Breaking the Pattern of Funneling Up

Are you elevating talent?


Amy Balog, founder of executive coaching firm ConnexionPoint Services LLC, discusses how organizations often unknowingly fall into the pattern of “funneling up” and how they can break the pattern by elevating talent, thinking and ownership. You may never have heard of the term “funneling up,” but as Amy explains it, you may recognize the symptoms in your own organization. 

Amy provides three key steps to breaking the pattern and the benefits to your organizational culture, engagement and achievement. Her expertise in executive leadership introduces us to patterns and behaviors we may not be familiar with. 

Watch this video and learn to evaluate if your organization is "funneling up."

I think the leaders have a love and hate relationship with this pattern. Here’s what it is: everything goes up. If you think about what happens when leadership is all funneled up at the top, there are some implications for the folks in the middle of the company.

Most companies spend a lot of money and time trying to hire good people. What happens is if everything's funneling up, you're hiring really good people, and they're actually reserving some of their talent. So essentially, you're hiring people to be sort of underemployed, at some point in time and eventually that can lead to turnover. It can also put the company into a wait and see state and that's not what the leaders at the top really want. They want them to take more ownership. And then, if you don't like silos, that concentration at the top, what ends up happening is the organization can start competing with itself, like, "Okay. We want the attention up there."

So how do you break it? The first thing to elevate, actually, is the talent. When you hire someone, you ask them the best questions. All of that is just fantastic dialog that starts when we're hiring. And then what happens is, after we hire people, then we start just talking to them about what they're getting done in the job. We kind of abandon talking to their talent. And so when we're elevating the talent, what we're doing is we're repurposing all those opening questions we have with people and we're bringing them along. And it's just so powerful because it keeps a leg of interaction open that you can see how someone's evolving with their learning and you can delegate so effectively that way.

The second thing to elevate is thinking. Elevating thinking is about creating what I call balcony time on a regular basis, where you get people to start working on the business, not just in it. You share ideas on a consistent basis. Not just on a once or twice a year off-site meeting, a couple of times a month. And as you do it, you think of this as an exercise of actually working out the muscle of thinking for the organization. So that's elevating thinking.

The last one is elevating ownership, which has really been tough for a lot of leaders. This is where you ask the really tough question. It's, "Who makes the calls here?" Who makes the calls in the organization? And you think about learning and most of adult learning is actually through experience. So the biggest way you invest in your people is to give them larger experiences, is to really see where they can make the calls, and they can feel the thrust and the rigor of really owning something. And then you have to be able to ask the question and courageously face it. Can we help them grow through both wins and losses? And really, if you're elevating talent, thinking and ownership, you're breaking up the pattern of everything going up.

Amy Balog

As an executive coach, facilitator, writer, and speaker, Amy wakes up every morning and pursues her passionate mission to show the world we can lead from our center not our circumstances. Amy’s clients’ experience a journey to discove...

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