What lies beneath the iceberg and how we can transfer lessons learned from the most unexpected situations

When leading and managing change or people, the ability to decipher emotions, anticipate behaviours and plan for resistance is very important and can make the difference between success and failure. To be able to do this, there is a fundamental requirement that a person learns to understand and make allowances for covert hidden motivations, values, attitudes and perceptions that trigger the overt behaviours that ultimately could result in the type of resistance that has the power to derail the expected outcome.

To fight this resistance, one has to be able to understand its source and the reason for it. However we are often deceived into just taking things at face/ surface value, expecting people to agree and connect with our initiatives and plans in a logical as opposed to an emotional manner. The reason is simple. What is at face value is quicker, easier, tangible and more universally accepted therefore simpler to decipher and relate to. It does not require painfully and blindly digging to unearth what lies beneath the iceberg. Research however tells us that what we see on the surface accounts for only 10% of the iceberg – which means that it quite literally, the tip. Concentrating on just this therefore is at best foolhardy.

Icebergs are everywhere. They are not just restricted to waters but can often be seen in the most unusual places. Take for example, the most successful single sports event so far in history…Mayweather v Pacquiao, May 3, 2015.

In the lead up to the $400m (£265m) boxing bout, Mayweather was billed as the bad guy, the king of crass, a wife beater and arrogant. Pacquiao by comparison was the saint, a Robin Hood type character who donates significant amounts of his wealth to the poor and the “People’s Champion”. For the boxing match where tickets were gold dust, he reportedly spent $1.5m of his money for free tickets for his fans. His generosity was rewarded in spades. Pacquiao was greeted with roof raising cheers as he entered the ring; Mayweather with deafening boos and jeers which belied the unshakeable sports belief in the power of home crowd advantage. Indeed on numerous occasions (as I watched the live event, courtesy of pay per view), I had to remind myself that the Las Vegas venue is indeed Mayweather’s backyard.

What lies beneath?

Detractors of Mayweather justify their position with the argument that he flaunts his wealth and never gives any money to charity unlike Paquiao who is well known for the charity work that he does, especially in his native country the Philippines where he is more or less seen as a god. IF this is really an excuse to vilify someone, (let’s not forget that the concept of charity is that one WILLINGLY contributes to a cause in an altruistic manner i.e. without being externally compelled or peer pressured to and WITHOUT expecting to get something in return) let’s look a little beneath the iceberg.

Did a bit deeper and one unearths that Mayweather has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to help families build homes in the Decatur district of Las Vegas, In a Telegraph interview, he said, “I help kids and families that are less fortunate and give back to my community”. Just like Pacquiao, Mayweather has his own charity called ‘The Floyd Mayweather Jr. Foundation’ which was set up to help people in Las Vegas where he lives. Pacquiao’s ambition is reportedly to run for the president of the Philippines after his boxing career is over, and with highly publicised almost saintly reputation as a giver, no one will bet against his chances.  Floyd Mayweather on the other hand has ambitions to be an extremely wealthy and successful businessman. So far, he is proving that you can do this, even with a sport which predominantly attracts athletes from more humble backgrounds.

Lacking in humility

Speaking of humility, the widespread belief is that Mayweather is greedy, boastful and cocky with his money compared to Paquiao who is humble and God fearing. After Mayweather was unanimously declared the winner of the match, by the 3 official judges he spoke respectfully of Pacquiao, conceding that Pacquiao was a “tricky” opponent and as such he (Mayweather) had to think smarter in order to defeat him – i.e. adapt his game plan accordingly. He also thanked all the fans of boxing who contributed to make this fight so lucrative as well as his family and all the sponsors (naming them one by one). Hardly the impromptu speech of an arrogant champion who for a good majority of the event was booed by a majority of the 16000 capacity crowd. Pacquiao’s interview on the other hand was anything but humble. He rendered his interviewer speechless by declaring that he thought he had won and that the decision was wrong. There was no acknowledgment of his opponent’s prowess and thankfully, the interview was mercifully cut short before the “humility” halo completely slipped off.

As Leaders, Managers and/ or Change practitioners, we all know “never to judge a book by the cover”. We also all understand the phrase “just the tip of the iceberg”. However, it is interesting how quickly we forget when we are in the driving seat of important initiatives and projects that 90% of the drivers of behaviours are hidden under the surface and that the more time and effort we spend in trying to unearth and understand this, the more we increase our chances of success.

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