HOW REAL LEADERS MELT THE ICEBERG OF IGNORANCE WITH HUMILITY
Joost Minnaar, Pim de Morree, Freek Ronner and Catelijne Bexkens, known as “The Corporate Rebels", are on a mission to make work mor
By the Corporate Rebels, May 26, 2018
Similar images of the ‘Iceberg of Ignorance‘ have been around for decades.. Today they are spreading like wildfire on social media, rapidly becoming one of the most shared legends of popular management culture. It all originated (so it is said) in 1989 when consultant Sidney Yoshida produced his study called ‘The Iceberg of Ignorance‘. Allegedly, Yoshida revealed what he saw in the work and leadership habits of Japanese car manufacturer, Calsonic.
THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
He uncovered a poor distribution of power and information within the hierarchy. Specifically, knowledge of front-line problems went up in smoke the higher he climbed the management chain. Indeed, he found that company leadership was hardly aware of any of the real problems the organization faced. They were, as he put it, only aware of the tip of the iceberg.
Yoshida further found that, even though 100% of front-line problems were known to the front-line employees, only 74% were known to team leaders, 9% to middle management and just 4% to top management! Yoshida found that, even though 100% of front-line problems were known to the front-line employees, only 74% were known to team leaders, 9% to middle management and just 4% to top management!
Whether Yoshida’s numbers are accurate, and even if those numbers are still relevant in today, is up for debate. On the one hand, academics might argue the legend is too ‘bad’ to be true or, perhaps, only partly based on facts....
we do not really care if Yoshida’s numbers are completely accurate or not. We would argue that’s not so relevant. What is relevant is to discover and reflect on the meaningful message they convey.
THE PROBLEM OF THE ICEBERG
For that reason the ‘Iceberg of Ignorance‘ is a damn good story. It offers a powerful but painful insight into the miserable state of the modern workplace. In good times, the Iceberg of Ignorance may not lead to notable problems. But in bad times, leaders really need urgent and accurate information from the front-line to survive.
This is when roles are suddenly reversed. Leaders with low status and trust can end up feeling like Julius Caesar on the Ides of March. They will be left alone to solve their own problems.
Obviously, it is impossible for even the most heroic leadership team to solve all the problems of the organization, especially if they are only aware of the ‘tip of the iceberg‘. So, what can leaders do to address this problem? And what can they learn from the academics and the most inspiring leaders around?
HUMILITY IS THE KEY TO MELTING THE ICEBERG
Luckily for leaders, there is a very effective habit to cultivate that solves this issue – showing humility. As common sense as it sounds, frequently engaging with the front-line seems to be an underused key to success. For leaders at all levels, this kind of humility will help break the ice before their Titanic hits an iceberg. Leaders who show humility by mixing with the front-line gain more status and influence than their peers who prefer to stay in their offices. Moreover, leaders can actively enhance their status by engaging in work ‘below their pay grade’. Here are two inspiring examples of humble, and exceptional, leadership. We can learn from these.
Joost Minnaar, Pim de Morree, Freek Ronner and Catelijne Bexkens, known as “The Corporate Rebels", are on a mission to make work more fun. They quit their frustrating, corporate jobs and set out to travel the globe to visit the world’s most inspiring organizations. While checking off their renowned Bucket List they share everything they learn.
THE CHEF-OWNER WHO SWEEPS THE STREET
Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino recently talked about a research project in which she surveyed 700+ employees about bosses and their behaviour. She found managers with the least levels of respect are also those known for shutting themselves in their offices.
More importantly, she also found that “the most respected leaders are those most willing to get their hands dirty”. Francesca often talks about the work and leadership habits of Massimo Bottura, the chef-owner of Italian based, three- Michelin-star restaurant, Osteria Francescana...ranked as one of the best restaurants in the world. But its chef-owner doesn’t shy away from sweeping the street in front of the restaurant—every single morning. Moreover, he helps his staff to unload delivery trucks and prepare staff meals. He even finds time to play soccer with the staff. “When Bottura grabs a broom each morning, he shows his staff that there is no work that’s beneath him – and that gains their respect.”
THE RESTAURANT-OWNER WHO POURS WATER
At Corporate Rebels we have a similar story, about the habits of Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Zingerman’s, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based community of food businesses. The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses is a long time favorite among food writers and is one of the coolest businesses in America according to Inc. magazine.
Despite the fact that Ari leads a multi-million dollar enterprise, he still pours water to guests, every single evening. You might think he has a lot more important things to do, but you should never tell him that. Because he knows that being actively engaged (as owner) is best for the business.
It’s when employees see Ari walking around with a pitcher offering water to clients they know their own jobs are equally important. It’s about doing the small things to ensure the business runs smoothly, no matter what position or role you hold.
HUMILITY AS THE HIDDEN INGREDIENT
There is more from the academics. Wharton Professor Adam Grant (author of Originals) studies how to make work not suck, and he talks about humility as the secret ingredient. “Humility is having the self-awareness to know what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. Studies show that when you have humility in your team, people are more likely to play to their strengths.”
Grant advocates that, instead of going for the spotlight, leaders should take on roles that help their teams win. In that sense humility isn’t about having a low opinion of your self, it’s about being grounded. “Humility doesn’t require you to only do the grunt work. It’s about realizing you’re not above doing whatever the team needs.” Creating a culture of humility is not just about recruiting a bunch of humble people. It’s about making humility a core part of all your practices, roles and processes!
London Business School Professor Dan Cable (author of Alive at Work) would agree on that and advocates for humble leaders that help employees to feel purposeful, motivated, and energized so they can bring their best selves to work. These leaders have “the humility, courage and insight to admit that they can benefit from the expertise of others who have less power than them.”
Moreover, humble leaders “increase the ownership, autonomy, and responsibility of followers – to encourage them to think for themselves and try out their own ideas.” Because what it simply comes down is this: “employees who do the actual work of your organization often know better than you how to do a great job.”
Joost Minnaar、Pim de Morree、 Freek Ronner 和 Catelijne Bexkens 又稱為「企業叛逆者」,致力於 讓工作更有趣。他們離開充滿挫折的職場,到全 世界旅行,探訪全世界最有啟發性的組織。他們 一邊達成目標,也分享他們的學習。
HOW REAL LEADERS MELT THE ICEBERG OF IGNORANCE WITH HUMILITY
真正領袖如何以謙和力融化無知的冰山 By the Corporate Rebels, May 26, 2018
類似的「無知的冰山」的這張圖已經流傳數十年。最近這張圖像是森林的火焰般蔓延社群媒體,很快成為管理 文化最長分享的影像。這些都源自於 1989 年,管理顧問 Sidney Yoshida 發表他的研究,名為《無知的冰 山》。據說他是根據對日本汽車製造商 Calsonic 的工作與領導習性所做的研究,提出的觀察。
冰山的頂端 他發現權力階級的權力與資訊分佈並不均衡。更明確的是,前線同仁對於問題的知識,會隨著他職位的晉升消 失。他發現公司領導者幾乎不會察覺到組織面對的問題。他認為他們只看到冰山的頂端。
Yoshida 也發現,即使前線員工掌握了 100%前線面對的問題,他們團隊的主管只知道 74%,中階經理只有 9%,高階經理只有 4%!
不管 Yoshida 的數字是否正確,即時這些數字現在仍然適用,還是可能引發辯論。但是,學術界可能認為這個 故事「太嚴重」,不可能是真的,或是只有一部分是事實...
我們不太在乎 Yoshida 的數字到底對不對,我們想說的是,這不是那麼重要,重要的是這些訊息想要傳達的是 什麼。
「無知的冰山」之所以是一個很棒的故事,是因為它點出很震撼、但是又很令人痛苦的職場現實。狀況好的時 候,無知的冰山可能不會有問題,但是狀況不好時,領導者可能需要前線同仁提供更緊急、正確的資訊,組織 才能生存。
還好,其實有一個非常有效的習慣,是可以培養來解決這個問題的 - 展現謙和力。這聽起來或許像是很基本的 常識,但是經常和最前線的同仁搏感情,似乎是一個很少人關注到的成功關鍵。對於所有階層的領導者而言, 這種謙和的態度會在鐵達尼號船撞到冰山之前,就先把冰山打破。領導者跟前線同仁們打成一片,會比那些留 在自己辦公室的主管,在員工心目中的地位和影響力就會比較高。同時,領導者願意投入「比自己薪資等級 低」的工作,也更能增強他們的地位。以下是兩個謙和、傑出領導者的典範,我們都能從中學習頗多。
哈佛商業學院教授 Francesca Gino 最近談到一份針對 700+員工企業老闆與其行為的研究計畫。她發現大家感到 尊重度最低的經理們,都是把自己關在辦公室裡的。
更重要的是,她也發現「最受尊重的領導者就是願意捲起袖子把手弄髒的人。」Francesca 常常談到義大利的 米其林三星飯店 Osteria Francescena 的廚師老闆 Massimo Bottura 的故事,是一家被稱為全世界最好的餐廳之一 的飯店。但是飯店的廚師老闆也不會害羞,會去清掃餐廳門口的馬路,而且每天都如此。除此之外,他還幫員 工從卡車上把貨品卸下、並準備員工的餐點。他甚至花時間和員工踢足球。「Bottura 早上拿起掃把時,他讓 員工們知道,沒有他認為低賤的工作,這也贏得他們的尊敬。」
在 Corporate Rebels,我們也有一個很類似的故事,是關於密西根 Ann Arbor 一個餐飲事業 Zingerman‘s 的創辦 人之一 Ari Weinzweig 的故事。這個 Zingerman’s Community of Business 的企業社群也是美食作者的最愛,更 是 Inc 雜誌認為是美國最酷的企業之一。
雖然 Ari 領導的是一個百萬企業,他還是每個晚上都會幫客人倒水。或許你認為他有更重要的事要做,但是你 不能跟他這樣說,因為他知道高度參與(做為一個老闆)對業務最好。
當員工看到 Ari 走來走去,手裡拿著一個水壺幫顧客倒水,他們知道他們自己的工作也一樣重要。重點在於做 這些細微的事情,讓一切更順利,你的職位多高並不重要。
學術界也有更多的佐證。華頓商學院教授 Adam Grant(《Originals》一書作者)研究如何讓工作不討人厭,他 認為謙和力就是秘密的成分。「謙和就是擁有自我覺察,知道你擅長的是什麼、不在行的是什麼。研究顯示當 你在團隊裡展現謙和的態度,人們更有可能發揮他們的強項。」
Grant 也認為,與其一直作為眾人的焦點,領導者應該扮演幫助團隊成功的角色。從這角度來看,謙和並不是 貶低自己,而是貼近現實。「謙和並不是要你單純做很卑微的工作,而是你不會沒有高人一等,只要是團隊的 需求,你都可以完成。」創造一個謙和的文化並不是單純聘用很多謙虛的人,而是讓謙虛成為所有行為、角 色、流程的核心元素。
倫敦商業學院教授 Dan Cable (著作《Alive at Work》一書作者)也會同意這一點,並認為謙虛的領導者會讓員 工感受到有目標、被激勵、充滿能量,攘他們願意將自己最好的一面顯現在工作上。這些領導者「足夠謙虛, 有足夠的勇氣與洞察,願意承認那些權力遠不足於他們的人,也有可以讓他們有收穫的專業能力。」
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