What do I mean by “What Lies Beneath”? It is learning to mine for the real story in certain situations. We have all heard that what we see of an iceberg is only the tip. The rest of it lies hidden beneath the surface. So it can be with people and situations.
Many times in our practice here at Cirrus Business Group we get into conversations with people and their first level of complaining, of hysteria, of whatever it might be that is on their mind is not the whole story. We find that just listening and letting them ramble if they need to, or let them be quiet if that is what they need is the first step toward finding what the real story is.
I have two examples for you.
In the first case a very quiet leader, a very effective leader, was with us and she certainly had something on her mind. We were going through some coaching of each of the leaders in the organization. As we worked with here she did not reveal in her comments that anything was really going on that bothered her yet from the body language and facial expressions we could see that there was something there below the surface. So we just kept talking with her and asking questions, letting her go on with the surface stuff. After about 30 minutes she finally felt comfortable enough to open up and reveal her real thoughts and relate what she felt was really going on. We finally got to the real story behind the looks on her face and the body language. This is not atypical of someone who is of a more reserved, introverted way of being. That is just how they approach life. There was also a cultural difference in this particular situation. In her culture, being from Eastern Europe, revealing these kinds of things was not generally the first things that one did and a lot of what was felt and thought stayed buried for self-protection and it can be the cultural norm. You have to take the time to let those kinds of people feel safe so that they are clear that what you are doing is confidential, it’s not going to go anywhere. This helps in the understanding of that leader and in the long run helps the company in general.
On the other side of the story is the person who just needs to vent. This person is typically very extroverted, very demonstrative, and needs to be heard. They will be speaking—the question is whether anyone is listening! When handling this kind of person you have to just let them vent. We had a particular case not long ago where this leader had to vent and she was really upset about some things, She went on, and on, and on, and kept circling around back to the same thing until we finally said: “We’ve already heard that part before. Please tell us something new.” Once the energy of all of that went away and she could stop and breathe, we were then able to ask her some questions. What she revealed on the surface as to what the issue was, was not the issue at all. There was something much deeper that had been going on for quite some time, and in fact could have also been affecting other team players in that particular organization who also just weren’t saying anything about it. The culture was not, in their opinion, open to hearing what they wanted to say, or hearing their side of the story. At the same time as we worked with this company we learned that what the upper management was wanting was to hear from them—please talk to us! So a big gap existed between the perception of the line leaders and the perception of upper management. Again there can be cultural differences here. If the upper management comes in to lead a company from a different country may have some difference in approach that we in the United States are not used to, so those things have to be sorted out as the company moves along.
What we observed here is one huge reason to hire a group like the Cirrus Business Group to help you find out what is really going on beneath the surface. We also teach the leaders how to have those conversations, how to approach them, so that the bottom line story really comes out. The root cause is what we are trying to get to here, and most of what we see on the surface is symptoms. Treating just the symptom will not work. You have to get to the root cause through this deeper conversation. It takes time, it takes patience and it takes courage. This has to be in a safe zone and a safe place where it is clear that the conversation is highly confidential. If anything ever gets out about that conversation that you accidentally leaked you will never be able to get anyone’s trust again. This is a very big trust issue when working with these situations.
Coach Judi Harris
Cirrus Business Group