Iceberg Model for Leaders

Want to increase your impact as a leader? Go below the waterline.

As a leader, you’re well aware that challenges at work (and in life) are a given. From tight deadlines and budget demands to HR issues, it can feel like the minute one issue is solved, another is there to take its place.

Instead of emphasizing how to avoid disagreeable situations, what matters more is how you respond to life’s changes and challenges.

In leadership and in life, we all face challenging situations.

What about you? Can you recall a time recently when you faced a distressing situation? Maybe:

  • You took offense to something that a colleague said or did.
  • A disagreement at work escalated into an all-out conflict.
  • At a key meeting, you felt ignored when you shared your insights.

When we encounter a challenge, many of us respond with the familiar fight, flight, or freeze approach (or a combination of all three!). After the dust settles, we may find ourselves saying things like:

  • I can’t believe I said that. What was I thinking?!
  • I know I should have responded more effectively, but I just had to get out of there fast.
  • I wish I could have done something differently, but I just shut down.

At the height of the challenging circumstance, you’ll likely experience some unpleasant physical symptoms, such as:

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Facial flushing; an influx of warmth
  • Muscle tightening and/or clenched jaw, fists
  • A knot or heaviness in your stomach
  • Breathing troubles – hyperventilation, rapid breathing

Impactful leaders know this simple secret.

Consider this question posed in a 2014 McKinsey&Company article, Lead at your best:

“Instead of that “fight, flight, or freeze” reaction, what if you could pause, reflect, and then manage—creatively and effectively—what you’re experiencing?”

The most influential leaders worldwide know that you can choose to respond more effectively. As you deepen your capacity to better manage your reactions, you’ll also inspire others to follow your lead.Iceberg Model for Leaders

You might be thinking, “That sounds great – but where do I start?” The answer is more straightforward than you think. It all starts with a simple metaphor about an iceberg…

We humans share an interesting similarity with icebergs. Moving along the open waters, at first glance it may seem that what you see is what you get – just a towering piece of ice broken off from a glacier.

The waterline only represents the tip of the iceberg (literally).

It’s when we take a moment to consider what’s going on below the waterline that we increase our ability to understand our behaviors.

In ourselves and in others, we tend to observe surface behaviors and actions. That approach isn’t particularly effective. Why? Because 90% of what’s really happening – what drives human behavior – is happening below the waterline.

With this analogy in mind, think about a time when you responded in a less than desirable way. Let’s explore what’s happening beneath the surface.

McKinsey authors Barsh and Lavoie present some thought-provoking questions that I’ve summarized below, but I strongly encourage you to read the entire article to deepen your perspective even more.

To be an impactful leader, go below the waterline.

1) Start at the “tip of the iceberg.” How are you behaving? What are you saying? Think about the impact your words and actions had in that moment…and beyond.Effective leadership

2) Dare to descend below the waterline. Be honest. What thoughts and feelings did you have, but kept to yourself? Were you influenced less than productive (but very common) desires to be liked, seek approval, or conform in some way?

3) Make a bold move by navigating deep waters. Ask how you can you bring your values into this situation. Meaning, what matters to you? What are your beliefs related to this event – and about yourself and others? Might these have shaped your response?

4) If you’re ready, dive even deeper. What are your underlying needs? What might be at risk for you in this situation? Can you define what your deepest desires are?

How often have you heard cliché statements such as “like attracts like” or “what you fear, you create”? Actually, there is truth to both statements.

Transform unproductive behaviors while deepening your leadership capacity

Say for instance that it’s important to you to be seen as calm and competent, and you often worry about “coming undone”. At work, a major project deadline is missed. Before you know it, you’ve just unleashed some harsh comments to a team lead in the heat of the moment. Your greatest fear just happened.

Enter: the iceberg metaphor. Using this technique can help you transform unproductive behaviors into ones that are better aligned with your core values and that produce more desirable outcomes. There’s a bonus, too: you may find that you experience a deeper understanding of yourself – and of those you lead.

Over the next coming months, I’ll be taking a close look at this topic, sharing tips and tools that will inspire you to think differently. So, stay tuned!

Take action today: try this quick leadership tip.

I’d like to leave you with a simple tool that you can start using right away: Before your next meeting officially begins, check in with everyone present. Have each person share a tidbit about what might be happening “below the waterline,” starting with yourself.

Doing this encourages more open, honest conversation while deepening everyone’s understanding of how their colleagues may be feeling. As you make this a habit, you’ll notice that meetings become more productive. Now go on, try it today!

If you’d like a quick burst of leadership inspiration delivered fresh to your inbox each week, be sure to sign up for my weekly Bolder Moves Messages here.

Workplace culture | Corporate culture in the workplace | Inclusion in the workplace

Leaders, Inclusiveness Improves Corporate Culture

“Our belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff, like great customer service or building a great long-term brand, or empowering passionate employees and customers will happen on its own.”
– Tony Hsieh CEO, Zappos

Recent news headlines have given us much to think about when it comes to what’s accepted within an organization’s culture. It begs the question: What would it be like if all workplace cultures were built on mutual respect and openness? And how do we make that happen?

Let’s start by understanding the importance of culture in business and then consider how leaders can be the catalysts for positive change in their specific organizations.

Culture: The “Immune System” Of The Workplace

There are myriads of ways that workplace culture impacts an organization’s short- and long-term success. In a recent article on Time.com, Arianna Huffington referred to corporate culture as a company’s “immune system.”

When a workplace culture is healthy, it values and celebrates each person’s contributions, so current employees want to stay and potential employees are eager to come on board. Conversely, an unhealthy culture will damage a company’s reputation and make employees more prone to the “illnesses” of human nature.

The more fit and strong the culture at your organization, the more easily employees can recognize the onset of these issues and take steps to remedy them.

What Makes A Healthy Workplace Culture?

Rather than focus on negatives, here are a few of the positive aspects that define a fit and thriving corporate culture. If they don’t necessarily describe your company right now, consider how you might incorporate them going forward, starting with your teams.

  • Diversity – Do you find yourself (or those within your organization) saying, “That’s the way we’ve always done it”? No more! This is essential if you want to foster well-being and improve performance. Diversity enables new thoughts, ideas, and possibilities to emerge so that you’re continually thinking, looking, and moving forward.
  • Transparency – In a culture of openness, you can spot issues and correct them before they create a crisis. Transparency makes it safe for people to admit their mistakes, learn from them, and use those lessons to benefit the organization. Be honest – could your organization benefit from greater levels of transparency?
  • A Larger Purpose – Millennials, in particular, thrive in a culture where principles are as important as profits. But doesn’t everyone want to feel they’re part of something beneficial -not only for customers but for the world as a whole? Where does your organization stand on this?

Your Role As A Leader: Build Inclusiveness

If a healthy corporate culture could be summed up in one word, it’s “inclusiveness.” An Inc.com article states that inclusive workplace cultures are healthier, more productive, and make team members feel more valued.

However, leaders can’t always gauge their efforts at inclusiveness, according to a ten-year study by leadership consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. So here are some key benchmarks to help you be a more inclusive leader and create a healthier corporate culture:

  1. Try to ignore your ego. – It’s human nature to think of ourselves first, but our role as leaders is to keep the focus on success for our team and for our organization as a whole. When you make this shift toward intellectual humility, you almost automatically create inclusiveness.
  2. Remember the value of listening. – As a leader, there’s a time to talk. But often, the way to reach the best ideas and solutions is to listen, and you create inclusiveness when you do. This doesn’t mean you have to use every suggestion, but you should always be willing to at least hear them.
  3. Encourage collaboration on your teams. – When your team members contribute to a project or solve an issue, they gain a great sense of motivation and accomplishment. Bill Gates said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” And empowerment often starts with collaboration.

Every person deserves to work in a culture where they are valued, supported, empowered, and encouraged to be all they can be. As leaders, we play a major role in creating this safe and nurturing environment not only for the benefit of our employees but for the success of our companies in the long term. Are you ready for the challenge?

Looking for ways to be a bold leader who is a catalyst for creating a healthier, more inclusive culture within your organization? Sign up here to access my free Weekly Bold Move.

Why it makes sense to trust your gut | Authentic leaders trust their gut instincts | Follow your instincts

Leaders, Do You Trust Your Gut?

In our information-based world, many leaders have learned to make decisions based on whatever solid data can be gathered regarding a particular situation. But neuroscience has proven that there’s another important factor you should employ in leadership decision-making: trusting your gut.

Authentic Leaders Address Emotional Needs

Working effectively with people isn’t about how fast or how well your brain can process information, says the Forbes article The Neuroscience At The Heart Of Learning And Leading. As humans, we want and need to connect with each other on a deeper level—which takes empathy and imagination rather than just data.

More and more studies show that people perform better when their emotional needs are met. Leaders with good emotional intelligence and strong insights about their team members are better equipped to handle this.

Authentic leaders know themselves. They don’t depend solely on the “hard facts” – instead, they rely on their inner instincts and aren’t afraid to trust themselves, even if that means going against the grain when a situation dictates.

Why It Makes Sense to Follow Your Instincts

Human behavioral science believes that your gut collects and holds all your experiences and learning since you were born. When you trust your gut, you draw on this wealth of valuable information that can help you make better decisions, often more quickly and without having to process myriads of information.

Research has shown that when you combine this gut instinct with a thorough review of data, it can improve your decision-making in big, bold ways.

The leadership transformation coaches at Authentic Leadership International (www.boldermoves.com), can show you leadership approaches that use the right mix of facts, bold insight, and emotional intelligence to create a successful and empowered team.

Leaders, Try These Tips to Trust Your Gut

From FastCompany.com, here are some easy strategies you can use to trust your gut when making leadership decisions:

  • Take time to reflect. Avoid the temptation to make a snap decision and instead tell team members you need time to “sleep on it.”
  • If you tend to overanalyze, set a time limit for your decision and go to your gut at the end of that time period to see what your instincts tell you. Also be mindful of how you’re feeling, as that’s another way to access your gut intelligence.
  • Make a list of all your gut decisions and their outcomes. You’ll start to equate how you felt on a “gut level” with the results of your choice. Over time, you’ll be able to recognize when your instincts are giving you the thumbs up (or thumbs down) on a situation.

Bonus BOLD Tip: If it’s been a challenge for you to get in touch with your inner instincts, try meditation. Regularly participating in this powerful practice offers benefits that can not only help you deepen your capacity as a leader, but also give you fresh perspectives in your personal and professional lives.

Adding gut instincts to your decision-making tool box as a leader can help you and your team achieve impressive and on-going success.

Looking for new and bolder ways to manage your teams, including how to add an instinctive approach to your decision making process and leadership skillset? Sign up here to access my free Weekly Bold Move.