It’s iceberg season.
Hundreds of chunks of ice, big and small, are cracking off the glaciers or ice shelves in the Arctic and have started making their way down “Iceberg Alley,” a stretch of coastline that includes the coast of Labrador to the northeast coast of the island of Newfoundland.
A native of St. John’s myself – the largest city on Iceberg Alley – sights of icebergs floating down the coastline are a welcome sign of Spring.
This year, the photos of the icebergs seem more majestic and more awe-inspiring than ever. In fact, the Weather Network reports that an average number of icebergs to be seen in a week is usually 37 at this time of year. Last week that total numbered 455 in a single week. That’s a lot of icebergs!
In my work as a coach, I love to work with metaphors.
I find that my clients get great benefit from using analogies as new solutions and answers seem to appear out of nowhere when we apply the problem or situation to something seemingly completely unrelated – like an iceberg.
Icebergs, as most people know, are much larger than they appear above the water. They say that 7/8ths of an iceberg is actually below the water line. So, we are only seeing 1/8 of the iceberg above the water.
Which got me to thinking about all the topics that have come up in my client sessions recently that were signs of something that mostly lay beneath the surface.
How often do we make judgments about things or people when we only know 1/8 of the story?
We see the part that is glaring at us on top of the surface, but not immediately what is lying underneath.
How often do we actually look beneath the surface to see what is really there so we can deal with the real issue, instead of the relatively small part that is peeking out on top?
This can be particularly tricky in the workplace, where people issues are often not talked about, kicked under the rug, or – rather – buried underwater.
Here are 10 questions that have come up in my coaching sessions recently that are all signs of icebergs – where most of the issue is lying unseen, beneath the surface:
- I can’t get this person on my team motivated to meet performance expectations.
- Why is person X so angry all the time? It seems whenever I ask them a simple question they jump at me!
- I am in a new role and my team doesn’t trust me. How can I rebuild trust on my team?
- I’m really having trouble making a decision about what kind of work would make me happy.
- How can I get my boss to focus on what’s really important for the organization? It seems their head is in outer space half the time!
- Why am I so negative? I keep lashing out at my family and that’s the opposite of what I want.
- I am thinking about starting my own consultancy. But I just can’t seem to make myself take the first step.
- Is it just me? Or is the whole world spinning out of control? It feels like the world keeps getting crazier and I’m standing still.
- Why won’t this person email me back? They are so rude! I know he probably gets lots of emails every day but a little common courtesy would be nice.
- This is not the way I thought my life was going to be right now. How did I get here?
Every one of these questions is layered with complexity.
As a manager, in many cases, these are the types of issues where simply providing solutions won’t work. There is more to the surface issue of performance, or anger, or mistrust.
Getting underneath the surface issue to the real problem will take time.
Here are some questions that you, as a manager, colleague or friend, can use to start tackling the iceberg-sized issues that are lying beneath the surface. (Corresponding with the numbered questions above.)
- What’s getting in the way?
- What are you really angry about?
- What do you need to be successful on this project?
- What do you really wish you could do?
- What is your most important area of focus right now?
- What am I really angry/stressed about?
- What am I afraid of?
- What matters about that?
- What is important about getting an email back?
- What is holding me back from leading the life I thought I would lead?
Next time, instead of assuming you’ve got the whole picture, how about stepping back and asking a question before providing a solution?
What are some questions you have used that have helped you solve people issues instead of creating new ones?
I’d love to hear. Write them in the comments below or message me with your thoughts.
And if you have a people or personal issue that seems it requires some digging under the surface so you can move forward, send me a private message so we can set up a complimentary consultation. Maybe a coach is just what you need to help you solve it.
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