One of my favorite lunch spots is Cava. It’s one of those restaurants where you go through a line and the staff asks you what you want based on the selection in front of you. You start with a base which is a salad, burrito, or bowl — I always ask for “all the dark lettuces.”
Thus, when I heard about the ICEBERG Theory, I had to laugh. The iceberg theory states that what is below the surface can be even more important than what is above it. And the same is true in organizations too.
At an organization where I was recently consulting, some employees were quite passionate about their work, others less so. So much “less so” that they barely showed up for work, they didn’t respond to emails for several business days, and they thought nothing of blaming their colleagues when tasks weren’t completed, rather than investigating the root cause, or better yet, just taking ownership and completing the task.
When the senior leaders of this organization gathered to discuss culture, they saw little connection between these outward signs of disengagement and the overall health of the organization. The leaders made excuses, “It was a busy time” or “She has medical issues.” They didn’t hold employees accountable and they weren’t very accountable themselves.
I helped them to see the connection. When employees do not deliver, it is indicative of a greater problem within the organization. When employees are ill, the organization needs to put in place a way to handle their illnesses with minimal disruption to projects and other employees.
And what can you, as a leader, do to learn more about what is really going beneath the surface in your organization? Here are a just a few ideas:
- Be approachable.
- Listen to what employees share, regardless of whether you like or agree with what they are saying.
- Be calm and open even when you are upset about what you are being told.
- Create anonymous ways for employees to provide feedback, and encourage constructive feedback.
- Conduct focus groups, preferably led by outside experts.
- Be future-focused by asking the question, “How can we do better?” rather than “How did this happen?”, which can be viewed as accusatory.
- Walk around and ask questions. Dig deeper down the depths of the iceberg (or the roots of the iceberg lettuce!).
If you have employees who are disengaged, slow to respond, or often negative, I can help your organization.