.
Pam 00:09:20 In fact, you know, if you and I write together the bucket pattern because of leadership, which, you know, sort of just came to me, um, we could have, you know, humor as a way to just show up with humanity and inject some playfulness. Playfulness is one of the things he talks about here. If we’re not, he says a good environment brings us back to ourselves and it doesn’t set us up for internal contradictions. And that part, let me see if I can find a quote about that because it was so when you’re in the space where there’s nothing to keep nothing to lose, you can do exactly what makes sense. There’s no hidden fears, no undercurrent of constraint, no subtle fear of other people’s ridicule. I mean, imagine what people at work could accomplish.
Andrew 00:10:14 Wow, wow. That, that really takes the whole idea of like the circle of safety in a, in a work environment to a whole, like, to a whole other level. Uh, the idea that it’s funny, you said the word playfulness, that’s something I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people about lately about, you know, it’s like, there’s this, I don’t know if you’re, if you’re having, if you’re seeing this in the conversations you have, but I’m sensing this, this desire, this craving for a little bit of levity, a little bit of lightness, right? Cause it’s like everything. We, I dunno in the world of leadership, so many things can just get so damn serious all the time. And it’s like, it doesn’t have to be like, I don’t know,
Pam 00:10:50 Play is how we learn to create. And somewhere along when we’re four or five or six, we hear that actually doing things the way other people tell us to do things is how to create something that people will appreciate. One to tie it back to the book. One of the things he talks about is there didn’t use to be building codes and building experts and people who were trained in specialized builders and yet amazing buildings got built. That’s so cool. And we got the idea somewhere when we were kids that other people knew what was valuable about algebra and how to learn it from a to Z. And I guess that’s okay in a world where there’s defined problems and we match them with defined solutions. But if we want to go beyond that, I think play would be a useful thing to invite in the room.
Andrew 00:11:45 It really reminds me, as you were talking about the, uh, like there didn’t used to be these, you know, architects and people with fancy, fancy certifications, whatever we just made stuff. And, um, I was thinking about like, man, how, how do we, it seems almost inevitable for most people that we lose that sense of play somewhere along the way. For, for most people, it seems like it gets maybe it’s school and the way that’s done, but it kind of gets drilled out of us at some point. Um, but I feel like it is possible to regain. And it reminded me of that Steve jobs quote, I think the quote is something like life is so much broader once you discover that everything around you is made by people no smarter than you. So you can change it. Like you can, you can go do the same thing once you figure that out. And you’re like, Oh wait, this is available to me as well.
Pam 00:12:32 Totally. I love that.
Andrew 00:12:34 Do you see that in your, in some of your work, like, do you, what do you see in terms of that, that sense of playfulness? Like D do you see that being actually something that, um, helps leaders to really elevate their game, so to speak and, and if so, like how do you get people through that process? Cause it seems like it’s such a personalized nuance thing. Like if someone’s lost that sense of play, how do they get it back? Especially at work.
Pam 00:12:54 Yeah. Some of the leaders I work with really have that, and I often find that they’ve kept it alive through some sort of interest of their, so maybe they make fancy skateboards just as a hobby or maybe they’re a musician. Um, maybe, you know, whatever it is, they do art, something they’re in touch with that. And often they know that they can bring a little bit of that, a little bit of that, and they can probably bring more of that and invite other people to bring more of that. And what we know from no, you’re a name Edmonson fan, you know what we know from Amy’s work and the shoulder she stands on is that when people can bring themselves with their various interests in peculiarities and histories and all of that, and be known in an organization, not have to hide pieces of themselves, then they’re also available to create
Andrew 00:13:55 I’m even more excited to read this book now, like I’m even more excited than I was when you first told me about it, which was pretty damn excited. And because of that quote, you said, there’s something I’m not going to get this exactly. Right. But this idea that this, these, these environments can be places that bring us back to ourselves. And I think that is so core to everything we’re talking about here and this whole conversation we’re going to have. And I’m just so curious if like what you’re seeing about, how do we actually do this because I feel the need for this deeply from the people I talked to on the show, but also in my own like work life. And then my friends, you know, this is something that I, I just see the world basically begging for is people are like, they, you know, we go spend so much of our lives in this place called work. And it’s like, man, I feel like it’s, I’m not me anymore when I’m there.
Pam 00:14:44 Right. Right. And then, you know, steady after steady, whether it’s that project at Google or whether it’s, you know, I’ve been tracking these things for a long time, helped refresh the class at Stanford business school some years ago on leading diverse organizations and did another deep dive on the research. And it’s all there that when people say I can be myself, I can be known other people see me as a human and not a widget. It’s okay if I’m gay or I’m black or I’m shorter, or I’m taller, I went to an Ivy league or I didn’t go to a live league, all that diversity stuff that sounds relevant to some people and not others. It’s relevant to all of us because diversity, isn’t a thing that some people have. And some people don’t, it’s a relationship it’s right between you and me. We’re diverse. And we have diversity in some ways. And I know it can sound farfield to people. Wait, why are they suddenly talking about diversity? We were talking about creativity and lead.
Andrew 00:15:47 What, what is this madness?
Pam 00:15:53 And there’s no question that when we have diversity and we’re free to bring that, it’s really the inclusion part. When we’re free to bring that in the equity part, that we all get to be heard and speak that we actually can create because we have different perspectives. We have different histories, we have different cultures. We grew up, we have different degrees. We have different ways of seeing the world. And if there’s two of us exactly alike in that, we don’t need both of us to create.
Andrew 00:16:27 I think the reason I actually, I don’t know this, but I’m, I’m wildly speculating. And what I’m about to say, just to be clear about that for everybody. So I speculate that a lot of the reason that things are the way they are in sort of mainstream leadership, so to speak, right, are the ideas that most people think are what good leadership is and looks like and how you show up and do it. And all of that, I think it might come down to one main thing, which is a bad definition of what leadership is. And I really like yours. And I was hoping we could explore that a little bit. Could you share that with us? And let’s just see where that takes us.
Pam 00:17:01 Awesome. I used to have sort of a Rolodex of definitions that I like. The one that I have come to that I most like is from Bob Dunham, at the Institute for generative leadership in Colorado. And he’s been a great mentor of mine. And he says, leadership is building a shared future. That takes care of what people care about.
Andrew 00:17:24 Hmm. I love that when you stand there or when you get leaders to shift and start to look from there, what shifts, what changes for people?
Pam 00:17:34 One is they have to pay attention to what they and other people care about that no longer becomes the relevant, but no longer be
Andrew 00:17:42 Wait, I have to care.
Pam 00:17:46 All we’re doing is producing this widget to go out door or this next rev of the software. Why do we have to care about it? So that can be an act of something it’s an active producing something, but it’s not an active leadership. It’s also it’s about the future. If you want everything to stay the same, I was interviewed maybe about seven years ago to be on a nonprofit board. And I said, what changes do you foresee in the organization? What do you want to accomplish in the future that you’re not accomplishing now that she would want me to be a part of as a new board member and this executive director and board chair looked in horror and they said, we don’t want anything to change. We’re really good the way that we are now. And this was a youth science organization, meanwhile, you know, everything is going crazy in online education and understanding of how to engage youth in science, methodologies, and citizen science and distributed sites. And they don’t want anything to change.
Andrew 00:18:51 So think about this picture is broken.
Pam 00:18:53 Okay, great. Well thank you for the words. Yeah. So no future, no leadership, no care, no leadership, no building something. So it’s gotta figure out how do you coordinate a group of people to build something?
Andrew 00:19:13 You know, if you go to the idea of building something, one of the scariest things is declaring a future, right? It’s sort of using the power of language to put something out there in the future and say, I’m standing for this. And I was going to ask you a minute ago, like what the, maybe this is a great place to expand on it. But you know, I know Bob Dunham was a huge influence on you and the Institute for regenerative leadership. But I was hoping you could explain a little bit about the impact they’ve had on you, what generative leadership even is. Uh, most people are not going to be familiar with that term. And how did that, how does that play into the declaring and creating future?
Pam 00:19:46 Sure. So if you take generate as just a phrase is a word, um, one of the things that I love is the saying in this tradition is that dictionaries have words, but in language, when we have a word, we create a world. And so one way to experiment with that is to say like Taylor Swift, what comes up for you? When somebody says, Taylor’s her first, this one comes up for your roommate when somebody says Taylor, so I have to write something different or somebody says agile methodology and one person lights up and the other person groans.
Pam 00:20:25 So we can never assume that what’s important is the words what’s important is the whole images, the whole network of, you know, the world that shows up in somebody’s head. And so we lead in language. We notice that what matters is the language that it brings up for that person, the, the context, the reality, it brings up for that person, not what we said. And the generate part for me is reminding us that at any moment, there’s choice and why do we lead? Why do we bother doing this stuff in teams instead of just making our own pilot pen? And I’m sure you face this as a product designer, like if one person could do it, that would be in a way easier, but I don’t know anybody who is patent lawyer and a material science engineer and a marketer and knows distribution Taz, right. There was that somebody wrote a whole book about making a toaster.
Andrew 00:21:33 I’m just going to ask you about the tester. Anyone who’s not familiar. What’s the toaster story.
Pam 00:21:42 So much work to make a toaster from scratch. I mean, it’s incredible. You would need to be to mine or things, things together in the person got it working for like three seconds. And then after a year making it to store, I may have the details wrong, but, um, you can read them
Andrew 00:22:04 Like $12,000 on making this toaster and it lasted for six seconds and blew up in his garage or something. So I think I’m scared like that.
Pam 00:22:11 So for most futures, we have to have teams. So when we talk about generative leadership, it’s not about a solo act of dammit. I want a pen. It’s about finding a group of other people who want to be on this journey with you to create the pen, because either they want the pen or they want the experience of working with you, or they want the money that you’re going to pay, whatever it is that they care about, you are going to need to have a team with you and get rid of leadership. Came out of a well known well-respected coaching school called new field, which itself came out of a lot of different streams of work on ontology, Fernando Flores, Searle, a whole, whole bunches of thinkers. You know, people stand on shoulders of, um, but where Bob Dunham has taken it as to be thinking very, very deeply for 20 years after he was a VP at Motorola to think about what does it actually take to create with other people?
Pam 00:23:14 And why do we need to know to do that? But much more importantly, who do we become to make that more likely? And so I’ll give you a little, very practical example. Do we become need to become somebody who actually is capable of listening to other people now? Okay. So my mind keeps going to meat, packing plants. I don’t know why, but they’re in the news right now, right there all COVID problems with the meatpacking to add another framework are familiar with David’s students, complexity framework. Nope. Never heard of it. Okay. I’m going to really quickly share it with you. So what it basically says is you can sort kind of the environment in which you’re making decisions into four different environments. The first one is what’s called simple or known. And that’s when we know exactly what to do for this sort of a problem. You want a pen that goes like this. We know what spring you put in it. That is very well understood. It will probably be taken over by robots. It’s so well understood. Even if it can’t be taken over by robots, for some reason, you just train somebody to do it. And so I’m thinking of the people shoulder to shoulder, getting COVID in the meat packing plants. I’ll get there. Believe me, I will take this.
Speaker 2 00:24:32 Okay.
Pam 00:24:33 My mind is going. So the second type of environment is what’s called a complicated or Noel bull environment. So I don’t know how to answer this right now, but I know the tools that will help me answer it. So let’s say in the meat packing plant parts of the conveyor belt line are sticking, and you’re a frontline supervisor at the meat packing plant. You don’t know how to fix that, but you actually know how to talk to the mechanical engineer to say, there is a problem at this thing. And the mechanical engineer says, Oh, that’s a problem that I know off. And they fix it. Many of us learned in the known and simple environment, our grandmas knew how to make spice cake. And they taught us, our teachers knew how to teach algebra. And they taught us, we worked at the ice cream store and college, and they showed us how to use the cash register.
Pam 00:25:38 Right. Simple note. And we thought that that kind of was leadership. Like the boss was 23, I’m 20. So obviously that’s like that’s leadership. That’s one context. Then the next context of the complicated or knowable, that’s what we went to school for. We went to school to get the degree, to say, if this thing happens, here’s what you do. And so supervisor at meatpacking plant may not have gone to college. Did I don’t know, but they know, Oh, this is beyond what I know how to do. But there’s a mechanical engineer who can try a number of different things that this person was trained how to do and figure it out. Great. A lot of us are used to leading in that kind of complicated or knowable world where once we get a handle on the problem, we know what tool to grab and solution to apply.
Pam 00:26:33 However, any time we find ourselves in that VUCA environment, right? Von tall and certain. And let’s just say, we’re all in this. I don’t know when this is going to air, but I’m pretty sure the world is not going to be out of the covert crisis by the time this airs probably not. So supply chains are broken. Distribution chains are broken. Some of the people are broken and out. Um, the way we did things before. So if the meat packing plants need to reset to provide safety, six feet of distance, they’re going to need to do more than solve a known problem. They’re going to need to deal with what in this model is called a complex issue, which means we don’t know which tool we apply to solve it. And we’re not actually sure that it’s a problem to be solved. It’s more something that we create.
Pam 00:27:40 We sense we monitor, we adjust and the leadership skills you need in that environment are very different than let’s go call a mechanical engineer and you go back to your shift. We need people who can say, who do we get in the room? And what’s the right conversation that we want to have. So it really is a design conversation to go back to where we were in conversation. And for those, what does it mean to be prepared to lead a design conversation? It means, you know, what’s important, right? You know where the future is. He know what people care about and you’re totally open solution might look like, right? And that you can facilitate a conversation with people to figure out which responses they may not even be solutions, but which responses to try out would be most likely when you’re in this space of complex, you’re dealing with probabilities.
Pam 00:28:49 You’re not dealing with certainties, bandy and leaders are not prepared at all for this. And that’s what I see a lot of right now, not from, you know, I’m fortunate to work with some really, really, really fabulous leaders, but that skill or that perspective, isn’t evenly distributed in their organizations. So sometimes I have to say to them, you get this, you get that. It’s about pulling people in the room, having the conversation, but other people are still thinking it’s about go find the person who can fix the conveyor belt, right. Totally different sort of environment to lead. And then the fourth part of the model is chaotic. It is when we don’t even know which direction is forward when you don’t. And to some extent, we’ve seen some of that show up in this, in this crisis, I think most are probably in that complicated sphere. And that’s enough of a step for leader. And coming back to your question about generative leadership to me, that body of work, and it’s an evolving body, there are so many people contributing to it. That body of work speaks to everything you need to do in that third space of complex problems that we’re not, we don’t pop out of grad school, trained to know how to do
Andrew 00:30:14 So many amazing things inside that, that I want to unpack for a little bit. Like, first of all, I don’t, let me, let me make sure I’m tracking with you on the model. So it’s sort of in the beginning, we have the known knowns, right. It’s deeply understood. Then we move from the known knowns to sort of the unknown unknowns in the complicated, the world of the complicated. And then we make a jump out of things. No. Okay. So
Pam 00:30:34 Yes, yes. There is that model of the known knowns and the unknowns in that.
Andrew 00:30:39 Yeah. Well, we’re not doing a Rumsfeld model.
Pam 00:30:41 Yeah. It’s close. Um, you might want to stick with this part of the, the, the known the Noel bowl that complex could, because if you start with the other model, it doesn’t always get you to the same place.
Andrew 00:31:03 Okay. Got it. So we go from the, the known and the deeply known to the knowable to the complex, to the chaotic. Yes. Okay. Got it. That’s interesting. And it seems like the real pivot point there, the real leap that we’ve got to make is from sort of that second to third bucket from the complicated, the complicated to the complex. And so I’m just curious to make sure I’m understanding, understanding you right. The way I’ve understood the difference between complicated and complex is that it boils down ultimately to predictability as in some that you can have something that’s insanely complicated, like, um, the engine in my car, which is right. It’s a super complicated thing with like 15,000 parts, but it’s super predictable. We know we know what happens. It’s, you know, we understand exactly how that works. It’s knowable, but in a complex environment, suddenly we don’t, we no longer understand the cause and effect relationships. We can’t predict what’s going to happen. Is that fair? Or is that where, where does that not, where does that go sideways?
Pam 00:32:01 I would add something on the, on the knowable or complicated part that kind of second one that we may not know, like pieces that it thinks in the engine. We know, however, if you want to design a hybrid to run on a different sort of fuel than things have run before or a battery that requires different sorts of things. It isn’t not that anybody knows it. However, for most of those things, we have the existing tools to be able to know it. And one thing to notice is that as the tools become better, AI are all sorts of tools that people have at their disposal. More and more people are capable of handling complicated problems that used to only be able to solve simple problems in a way, the downside of that is many people in leadership roles think that they can handle complexity when really what they can handle is matching people who know how to use tools to solve defined problems. And there’s a big difference between the leadership skills to do that. And the leadership skills to say, we have to reinvent our supply chain. What are we going to do?
Andrew 00:33:36 So I think there’s two things I want. Cause I want to bring this, bring this down and kind of ground this and make this very actionable or as actionable as we can for people. Cause I imagine some people listening to this are probably in this transition point where we’re. And so the first question is how does a leader know they’re at this breaking point where their model is breaking and they’re making, they’re actually at the leap from complicated to complex. So that’s question one. And then the second is what do they do about it?
Pam 00:34:00 Yeah. So I think a handy test is if I were to pull together and I’m making this up on the spot, I’m just thinking it through together with you and come back with, if you see it in a different way, Andrew, for sure
Andrew 00:34:14 This is the fun part, right? It’s a, it’s it works for in this together.
Pam 00:34:17 Yeah. If you could pull your five, you know, your five best people cross-functionally across the organization and, and send them emails or give them instructions and say, go use your tools and solve this part of the problem. It’s probably in the knowable space, but if they would come back and say, God, I don’t know how to do that. Could we talk some more? Could we get together in a room that has a whiteboard or could we use whatever Miro, whatever people are using now there’s a whiteboard, you know what? We’re going to really need to think this through. And I can’t think of actually anybody who I can call, who could put together an answer on this. In fact, I’m not even exactly sure what you would mean by a good answer on that. That’s the space when somebody is leading in that complex space and the approaches from generative leadership include, how do you pull people together? How do you invite people to come together? How do you put them in touch with what they care about? So they’re those alive people instead of the dead people.
Andrew 00:35:33 Yeah. I think we, I think we need all cylinders for this, for this kind of work. We need everyone fully showing.
Pam 00:35:38 Totally. So that you’re speaking to and truthfully to what they care about, how do you show up? And this is where the people go, Oh, wait, I have to share.
Andrew 00:35:50 Yeah, this is the tricky bit.
Pam 00:35:53 And it’s not that you have to change. You have to find in yourself the part that has clarity. And they’re like, if I had clarity, I wouldn’t have to pull these people in the room. What do you have? Clarity? You have clarity that the world needs your ventilator. Or if you’re in the meatpacking world, I guess the world needs a way to, to deal with these hogs that if they do not get slaughtered, I’m going to get slaughtered anyway, because there is no place to put them. So you have to come up with some way of doing this in protecting worker health. So how do you show up? What do you bring out in yourself? Do you show up with curiosity? Do you show up with commitment? Do you show up with an ability to listen to this person, listen to that person and integrate what they’re saying or highlight the differences. I’m guessing you’ve had some of these meetings, Andrew, where these are the things you have to show up.
Andrew 00:36:56 This is, this is the, in my experience, maybe the hardest part of doing this thing because it’s not the calling people into the room. It’s not the inviting. I mean, well, it depends who you are, but in my experience has been, I haven’t had any issue personally, inviting and asking for help. Like, I, I know what I’m outgunned and I want help. And I’m like, cool, let’s get everybody in here. Let’s do this thing somehow. Um, the, the hard part I think is, is, uh, to use the fancy word here, the ontological bit, right? It’s it’s, you know, that for anyone who’s not familiar with that term, that’s kind of a fancy way of saying, who are you being or more simply, how are you showing up? Um, how are you kind of constituting yourself in an environment? And that’s what I find to be the hard part, both managing my own way of showing up, but also cultivating a conversation for others to consider that question that I find to be the, the challenge.
Pam 00:37:52 Yes. And I think that is the challenge of the complex quadrant. And yet here’s a bunch of people in leadership roles who haven’t been Bose to, some of the beautiful stuff that we’ve experienced and had the chance to play with and work with and are still students. And I know that’s true for me. And I, I hear in you this curiosity as a lifelong student, so having the courage to say, I want to make something happen here, and I don’t know how to do it. And I am willing to show up with energy with full presence, with commitment, with listening, with curiosity, with an open mind, that is what we’re helping people get in the experience of. And before this crisis, I think some of them weren’t exactly sure that they had to do it because they’ve been so successful up to this point, farming out the work and telling this person to do that thing and this person to do that thing. And then making a decision based on what the spreadsheet says. And this is a whole new level of complexity. And that invite us to be, to show up in a really different way. So read the graph has been writing for about 20 years, undiscovered room planning. And it’s this idea that we don’t actually know when we get together for whether it’s a quarterly strategy offsite or to do a five year strategic, whatever, which now it seems like a very fair time period.
Pam 00:39:36 We don’t actually know. And that we come out with a decision based on what we thought the world was going to look like. And then we ask people to pretend that the world is going to look like that and do the things in the report. And wouldn’t it be a better way to document the assumptions we’re making and check with the real world and see if those are playing out sounds really logical. And that would mean having a discipline of a rhythm of communications where every three months or six months, maybe less. So now maybe it’s every week or two, you say these assumptions that we had is the world playing out that way. And if the world is playing out differently, does that take us over to a different strategy? So when you’re playing in this discovery driven planning world, you have to have a humility that you, you’re not leading from an authority of.
Pam 00:40:44 I told you to do this because it’s the smartest thing you’re saying when we got together and sensed and poked the world and figured out some probabilities and figured out what we thought would be the best way to go and decided that we’re going to implement in this way. We know that actually the world might go a different way or the world might respond differently than we expect to our products are what we do. So we’re going to come back together on a cadence and do it, which requires again, a set of leadership competencies that not everybody builds on their way through. I was working with a startup founder who has built a very successful startup. It was 26 years old at the, and he was, um, working with me on implementing, OK, ours. That’s their first kinda set of objectives and key results to keep the company aligned. And there’s a lot of fabulous things about OKR, but to me, they’re excuses for really good conversations that your organization should be having about what are we going to do? What are we not going to do? How are we going to lie? And what do I need from you? You’re nodding. So I’m guessing you have some familiarity.
Andrew 00:42:03 No, I, I I’m very, very familiar with, with OKR is, um, one of the early guests on the show was Christina Woodkey, uh, who also teaches at Stanford. And I got that. Yeah. Radical focus is her is her book, which I still think is the best one out there on OKR. Um, so yeah, I love what, you’re the point you’re making, because it’s like the, I think probably you’re right. The best thing about, okay. Ours is the conversations that it forces and the ways of thinking that, that, that those conversations in gender.
Pam 00:42:31 Yeah. So if we all do, if you do this and you across function, do this and you across, does that actually add up to the big thing that we said referred to?
Andrew 00:42:42 Yeah. Or if we promised everyone everything and we’re not actually going to accomplish anything.
Pam 00:42:46 So you know, this fellow in his lovely 26 year old wisdom, I’m very, very bright, but he said, why do we have to get together and talk about this at all? People can just put this in the spreadsheet. They can put their stuff in the spreadsheet. Okay. Don’t spew
Andrew 00:43:05 Just for the listener. As she said that I was having a sip of wine, I almost sprayed it all over the computer screen. I was laughing so hard. All right. Anyways, back to you, Pam,
Pam 00:43:17 He really needed some selling on the value of getting the team together and having it as conversations rather than comments in the spreadsheet, which gets to part of the point about leadership and that funny word, ontology, and really being like, how do you show up as a leader? Do you show up as somebody who stands for your commitments? I think, do people believe it? I was on the phone earlier with a client and a company and she says like, yeah, I want that deep. He talks, I believe it’s 70%. Okay. So what would he need to do to think, to be, to show up, to bring in his body leadership is a performance art, whether you’re on the phone or an email or standing there. And we’ve all had leaders who thinks come out of their mouth and we just put a discount factor. As soon as it comes out, we’re like, okay, that’s 25% likely to happen. That’s 80% unlike. Um, and so how do you be somebody that when somebody says something, they go, ah, I’m seeing commitment. I’m seeing this person is determined. I’m seeing that inviting me to something important that they’re committed to seeing through.
Pam 00:44:38 So in this discovery driven planning world or OKR world where you’re having a cadence of conversations that say, what is the future we are going to create. And I think, okay, ours are wonderful vehicle for generative leadership. They don’t always go together well. But to me, a generative leadership perspective addresses the part that OKR can kind of miss, which is, it’s not about the spreadsheet. It’s about what are we committed to? And are we aligned in that? And what are we going to go make happen
Andrew 00:45:10 And making the hard choices about what we’re not going to do
Pam 00:45:14 100%. And then how do we have the conversations of, we had a breakdown. The world did not happen as we thought it went, the world did not like our stuff the way we were sure that we built the wrong thing, but you didn’t build your part of fine. Right? So then how does somebody show up in the room that makes those conversations useful instead of shaming and blaming, what does that person need to believe about themselves and the world and how things work to be able to say, wow, shit happened here. We need to talk about it and doing it in a way that leaves people energized instead of drained. And that goes along with this stream of work with Snowden who came up with that framework and Bob Dunham and many others that seems poorly understood. And in kind of the practitioners of leadership, which is sometimes you don’t wait to know to act, but you act to know more about that when you’re on the complex and the chaotic side of things.
Pam 00:46:31 If you wait to act until, you know, it’s going to run you over and we see this with COVID right, I’m really glad I’m in the Bay area, our health people, they didn’t know. Yeah. They jumped early though. They’re like, we’re going to do this thing. It seems reasonable, but there’s five other reasonable things we can do. And so we’re going to shut things down. We’re going to put in these restrictions, we’re going to do all this stuff. And we’re going to learn as fast as we can from this. And we’re going to learn from people who didn’t do it. We’re going to run experiments. We’re going to run pilots. We’re going to see what’s working and what’s not working. And in a world that is changing very fast, whether you’re in a startup in normal times, or you’re anybody in these times, having act to know as part of what you’re comfortable doing as a leader is just essential
Andrew 00:47:21 Hundred percent. So I want to actually get a little bit more concrete is the thing that you said there. So you talked about there, there’s sort of, you asked the question of what is that person, that leader who’s going to bring these people together for this conversation and facilitate this conversation. What do they need to believe? What skills do they need to have? So you’re one of the people who’s out there helping leaders grow in these ways and make these transitions, you know, in reality, in their actual jobs and such what, how would you answer those questions? What do they need to believe? What do they, what skills do they need?
Pam 00:47:51 So I’ll give you a few sort of, um, greatest hits rather than an overarching framework. But a few of the things we wound up talking about a lot, one is to believe that there’s a whole world out there and they see only a little bit of it. And so to bring curiosity, to bring humility, to bring the capability, to ask people, you said, Oh, I’ll go ask people. Not everybody is comfortable with that. And especially I see it in medical and other areas where many people came up through the PhD track once worked with a team. God, I love them. They’re such, they’re total sweethearts, but I called them the seven grumpy PhDs.
Pam 00:48:39 There is a brain trust of a FinTech company. And as one guy said, who had been a professor of physics, he said nothing in my background is that for prepared me to talk to people, it’s all about me being right. And me knowing more than anybody else and being able to prove it. And yet we’re in these problems that are so complex that he can’t know everything. And they were so stressed about and how to learn, to talk to each other, to make it through. So one is just bringing that willingness to not know another is to bring a certain sort of spaciousness about breakdowns. Breakdowns will happen all the time. And when you’re making bigger promises, you’re going to have bigger breakdowns. You can easily not have breakdowns if you’re not doing anything interesting. The worst thing that would happen is, I don’t know, Netflix goes out.
Andrew 00:49:33 That’s a big deal right now. Pam chords, Netflix going out for a big deal for me,
Pam 00:49:47 It’s possible.
Andrew 00:49:48 You’re telling me Amazon prime video going down too.
Pam 00:49:51 Oh my God. Oh my God. Yeah, totally.
Andrew 00:49:57 I’m sorry. I took you off. Go ahead.
Pam 00:49:59 Okay. The healthcare system, or how do we do public transport safely? So these amazing frontline workers across fields don’t get sick or bring it home to their families as they’re trying to get to, and from working at the fire station, like how do we take care of those problems? And if you’re going to put your hat in the ring to take care of those problems, you’re going to have really big breakdowns. And so learning how to go, ah, the world worked out differently than we thought, didn’t it? Okay. Let’s update our assumptions. Let’s figure out together what might be a new experiment to run. What’s a new path forward. Instead of you screwed up, you’re gone, you screwed up. You know, I’m not listening to you.
Andrew 00:50:45 Let’s imagine someone listening to this is going okay, Pam, you sold me. I’m in what’s their next step. You know, let’s say maybe, maybe they don’t have access to working with somebody like you, but like what can someone do to go develop themselves this way to start to learn, you know, to make these changes in themselves, to show up as the kind of leader you’re describing here, if maybe they don’t have access to somebody like yourself,
Pam 00:51:04 The first thing I know, this is where you confirm to awareness, grits choice. So even to have some very simple models like this, you know, simple, complicated, complex, chaotic, what room am I or zoom room? Am I walking into today? Like, what’s the situation here? Am I using the right tools for that situation to be aware of their impact on the room? So like, if they imagine the room without them, and then they walk in, what did they add to that? Or they click on, what did they add to that? Did they add fear? Did they add curiosity? Did they add a love of good data? Did they add capacity? Compassionate? What did they add? Right. And you don’t need to have an executive coach to ask other people find a few allies. This is how I developed when I was at Accenture is a couple of us grabbed each other and said, we’re going to be our feedback partners.
Pam 00:52:08 Cause at one point there was like a three 60 thing and it stopped at the partners and we’re like, wait a second. We need it to right. So several of us just had to give, we would be each other’s allies in our growth and we would give each other feedback. And I know you’re working on this and here’s what I saw. So there’s a lot you can do with awareness when it comes to learning other ways, there are some books, there are some things that you can do there. Sadly, a lot of the learning isn’t, it’s not the difference between knowing something and knowing how to do something
Andrew 00:52:48 Was a miles apart.
Pam 00:52:49 I was like, have you ever tried a recipe? I don’t know. A lot of people in quarantine I think are trying a bunch of different recipes and discover that I followed the recipe and it did not seem to burn.
Andrew 00:53:03 There was no did not follow
Pam 00:53:04 No. And YouTube, it looked a lot better. Right? And it’s because that chef has in their body years of good methods, they know how to chop stuff. They know how to smell across the kitchen and say, well, it’s just that the right amount of doneness, that stuff that you can’t get from a book. And so if you can work with a coach or you can go to something like foundations program for Institute, for generative leadership and put a few days into it, or if you can work for somebody who is awesome and amazing and say, I, I see a new somebody who’s capable of doing X, Y, and Z. You know how to produce it. I’m here to do the work, but is it okay if I’m also here to study you and see how you do that? Because I want to learn,
Andrew 00:53:59 I’m remembering some of my own, I’m having flashbacks to some of my own early moments of, you know, I think as if anyone who’s interested in the journey of leadership as anyone who’s still listening to this conversation, undoubtedly is, um, is that, uh, you know, it it’s a lifelong apprenticeship, right? It’s never done. We’re always going to be learning this. We’re always going to be apprenticing to somebody else. Uh, and if I can, the one phrase that came immediately to mind as I was thinking about this, um, I don’t know who said it first, but I’ve heard it a few different times, which is never mistake a clear view for a short distance.
Pam 00:54:32 Ooh.
Andrew 00:54:34 That’s like a really old proverb from the, you know, from the West or something. Yeah. But the punchline is like, yeah, you can, you can see the picture clearly and you can read a book. You can, you know, go to a talk or a weekend, whatever. And that’s great, honestly, it is. Yeah. Let’s do a podcast, whatever. It’s great. Right? Cause you got to start with like, it’s like building a puzzle, right? You have to start with the picture on the box, but don’t confuse that with a short distance. It’s a, it’s a long road
Pam 00:55:00 And learning how to get it in your body. Just pausing to think that you’re already doing everything you need to do to get the results you’re getting. Like you have perfectly tone that says you are so practiced. And for some people they’re really practiced at subtly shaming. People who bring problems to their attention, they are so good at that. They know exactly how to produce that impact, even if they’re unaware of it. So it’s not only that you have to know what you want to do, but you have to give your voice and body and all of that, the chance to do it multiple, multiple times to get good at it.
Andrew 00:55:43 Yeah. Well, none of us are good at stuff the first time. And it’s all, it’s all a process. I want to start to close out here with a couple of rapid fire questions that they’re, they’re fairly short questions. Your answers don’t have to be. Um, but one thing that really just strikes me as I, as I’ve been listening to you is, um, you know, you’ve talked, you’ve mentioned several times, this idea that what leaders do is that leaders articulate a shared future and then engage others in creating that, right? Like there there’s someone who’s declaring a future that others can step into and commit to, to helping create. And anybody can do that. And you know, that such a big step of that is owning that, that vision that they’re putting out there, right. Owning that future they’re declaring. And, and it really, to me that one of the things you love about what you do is helping other people to see new possibilities. Yes. How did you tap into that for yourself? How did you find that that was your, your, your genius, your purpose, your, your, whatever you want to call it,
Pam 00:56:37 That’s really beautiful of you to notice. Um, yes, that’s super important to me. It is one of those things has been true with me for a long time, since I was a little kid and we say, wait a minute, this could be so much better. And I’d have all sorts of ideas for my teachers and community theater organization that we could do. And you could do more than you imagine you could do. And all of that. So for me, it’s been accessible. One of the joys in my work has been helping other people access that for themselves. And that’s something I absolutely love to do. Can I add something to the thing about leaders building a future, because I love that you added anyone can do that. And I absolutely believe it. My only worry about that statement is it sounds really grand.
Pam 00:57:43 I’m a frontline customer service employee can say, I really would like us to build a future where people are not confused by the structure of our videos or self-help videos on YouTube. I would like to create a future where customers can go to YouTube and immediately find the video that they need so they can ask the other people around them and they can ask their supervisor and they could ask other people in the company. What do you guys think of this? Would that be a valuable feature? Would people care about that? Would it matter? And then say, I’m going to make an offer. I will organize a small team of people to go make this happen. How does that sound? Right? It is not about having leader or manager or VP. God help us in the, in your title. It’s about seeing a future and getting other people engaged
Andrew 00:58:37 Hundred percent. What is a small change that you’ve made in recent memory? And that could be, you know, a week that could be three years, whatever, but what is a small change you’ve made in recent memory? That’s had an outsized impact on you or the way you show up or just your life, you know, something small that’s that really improve things.
Pam 00:58:56 There is a meditation, a little minute done meditation at various points and meditation retreats and you know, that kind of thing, but there’s a very small one. That’s really beautiful that a friend taught actually a team of us. And we now use it as our little team sometimes like at a retreat, not at every meeting, but if things are really hard, like early in this COVID thing, and we were all just sheltering in place, we were like, what if we do a little meditation together? And it’s just four lines and we’ve all gotten to just eat, brings up feelings of the team it brings. Um, it’s so peaceful. So just devoting a little bit of time when that would be useful. I did earlier today and just sat with that, that has made a difference.
Andrew 00:59:47 Think about this as assigning homework, right? If you could, what homework would you give a leader listening to this, to take action on these ideas? Like what’s the starting point. If you could just say, you know, do this one thing, this is your assignment. What would you, what would you tell them?
Pam 01:00:00 I see field work instead of homework. When we talk about words, bringing up world, usually the world that the word homework brings up for people is contraction meaninglessness, and I’m going to be graded and I could do it wrong. And if I use the word field work, they’re putting on their investigator coat, and they’re going to go try things out in the world. I would assign them to do a really quick check in with themselves. Like how does it feel to be you on the inside? Where your feet, where’s your back. If you’re in a chair, feel your buttons share, how are your shoulders? I find shoulders, tell a lot about how somebody is doing your jaw. Is it all tight from the last stressful meeting and take a moment to invite that, to relax a good way to do it is to take a few deep breaths. And usually I find that by five deep breaths, people are different, really different. And on the out breath, just invite those tightened up parts of you to let go and just say hello to yourself and the insight show up to your next meeting and see what’s different.
Andrew 01:01:25 So, um, my last sort of rapid fire question here, and this one is specific to you. Most of them are general ones, but this one’s specific for you. So I know you’ve done a lot of work with the Myers-Briggs as well as the, uh, the Enneagram, which are things that, um, I think many people are at least loosely familiar with. But what I’m especially curious about is, you know, if someone and we’ll link to all this in the show notes, if someone’s engaged with them material, most people I think have engaged with that on a more of a shallow level, or they’re like, Oh, I’m this type, this such and such, but how, how does should they actually look at using that as a real vehicle and a tool, uh, for, for their own development and for showing up the way in all the ways that we’re talking about in this conference?
Pam 01:02:03 Oh my gosh, thank you for that question in there, because I think most people use it backwards. So people say, Oh, come tell me what my type is or come tell my team. My type is too. We can treat each other, like the label on the box. And Oh, if I know that person really like, then I’ll do this. Or if I leave that person so backwards or in the business context, people I’ve had so many companies over the years say, I hear you do Myers-Briggs would you please do Myers Briggs with our Salesforce? And then we’ll correlate those results with the salespeople that are successful. And then we’ll only hire the people that have that Myers-Briggs type. They said. So one, all you will have proven is that you only know how to value and make the most of the people of that type.
Pam 01:02:56 And five years from now, all your sales managers will be a common type. And I can show you the reams of research on why you want a diverse team instead of a competent. So how about instead I work with your sales people so that they understand themselves and that they can distinguish between their shtick and stuff that is kind of right. Inappropriate to do, because once I know that for me, I prefer to do what in Myers-Briggs is called intuition, which is really like broad frameworks, gender, and 75% of the world has the other preference. They want the specifics of the pattern and the detail and the budgets and the step by step in order, then I can modify not very successfully in this podcast, but then I can modify how I communicate so that I can be successful in having a conversation with more people. I’m not going to ask them to treat me in a certain way or whatever I’m going to know when is my comfort zone useful and lovely. And when is it getting in my way,
Andrew 01:04:15 Super powerful that it goes going all the way back to awareness creates choice, which I think is like the perfect place to leave off. So Pam, um, first of all, thank you so much for being here and for sharing, sharing everything of your experience and your wisdom. Is there anything you’d like to leave the listener with and any requests you have for them
Pam 01:04:30 Engage with your life and work, go make the world a great place to be. See if you can be one of the many who are creating a world where everyone thrives. I mean, really there’s that if you want to connect with me, connect with me, there’ll be some stuff in the show notes. My website is idea shaped.com and then as a collaborative Altice growth, alt U S growth.com. Um, but I’d be glad to connect with you if you care about this stuff. Um, and mostly I want you to be well and help others be well. Perfect. Well, thank you so much.