Talking to senior stakeholders - do this critical thinking check
I delivered another brilliant face to face Leadership training module this week and we got to do my absolute bullet proof favourite thinking tool. The Iceberg. This key concept underpins every aspect of what you do as a leader from speaking up in meetings to having difficult conversations, to influencing key stakeholders. It has huge implications for your ability to put your opinions and thoughts across to others, especially for those of you who struggle with talking to more senior people.
It works like this. The bit of the iceberg that's above the waterline is what we see and hear. This is your behaviour and the results that you get from it. What's below the waterline at a deeper level and unseen are your assumptions, beliefs, values and purpose. These drive everything because internal thoughts directly impact on what you do, and what you do directly impacts the results you get.
For example, If I believe my organisation has a blame culture, then I won’t come forwards with any mistakes I make. That means we can’t pre-empt problems and we get a lot of nasty surprises. Or if I think you’re judging me in that meeting, I’m likely to clam up and not get my message across. How you think has a direct impact on how you behave and how you behave impacts the results that you get. Cause and effect!
The iceberg allows us to do a critical thinking check on what’s going on underneath the waterline. It allows us to make the unconscious, conscious and then we can use objective analysis of thinking patterns and beliefs to get us a clear and undistorted view of the situation.
So, if instead of the distorted thought that senior people are judging your presentation, you choose to believe that they want to hear what you have to say, my behaviour will follow. You're much less likely to mumble, more likely to give good eye contact and speak more clearly. People will hear your key messages and that will get a very different result.
Have a go at writing down those assumptions, beliefs and values that prevent you from communicating confidently with senior stakeholders. Maybe you think they're not interested, that you have nothing of value to offer or that you don't have the right to talk to them. Tell yourself a different and more accurate story to help you to speak out with greater confidence and clarity.