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The Power of Vulnerability and Inquiry | A Conversation with Leadership Coach Adrian Koehler | The Leadership Student Podcast with MK Palmore

Episode Summary

Adrian shares his journey from nursing to coaching and discusses the importance of vulnerability in leadership.

Episode Notes

Guest: Adrian Koehler, Senior Partner, Take New Ground

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Host: MK Palmore, Host of The Leadership Student Podcast

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Episode Description

In this episode of the Leadership Student podcast, host MK Palmore is joined by leadership coach Adrian Koehler. Adrian shares his journey from nursing to coaching and discusses the importance of vulnerability in leadership. They explore the challenges of being a good listener and the role of character and integrity in effective leadership. Adrian also discusses the toughest rooms he has encountered and the importance of self-mastery in leadership. Don't miss this insightful conversation on leadership and personal growth.




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Episode Transcription

The Power of Vulnerability and Inquiry | A Conversation with Leadership Coach Adrian Koehler | The Leadership Student Podcast with MK Palmore

0:00:02 MK Palmore: Okay, folks, here we go. This is MK Paalmore. Welcome to this episode of the leadership student with MK Paalmore. Today in the virtual studio, I’m joined by Adrian Kaler, who’s a eminent leadership coach. Been in the industry for a number of years here and’had some great experiences. Adrian, welcome to the virtual stage.

0:00:22 Adrian Khoeler: So glad to be here. Thanks for having me, MK.

0:00:24 MK Palmore: Yeah, I appreciate you being here. Adrian, tell us a little bit, tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up in the leadership coaching space.

0:00:32 Adrian Khoeler: Sure. So I’ve been a coach and a trainer like this for about 13 years. Didn’t get here in a straight line. Usually when I tell people my story, they’re like, how many lives have you lived? Because I was like a medical student in college and I thought, o I’ll go be a doctor just because I didn’t know what else to think about. And my brain works around that stuff and I’m interested in it. But then I realized I don’t want to actually do that. I don’t want to go to medical school and spend the seven years and I’m just not that data driven, to be honest. I’m more hand to hand combat. I start with a person, not with the data set, for better or worse.

0:01:05 Adrian Khoeler: So with that, I ended up getting a nursing major out of college. I had a roommate who was, whose dad ran the ER and Gary, Indiana. So we saw a lot of action. I thought, oh, that’s cool. It’s not nurses and doing all the kind of girly stuff. Oh, you can be involved in like warfare types, stabs, shootings. That sounds cool. So I got a degree in nursing, moved to Chicago, grew up in Illinois, small town kid, 8000 people in my hometown.

0:01:28 Adrian Khoeler: Very myopic way of looking at the world. I knew I wanted to get to the city, so moved to Chicago, actually ended up working at a children’s hospital and I worked on every floor, which I dug. So tons of variety getting to work with. Also the opportunity with kids. Obviously it’s a heroic effort to save a kid’s life. A kid never deserved anything. If you’got some like 85 year old that’s got emphysema and they smoke for 70 years, welcome to the future that you planned.

0:01:53 Adrian Khoeler: But for a kid, they never deserve anything. So you ought to save a kid’s life and you get to work with a family, which is very complex and very interesting to me. Tons of chaos in some situations, a mom and a dad. Mom’s usually hysteric. Dad’s usually angry and shut down. And getting them to the conversation was always a glorious challenge for me. I loved it. I would always ask for the toughest families just because, I don’t know, as my grandfather would say, I’m glutting for punishment. But I also just liked that challenge of getting folks beyond their fears and concerns and getting them to deal with reality in a way that opens up the biggest possibility for them, which would become a theme for my life.

0:02:33 Adrian Khoeler: So did that for a while come from a faith background? Was service in a local faith community church setting in Chicago. Caught wind of a guy named Erwin McManus, who was somebody g. I was on a team in India serving and while I was there they gave us a CD. Remember those? Gave us a CD of one of his talks, like sermons or Ted Talkie type things. And he had the music. He was saying things about faith that I’d wish somebody had been saying my whole life because it was about risk and it was about really giving yourself to the world and being out there to redeem humanity and be a part of that. Right. And not being about judgment, about being right, which is what most people of faith are like. This is about loving first and loving. Absolutely.

0:03:19 Adrian Khoeler: And anyway, so I was compelled. That brought me out to LA and I was an intern at this church called Mosaic, which was, we called ourselves the research and development arm of Christianity. So we were very conservative. People did not like us and we were inclusive before that was a political statement. We were just into people and thinking. We’re a part of this grand narrative that there’s purpose to the universe, there’s love in the universe.

0:03:42 Adrian Khoeler: And whatever people aren’t experiencing, it’s between their ears and in their heart. So if we provide an opportunity where people can open up, great things can happen. And in the meantime go serve and make the world a better place. So I organized all of over volunteer world, which is about, we had about 3000 people in the church. So about 2000 of them every year would go out and serve in the community. So I knew that I could take the toughest, most shut down, cynical person and take them down to skid row and have them meet a couple people and they would immediately become grateful and open their lives up. Or mentoring a homeless youth or building a house with habitat for Humanity service changes the human soul. I think it just aligns it right. So because I think the humans, I’m weird and we don’t have to get into it, but I think the human soul is made for connection and made for love and then life happens and we all get our armor on and decide to go survive instead of thrive.

0:04:37 Adrian Khoeler: But I loved that opportunity to get, to take people into the streets in LA. And then I took tons of teams overseas. So spent my thirties, late twenties, all my thirties, mobilizing volunteers to have breathtaking experiences and help the world become a better place. I love that. Moved into. I met a guy whose father was a billionaire, so he’s a millionaire. He wanted to give his money away. And I was the guy that knew everybody and I was the guy that met him and helped him at his own spiritual path. So he asked me to help him give his money away. I took him around the world. He ended up actually being most connected to wanting to help people had really blown it. Get a second chance.

0:05:16 Adrian Khoeler: Long story very short, we worked in the prison system. I met a guy who’d been doing this type of leadership work we’re doing now as a full time job, but on the side was also doing gang intervention work and work with juveniles in prison at such a level that recidivism, the chance that someone’s going to go back to prison after getting out. The average is 87%. If you go through his simple three day program, they track these people over time, over the last 20 years, they’ve tracked them.

0:05:45 Adrian Khoeler: That number goes from 87% down to twelve. So breathtaking results. And I loved this guy. I’ve always been drawn towards leaders, to this, like, leadership student. I was always both, I was always a leader. Didn’t think about it, was just what happened and I liked it. Not like it was an accident either. I liked it because I knew leaders changed the world. If you want to change the world, you better lead. Otherwise, whatever, just wait because somebody else is going to change it and you’ll just have to live with that.

0:06:11 Adrian Khoeler: And when. I’ve always found mentors and this guy Dan was my next mentor, so I could just see him a room. He’s world class, probably the best in the world at our types of trainings. He says there’s one guy better than him, but I don’t believe him. And so I did that work for several years and then I got out and I went through all the trainings because I’m a sucker for self development type work and I go to all these workshops and seminars and I just love all that. I’m eager for it. I know that if I’m building myself, my world gets better.

0:06:39 Adrian Khoeler: Internally my world gets better and externally I can make a better difference with other people. Got out and started coaching people on my own, took on a business partner. We had a run for a while, got back on my own and then I. That guy, Dan Tini, the one I followed into prison, who I say he’s if Mother Teresa and Yoda and Tony Soprano had a baby, that’s Dan Tini. He’s an interesting cat. He’s one of a kind.

0:07:04 Adrian Khoeler: I started this business with him, take new ground that we have now probably seven years ago, and it’s guns blazing, man. We love it. He’. Almost 70 and I’m 43 and we’re a great dynamic duo. Just took on another senior partner. I’ve got a team of about ten people. We get to work with fantastic companies and we are known for our very no bullshit approach. So if people like the coaching industries, usually about inspiration and education, no, we’re about conviction and we’re about choices and we’re about personal responsibilities. So we’re not for everyone, but for people that like that. And most type a people like our approach, they roll their eyes at the sunshine and rainbow stuff. We’re the smelling salts for these teams.

0:07:46 Adrian Khoeler: We get to have a lot of fun. So that’s a little bit of my journey.

0:07:50 MK Palmore: I love it. There’s probably too much to unpack there, but let me start here. What’s the business proposition for you and your partners when you go into a company, offer your services, what are you telling them that they’re going to get in return for bringing you guys in?

0:08:04 Adrian Khoeler: We’re going to talk about what results they’ve given up on. So we talk about the future first, like what are the key results? And usually it’s very foggy, it’s usually very circumstantial. And we believe that a person with a vision can never be held hostage by circumstance. There’s always. When you put two humans in a room, it’s already complicated because you get two worldviews, two sets of beliefs, two sets of values, two different approaches. There’s all that and you put twelve people on a leadership team.

0:08:32 Adrian Khoeler: It’s unendingly complex and most leaders, especially ambitious, driven leaders with opinions, don’t listen very well. And so the potential of teaming goes way down based on the mindset of the person that’s in the room. The opportunity for alignment and the opportunity to generate resilience on the team, which is to take on challenges on purpose for the sake of growth. That’s always way below what I can get them to, what we can get them to. And that always happens in conversations.

0:09:00 Adrian Khoeler: New results, number one. Unprecedented results. Something new can happen. They don’t think can happen. I know it can happen. Alignment of the team beyond their personalities. Most people think because Tom is this way, he will never fill in the blank, or because Susie is this way, she will never fill in the blank. We can always break that up pretty quickly. And then to generate a conversation internally, which most people aren’t in, let alone most teams aren’t in, is a conversation about self mastery.

0:09:26 Adrian Khoeler: How well do I know myself based on results, which is distinct from knowing myself, based on my story about myself? Most people know themselves, quote unquote, and they just know what they tell themselves. And a lot of that is full of despair. If I’m a certain way and I think it’s my parents fault or whatever the therapist taught us or Freud taught us, then we’re stuck and we just got to make the best of a shitty situation and we don’t approach it that way. We where Atlerian.

0:09:56 Adrian Khoeler: I say you are what you’re committed to. You’re not the sum of your past. Most people unconsciously think I am because that happened instead of I am what I’m committed to. So there’s a lot of power there. And if you get people into a self mastery conversation, there’s no challenge too difficult to be worked through at all. How good could we get? Is an unanswerable question. Meaning we don’t know how good we could get. We don’t know how effective we could be. That’s a fun journey. Most people are just trying to get their job done and go home instead of, oh, work is the context of meaning for me, and I am on in my own path of I can have unlimited amount of meaning and connection with these people that up until we talked to them, they were just tolerating.

0:10:41 Adrian Khoeler: So in those realms is what is the proposition?

0:10:45 MK Palmore: So he said something really interesting that I have also found to be true early on in your response, and that is that you believe that people who are highly driven, sot of type A leaders are typically not good listeners. Can they be taught to listen?

0:11:01 Adrian Khoeler: Yeah. Yes. It’s never.

0:11:04 MK Palmore: And how’s that transformation happen?

0:11:07 Adrian Khoeler: Yeah. Yes. They can easily be taught the harder thing because it’s not hard to listen. It’s just a risk for them. So it’s more, are they willing to listen? Not can they. And the way you have to do that is you have to lay out a parade of horribles. We call it a parade of horribles. So let’s say just last week I was in a room with five leaders of a private equity firm here in town, in Los Angeles, and very.

0:11:35 Adrian Khoeler: There’s an old man that started the whole firm. Then it’s a little bit complicated. Let’s see if I can do it verbally. Then there’s a group of three of them that have been there for 25 years. Then there’s a new guy who’s been there seven years. The old man is just kind of Mister Rogers in the corner, doesn’t speak his mind very much, has a lot of very successful, has raised billions of dollars. But I’m retired. I don’t want to get in these guys way. That’s the story. He’s in the group of three.

0:11:57 Adrian Khoeler: Two of the three are in a camp with the old man. Then there’s the one that’s with the group of three. And it’s his buddy that he hired seven years ago, the guy. They’re at an impasse because the guy, the new guy, wants to be equals with the rest of them financially, and that would be unprecedented. They’ve never done that before. They’re in this. You ve got to be here a long time before you become equals. But he’s going to leave.

0:12:21 Adrian Khoeler: If he doesn’t become equals, he’s going to leave. He brought in 40% of the yield from the previous fund. So he’s the rockstar investor of the group, and he’s asked to be made equals. There’s resistance in the room. They don’t want to do that now. So how do I help these type a people? Listen, I got to paint the picture about what’s going to happen if they don’t. In this situation, the new guy is going to go, and if he goes, it’s over.

0:12:47 Adrian Khoeler: They’re about to raise another fund, and he’s a major part of their selling, of their marketing of the new fund. If he leaves, there’s no new fund. And if there’s no new fund, there’s no business. They’ll manage the rest of their funds and the rest of their portfolio companies, but there’s no possibility. And so income is going to go from. These guys make a lot of money, go from a high level of money down to nothing, or down to like normal money for everyday people.

0:13:11 Adrian Khoeler: So they don’t want to listen until they see hell, that’s on its way. And then it makes sense to them to listen. And they don’t trust it either, because usually people are listening from their own dogmatic view, and they’re listening. This is just what our brain does. We’re listening to prove something. So you know what it’s like I know what it’s like all the time. I have an opinion about you and what you’re up to, and I’m going to listen to you just to confirm my own opinion.

0:13:37 Adrian Khoeler: One of those cognitive biases. So I’m only paying attention to what you’re saying that agrees with my judgment of you. That’s just gravity for the human mind. If it takes work and we do this usually with a baseball bat in hand’hey, would. Why don’t you listen for what you think is not true? Listen for that. What are they saying that makes sense, even though you are sure they’re an idiot, why don’t you listen to what makes sense and how they are similar to you instead of your agenda, which is to prove how they’re not like you and how you’re better than them.

0:14:09 Adrian Khoeler: So you got to get clear on what the cost is. If they keep doing what they’ve been doing, and then it does take a little bit of nuance. We have a very, oh, our type of inquiry is very socratic in this way. It’s like more wondering and trying on different ideas and seeing what opens up for us, see what possibilities pop up. If I’m willing to entertain the thing I’ve been unwilling to entertain up until now. But if one of those shifts happens, especially in a room of, let’s say, five, if the ringleader, which in that room, this happened, the ringleader in the room, the guy that has the most influence in the room, he was the most engaged, and his type of engagement opened up everybody else. They came out of their caves and came to play, and it was messy.

0:14:53 Adrian Khoeler: It was really messy. And it’s great. We don’t mind the mess usually needs to get messier before it gets cleaner. So I approach it like that. I hope that answer made sense.

0:15:02 MK Palmore: Yeah, no, it definitely made sense. It strikes me that the methodology that you’re describing requires a ton of investment in understanding. I call it human psyche. I’m not sure the human position, the human journey, however you want to describe it, what got you interested in that in particular? Because it strikes me that not only in order to do what you just described, you have to be vested in that human journey process, you gotta be super interested in it, like, as just a pursuit of your own.

0:15:36 MK Palmore: When did that start for you, and what did that look like?

0:15:39 Adrian Khoeler: It started early for me, and this is a little bit why. When I was a kid, they always say, you’re an old soul. In my family, I was the odd duck. I was like, the. Not the black sheep, necessarily, but I was just the one that didn’t fit. Mostly because I had lots of questions. I wanted to know how things worked, and can we turn off classically in my head is, can we turn off the tv and just talk at dinner? Because I want to talk. I want to understand. I want to talk about relationships. I want to talk about school.

0:16:05 Adrian Khoeler: I really wanted to talk about things, really to understand why. Because I was successful externally, quarterback of the team, student council, smart kid, blah, blah, blah. But internally, I was anxious, and I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I looked comfortable. If you met me, you’d say, oh, Adrian, he’s got his shit together. He’s exemplary, blah, blah, blah. But internally, I was uncomfortable, and I wanted to become uncomfortable.

0:16:31 Adrian Khoeler: Sorry. I wanted to become comfortable.

0:16:32 MK Palmore: Is that from not knowing, or is it from a desire to just absorb knowledge?

0:16:39 Adrian Khoeler: Probably both. Probably both. I was very. I just heard a research study the other day that 40% of humans don’t realize they’re in an internal dialogue, which is baffling to me because I’ve been aware of my internal dialogue. That is, I’m talking to myself all the time via thinking since I was whatever, young kid. And I was conscious of that. And some people just float through life just like living, and they don’t realize that their thought life creates their experience.

0:17:07 Adrian Khoeler: So I was conscious of that, and I wanted to be comfortable. I wanted to feel engaged. I wanted to make the biggest difference as well. And I knew that, like, I had a hunch that how I was thinking about things really created what I call life. And we know that’s true. We actually have a perception. And our people, we say it this way, came from a guy named Dave Logan. First, there’s a book called three Laws of performance. If your listeners haven’t read it, it’s worth listening to. Three laws of performance by Dave Logan.

0:17:37 Adrian Khoeler: People react to the world the way the world occurs to them. Number one. Number two is the world happens for us in language. Number three is future based. Language creates present state. It seems like you and I are on this podcast together, like the same podcast, but we’re not. You’re on your version and your mind. I’m on my version. In my mind. We have different sets of interests here. I’m here trying to think about how can I generate the most value for.

0:18:01 Adrian Khoeler: I want to connect with you. I want to create the most value for your listeners. I know you’re doing the same thing, but you’re also listening from your history, from who you are, from what you already think about me. Just in this short engagement, we all make these assumptions and based on our biases, and some of those will be probably open up possibilities for the conversation. Maybe some of your biases shut down. You have to overcome them to be able to be here and ask these questions.

0:18:23 Adrian Khoeler: So we’re on two different podcasts. It seems like we’re in the same one. So, long story, really short is I was aware of that, and I wanted to think, to your second point, get more information. How do other people see this same moment than I do? Because I think I could learn if I could see it through their lenses. And that’s part of what keeps me in the game and why, if I’m in a room that’s even full of major conflict, like I was in the story I told you, it’s fascinating to me.

0:18:51 Adrian Khoeler: And I know that it’s their thinking that’s causing the suffering. It’s not what’s happening, it’s their thinking. It always gets back to their conscious thoughts, and even more than that, gets to what’s invisible for them. And if I can illuminate the invisibility of kind of the baseline unchecked assumptions that they see everything through, for example, they might say people can’t be trusted. That belief shapes everything.

0:19:19 Adrian Khoeler: Or people have my best interest. You could do the opposite, always. And that’s also can shape your belief in how you show up, what you say, what you don’t say. Both of them are really naive, and it’s usually it’s both. And you better listen to see where the other person is.

0:19:34 MK Palmore: So what’s your position on whether or not people are. I have to ask this. Based upon what you just said, are people inclined to do good and by good good for others, rather than just their own interest? From your perspective?

0:19:49 Adrian Khoeler: Yeah. The answer that’s not that satisfying, is it is both. I think back to what I was saying earlier about the human soul. I think we all want the same thing. We all want to be seen, we all want to know ourselves. We all want to be accepted, and we all want to be championed. I think that’s human 101. I think we’re crafted that way. For me, that’s a spiritual conversation, but I think we’re all that way at a core level.

0:20:14 Adrian Khoeler: But life teaches us other things. We get betrayed, we get lied to, we get used, we get all those things happen. And so a lot of us live our lives in response to the things that we didn’t want or didn’t like. And we just call that playing not to lose. So I know what losing feels like. I don’t want to do that. So I’m actually listening from that mindset. Where are the threats? And even possibilities show up as threats instead of playing to win, which is, I know who I am and I’m willing to give to get the old golden rule. As always, the best idea is go ahead and whatever you’re looking for in a room, give that to the room and see what happens. And the chance of getting what you want goes way up.

0:20:53 Adrian Khoeler: Yes. People are most inclined or naturally inclined, I would say, to give because it works. First off, it works in reality. Second off, you feel better about yourself. But we’ve trained ourselves to give the least amount we can and not take risks. So it’s both and. But I try to get people into my work is to get people into a generous mindset, because that will shift the room.

0:21:18 MK Palmore: What’s the most difficult part of leadership for people? And I. Let me provide some context to this.

0:21:26 Adrian Khoeler: Sure.

0:21:27 MK Palmore: I think that there’s not a ton of good leadership present in the enterprise space. And by enterprise, I just mean I’ll say corporate environment.

0:21:35 Adrian Khoeler: Big companies. Ye.

0:21:37 MK Palmore: Yeah, big companies. Why are people so bad at it? Why is leadership so tough to do?

0:21:43 Adrian Khoeler: Leadership well, you must be vulnerable. And the human brain is apt to not be vulnerable. It wants to survive. Number one. That’s the number one pursuit of the human brain, is survival. Number two is save energy so I can survive later. And when I say survival, it’s not watch out for bus and watch out for the tiger. Not that type of survival. It’s more ego survival. So we talk about looking good, feeling good, being right, being in control. Those are the core survival needs.

0:22:10 Adrian Khoeler: Those are going on in everybody’s mind at every single moment of the day. They might be a low level, right? They might be like a one out of ten volume. For some people that you’ve met and I’ve met, they’re at a ten out of ten. That’s the only thing they care about. So in order to lead, you must be vulnerable and know these tendencies and know that you’re speaking into those tendencies when you’re leading.

0:22:31 Adrian Khoeler: And so it requires a level of boldness and a level of trust in humanity and trust really in yourself that I can say what needs to be said. And even if we take on challenges and conflict because of that, it’s good. We need to have this conflict. Most people would rather just look good and feel good and be right and be in control and then take whatever results they can get while preserving themselves.

0:22:56 Adrian Khoeler: So I know when I’m around a leader that seems to say whatever I always say, current reality is always looking for a spokesperson, and a great leader is willing to put language to what’s happening and willing to call people up beyond the way they’re showing. We’re in such a pandering culture these days, and at least in my view, and there’s so many things we can’t talk about because everybody’s going to be offended and all that bullshit.

0:23:17 Adrian Khoeler: And so people end up following the rules of society instead of setting the bar themselves, and that’s a risk. So I think that’s the biggest challenge, is people willing to die for the sake of a cause. Most people aren’t.

0:23:32 MK Palmore: What role do things like character and integrity play and a person’s ability to lead? And by the way, I love your call out that the willingness to be vulnerable, I think, is a precursor to opening the door to lots of leadership possibilities. But, like, when people bring what they already have to the table, whatever their level of character is, whatever their level of integrity is, like, what role do those traditional principles play and their ability to be good leaders.

0:23:59 Adrian Khoeler: It’s everything. Over time, you can be a charlatan, you canot have, you cannot be honest, you can not have integrity, not have perseverance, not have all those ethics. And that can work for a short amount of time. You can fake people out, but over a long enough timeline, everybody gets found out. Every lie is revealed over time. I say, so if I don’t have integrity, which for me, it just means wholeness, it’s not perfection.

0:24:24 Adrian Khoeler: A lot of people think integrity is about doing the right thing, saying the right thing all the time. I’m not in that camp just because I know myself and I know all the psychology around. We all have a dark side. We all have criminality to us. We all want to lie and cheat and steal. We’ve all done that at a certain time on some level. And so for me, integrity is integrating all of my glory and all of my, all of my dark side.

0:24:48 Adrian Khoeler: And ironically, if people can integrate all that and share about it in a responsible way, trust goes up. Even if I say share something from my past where I lied to somebody or betrayed somebody, if I’m responsible, people lean in and get closer. They’re like, oh, this guy’s a real deal. He’s not running a con on me. Yeah, they all, there’s a story that came to mind. I won’t tell it for the sake of time.

0:25:09 Adrian Khoeler: But over time, your integrity and your character is going to be found out. And so if you’re going to start somewhere, my advice to most people that are struggling personally and struggling corporately, get your own house in order. First, get yourself straight. Then help the people closest to you. Then work yourself out. Don’t try to put on a game and build up this big image and help other people, because otherwise you’ll be shallow and you can’t. Even if you’re successful, you’ll fail because you can’t handle it, because it’s not aligned. It’s inauthentic.

0:25:40 MK Palmore: Put your own mask on first before you struck. Start to help others.

0:25:43 Adrian Khoeler: Right on. The old christian thing about, like seeing the plank in somebody else’s eye, you’ve got your own plank. Figure that out first before you start judging other people.

0:25:54 MK Palmore: You had to indicated early on that part of who you are is based on ETH and what that’s done to help shape who you are. Some of the principles that you described appear to me to have some influence from maybe eastern philosophy. Is that accurate, or am I misreading some of what you described? And if it is there, how have you incorporated that eastern philosophy into your thoughts around leadership?

0:26:20 Adrian Khoeler: Yeah, yeah, I could see how that would make sense. The. Let’s see. So Christianity today is very philosophically distinct from Christianity and its origins, I would say, because even modern Christianity is very westernized, which is more linear. Answers driven. Here’s the process. Here’s the steps. Just do all these steps. That’s a western idea. That’s not a christian idea. Christianity has always been open to inquiry, and you can even tell if you just read the parts of the Bible per se, about when Jesus is speaking.

0:26:57 Adrian Khoeler: He’s speaking philosophically most of the time. It’s not about the answers. It’s about who we become as we. What’s the word I’m looking for? Incarnate. The questions as I live in this question, even all of his parables, it’s not about answers, it’s about a story. And how do you find yourself in this story? And you could actually, if you looked at the story, you could be all different characters, and we are all different characters in the story. We tend to put ourselves in the hero place because of we’re ego driven people, but we could also become the villain in the story and think, how do I relate to that villain?

0:27:29 Adrian Khoeler: Yes, most eastern religions are more inquiry based and more stoic in that way, which I’m into because it opens up the biggest possibility, because it generates a whole mood of discovery. And so we’re not just trying to find what the answer that I think I’m looking for. We might find a deeper question that opens up or makes that previous answer worth nothing compared to how I am in the question. That’s a very weird answer to that. But I’m a mix of both people that want to convince me that it’s some kind of five step process.

0:28:01 Adrian Khoeler: I’m not that guy. And that I would assert and prove it ten ways how that’s not actually true. It’s just naive to think that the formula of yesterday will solve the problem of tomorrow. And if we’re open to new questions and new ways of being, I can meet tomorrow’s challenges. But I have to break off from the dogmatism and the commitment of yesterday.

0:28:27 MK Palmore: You told a fascinating story earlier about a room in the different personalities and how they engaged in the process and what you were responsible for doing in order to get the thoughts moving in a particular direction. What’s the toughest room that you’ve ever gone into? Was that the story or is there one that you just thought from the onset after understanding what the problem said is you say to yourself, wow, this is.

0:28:55 MK Palmore: We might not succeed here.

0:28:57 Adrian Khoeler: Yeah. Yeah, a story. Let’s see. I can do it without names. I was working with a company that has world renown fame, and they’re in the security business. And all of them are top tier practitioners. Some of them the smart guys, NSA, CIA guys, some of them rangers, seals, all that. And there’s two different sides of the business. There’s the intellectual side of the business and around strategic planning for security, both for famous people and also for their company and also for their businesses.

0:29:30 Adrian Khoeler: That was a tough room because anybody that’s used to being the smartest person in the room and used to not being questioned doesn’t like me that much because I’m going to question everything. And especially in that type of top down environment they’re used to. You can’t ask me that question unless you’re at my level and I’m the new guy walking in. And it was a tough room just because those folks trade in power and I’m not that religious about their power struggles and who’s triangulated with who and who thinks who and why. Ist person, they’re all godfather is. It’s like a little bit like the mafia.

0:30:08 Adrian Khoeler: So that was a tough room. That was a tough room to be in. And we spent two days with them and stepped on some landmines early and we needed to go a lot slower because those folks don’t trust anybody unless they respect them. And we assumed a more respect than we had. And a lot of it’s also, it was a big firm now, but it was like a mom and pop shop. So if you’ve been there a long time, you’ve got some special credibility, and you might even own part of the company. And there’s all these tons of nuances about how the power showed up in the room and who gets to listen, who speaks, who listens in what order, that kind of stuff.

0:30:47 Adrian Khoeler: And that was a really tough room. That was a really tough room. We learned a lot. I’ll just say we learned a lot because we messed it up pretty early and gotten a lot of conflict that we didn’t know how to get out of. Out of that, half the room was very excited about working forward. The folks that we had offended by me not caring about who they were and where they came from. I’m more caring about results and how they’re showing up in this moment in time.

0:31:11 Adrian Khoeler: Those folks, they don’t want to learn from anybody, including me. Those opportunities, those, whenever we get in those rooms, in some ways, just honestly, we missed it. We learned a ton from those. People call those failures, but, man, they’re learning. Opportunities are so good.

0:31:25 MK Palmore: Yeah. They tend to stick with you. What kind of prep do you guys do? What kind of prep do you do as a team before you go into space? What’s valuable in the way of understanding the dynamics to the degree that you can, before you even get into space?

0:31:39 Adrian Khoeler: Sure. We use a leadership assessment tool called the Harrison assessment. It’s, I think, the most honest and helpful tool out there. There’s lots of assessments, and I’ve been training a dozen of them. This one’s distinct. It’first off, nobody knows it. Nobody’s taken it before, because there’s only 150s in the states that have access to it. But what I like most about it is it reveals. First off, it’s gauged on people’s preferences, not their personality. There’s no tie between personality and performance. There is a distinct tie in the data between someone’s preferences and their performance. What do they like doing ins so far that if someone’s spending 70% of their time doing what they prefer doing, they have an increased chance of success of 300% to 400%.

0:32:20 Adrian Khoeler: So pretty big deal. Most of us don’t have language for it, though. I’m busy being Adrian, and so I’m not thinking about what aspects of my work align with the things that get me most excited, things that come to my awareness most quickly, things I’m prone to take action towards. And I haven’t taken on the authority, personal authority and agency to craft my world around my preferences, which is the best strategy.

0:32:43 Adrian Khoeler: Not that you can avoid the things that you don’t like doing. You can just delegate those responsibly or do them in sprints instead of doing them more often. Put people through that assessment and then we debrief them on that assessment before we get in the room. So we have a good sense of where people are. And then we put together all those findings into a culture map, we call it. So we’ll show where people are at rest, because it’ll show in these twelve paradoxes where they are at rest and then where they go under stress.

0:33:09 Adrian Khoeler: And so we can know in the room what the major tendencies are. They might be nice people, but they go to dogmatic. Sorry, they might be really open. They go to dogmatic, they might be very serving of others. They go to dominating. These are some of the common flips under stress, and we naturally generate some stress in the room because that gets the resistance to the table. We’re not there to add some kind of insight to their current thinking, we’re there to challenge their thinking that gets them to the spot that they are.

0:33:33 Adrian Khoeler: So we’ll of course, sit down with the major stakeholders and talk about the outcomes that they want to get out of the two days together or three days together, however, all however long we’re with them. And then also really get into what are the apparent challenges. And then usually the apparent challenges are only symptoms. So what’s causing the challenges. So we want to get down to the causal issues, and it’s almost always relational, period. No matter what you’re up to, it’s how people are relating to themselves, how they’re relating to others, how they’re relating to the work itself.

0:34:01 Adrian Khoeler: It’s always relational in that way. So we know that most people think it’s strategic and it’s about the plan. It’s not that. It’s about the thinking that generated the plan, which always gets back to human being. We do that type of work. I’ll sometimes, or interview, have special time with key stakeholders. If I know there’s a heavy in the room that’s got a lot of authority, I want to respect that person because I need them in the room, because if they shift, everybody shifts.

0:34:26 Adrian Khoeler: So I’ll spend some special time around them and build some camaraderie with them before we jump in the room. So they feel like it’s their training as well. They get to influence it. They get to take it where it’s not like I’m the guy that’s up there running it. No, this is your training to get done what you want to get done. I’m here to challenge things, provide new perspective on things. Usually what’s necessary is getting the conversations that are under the table.

0:34:49 Adrian Khoeler: On the table. In every culture there’s conversations on. Under the table. Just things we don’t talk about. Things you don’t dare say. Sacred cows, whatever you want to call them. Our job is usually get those conversations on the table so we can actually deal with them instead of them running us.

0:35:02 MK Palmore: Super interesting. Are there environments, maybe industry or business verticals that you’ve been exposed to where performance is not directly tied to the quality of leadership within the. In other words, performance seems to be high accomplishment, but the leadership is marginal at best. And I’m asking this question for a very specific reason. Cause I have an industry in mind where I’ve seen many examples of this and it strike me as just, I don’t know if it’s an anomaly or it’s very specific to this particular industry, but have you seen that high performance, poor leadership?

0:35:42 Adrian Khoeler: Sure, I see it all the time. And we’work with plenty of tech companies and plenty of engineering companies where, especially in those worlds, people are leading because they’re the best at a certain thing. So. And they get promoted because they’re the smartest one or they’re. We work with the company now, an aerospace company, and they, they all come from the biggest aerospace company on the planet.

0:36:09 Adrian Khoeler: The guy that runs this company was the number one employee at that biggest aerospace company in the planet. And he’s the CEO. Why? Because he’s the name. But he doesn’t want to be the CEO. He doesn’t like running anything. He doesn’t like coming out of his office. So he’s not going to be great leadership because he doesn’t want to be a leader. He just wants to make cool shit. They make rockets and he just wants to make cool shit. We just did an off site with them and we finally got a cancerous guy out of there.

0:36:34 Adrian Khoeler: But it’s the conversation they’ve been dying to have for months. And when you get us in the room, things are going to move quickly. We’re like a laxative in some ways. I’ve never used that quiet as a metaphor, but that’s true. You take, bring us in the room shit’s going to move. You get stuff moving, you get stuff moving. So, yeah, if you get enough smart people together, they’re going to get lucky. Even if they’re not teaming really well, somebody’s gonna take over and somebody’s gonna lead with their expertise.

0:36:59 Adrian Khoeler: So we’ve seen that just from my own work is especially, we work with tons of engineering companies and tons of tech companies. Does that mean, what industries did you have in mind?

0:37:09 MK Palmore: Tech in particular? Y has been my observation. And I’m wondering, is it fair to say then that with the application of good leadership plus those smart, talented folks, that performance could be even higher? Or is that a. Yeah, illogical assumption?

0:37:26 Adrian Khoeler: Oh, no, for sure. And when I say leadership, I don’t know what you mean by that. For me, mostly great leadership is clarity about the future, conviction about the future, sober ownership of current reality. If you pull those two things off and a leader’willing to speak the future, they’re committed to speak. What’s happening right now that’s working, what’s not working and what’s missing. If you just do that, the whole thing’s going to work a lot better.

0:37:56 Adrian Khoeler: But most people don’t want to do one of those two things. Most people are decently clear about the future, but there’s conflict. If we get clear on what’s not working now, and if you don’t generate a culture of personal responsibility, then you can’t have any accountability. You can punish people and generate fear, but people aren’t going to be accountable to themselves and to others, which is the only real form of accountability.

0:38:19 Adrian Khoeler: You could babysit people all day long and. But most leaders hate their lives when they’ve created a culture of babysitting, which they do just because they’re not willing to talk about issues when they’re small. They wait until they become big, and then they have to sit at the shit buffet instead of eating the shit hors d’euv that they were offered a long time ago.

0:38:35 MK Palmore: I guess when I mention the term leadership and use it in a quick fashion like that, I’m immediately thinking about a people centered type of leadership where the quality of lives of the people that you lead and they’re growth, their involvement is at the very least part of the one or two punches that you need to exercise. Like it’s part of your daily exercise to make sure that they’re growing, they’re developing, that their wellness is a component of your leadership.

0:39:02 MK Palmore: So those are the types of things that I’m pointing to that I don’t know that they are priorities, at least as I’ve observed them.

0:39:10 Adrian Khoeler: No, they’re usually not. They’re usually not a priority. Most people in this day and age feel really busy. They love to feel busy. And most especially if you’re dealing with men. In my experience, men are just more object oriented. They’re not as people oriented as a whole. We know that from the science that men are into stuff, women are into people as a whole. There’s men that show up and care about people. There’s women that are just very driven and want to get something built or whatever. Those are the outliers, though. There’s not the normal. So if a man is leading a company, they want to talk about objective things they don’t want to talk about.

0:39:46 Adrian Khoeler: Even we patronize and we call it soft skills. Like all these soft skills, which obviously has judgments baked into it because it’s soft and not hard and all that. But I call all those things vital competencies, like the ability to listen, the ability to speak in a way that enrols people, the ability to influence other people in a way that’s not coercive but actually is magnetic. Those are all the soft skills. Those are vital competencies.

0:40:10 Adrian Khoeler: But you can go take a class about that, but you don’t learn about that in a book. You have to actually learn that on the field of play. Since most of us have a pretty flattering view of ourselves, we don’t want to get any feedback either. So even if it’s eating our lunch, we don’t want to put ourselves through the grinder and figure out what’s working and not working. From me, it’s pretty rare when I meet people like clients, for example, they are really right about what’s happening, and they haven’t asked many questions. They’re definitely not willing to.

0:40:40 Adrian Khoeler: Most of them, for the most part, aren’t want to take on the humility and take on themselves first. Like that self mastery conversation that takes a lot of risk. That’s the biggest reward. If they’re willing to make the change in themselves that they want to see in the world, as Gandhi said, or whatever, that’ll make the big difference. But yeah, most people want to shift things instead of shift themselves.

0:41:01 MK Palmore: Adrian Kaler this has been an absolutely awesome conversation. I’ve had only a handful of guests, I think, where I felt like during the conversation that probably could have gone on for much, much longer. I know, man plan, and this is one of them, so I feel like I’m almost cutting it off short. Definitely some of the concepts that you highlight and the way that I think you’ve crafted the subject definitely resonates with me, as I think it will some, some of my listeners.

0:41:27 MK Palmore: Where can folks find you? Where are you in the space? Books, lectures, engagements? What’s that look like when you’re in?

0:41:34 Adrian Khoeler: Right on. And I’ll just start by saying, same, I’m here, we’ve run out of time. I’m like, oh, this? We’re just getting started. We could talk for another 3 hours, like, at least for us. I don’t know if the listeners, they probably trail off, but, but anyway, this has been fun for me, too. So thank you, man. Thanks for your integrity and your intellection and all that’s really compelling. How you find me if you want to find me on social media, Adrian K. Is my Instagram handle and I’m usually posting stuff like this, conversations I’m having with leaders or on podcasts.

0:42:02 Adrian Khoeler: You can check that out if you want to find us online. comma dot. We’ve got obviously, if you run a big company, if you run a division inside of a company, if you run your own company’d love to have a conversation with you and just see if there’s ways in which we could help you. You can just reach out to me via the website or on Instagram or. Adrian, dot’ve got so we do most of work’in house, retainer work with people, and we solve serious problems in a short amount of time.

0:42:30 Adrian Khoeler: We also do these public trainings. One’s called the revenant process. It’s a four day, you’d love it, four day deep dive. Personal leadership, integrity, commitment, legacy, all those. We do that in four days. A big long experience for people. You clean up a lot of the past, you get people really clean and clear about the future, and it’s a huge breakthrough for them. We’ve got another one coming out, depending on if this drops in early June.

0:42:53 Adrian Khoeler: We’ve got an event late June in Hawaii. Our next one, we just did one in LA. We just did one in Boise before that. We’ll do another one in the fall. By the time we’re rehashing the website now, so it’ll be revenant. But if you message me and you’re interested in that, just hit me on Instagram and I’ll send you all the info then. We’re just here to help people come alive and make the most whee and got one trip around the basis here, so you might as well make the most of it.

0:43:17 MK Palmore: Outstanding. Hey, Adrian, appreciate the conversation, and thanks for being in in the studio. All right, folks, that’s it for this episode of the Leadership student podcast. Fascinating conversation with my guest, Adrienne Kaler. Thanks, and we’ll see you guys the next time around.