Why your career success might depend on an iceberg

What if your career success depended on an iceberg? Sounds a bit weird, doesn’t it? Bear with me. 


Let’s start with your behaviour. It’s like the tip of this iceberg. The part of you that's exposed, visible for the world to see.

Imagine you're in a meeting. There’s healthy debate. The energy amongst the other attendees is palpable. But you’re the exception. You sit in silence, arms folded, allowing others to dominate proceedings. You know have some good ideas. You always have good ideas, don’t you? Yet you keep them to yourself. As a result, they’ll never be heard, because neither will you.

Or maybe the opposite scenario is in play in this meeting. You’re the one who dominates, talking over everyone else. When others manage to get a word in, you play with your phone. There’s zero listening involved from you. And why not? After all, you have the best ideas. Always. Who cares about what the others in the room have to say? What do they know?

Either way, whether your behaviour is passive or aggressive, it is observed by your colleagues, bosses and clients and is fed back to you in your annual performance review. It feels uncomfortable. It’s clear to all that things need to change if you’re to make any further progress in your career. 

So, you're sent on a training course to improve your performance in meetings. You’ll learn how to become more assertive, and how to improve your listening and communication skills. Sounds hopeful.

Yet, you return to work after the course and little changes. You struggle to put all those ideas you learned into practice. But why?

Here’s the deal. Trying to shift only your behaviour is like pushing the tip of that iceberg. Futile. Resistance will come from the 90% of your iceberg that lies, invisible, beneath the surface:

  • Your feelings - "I'm fuming that idiot in sales dismissed my idea."
  • Your beliefs - "I'm useless in comparison to my colleagues."
  • Your attitudes - "Bosses always know best. I should never challenge authority."
  • Your identity - "Who am I to be in this room with these smart folk?"

To transform unproductive behaviours above the surface, you'll also want to work on what's below the waterline, hidden from view. Learning new skills on their own isn’t enough.

This is where coaching comes in. Partnering with a coach will allow you to closely examine your feelings, beliefs, attitudes and identity in a safe space away from the judgement of others. It will help you to understand why you are where you are now. To connect your unhelpful behaviour with its inevitable consequences. To increase your self-awareness of how you react in different situations, and to develop increased emotional self-control to put into practice when you feel under pressure.

You can’t change what you don’t notice. So maybe it’s time you took a deep dive to notice what’s really going on for you. Do this, and watch your behaviours at the tip of the iceberg, along with your chances of career success, change for the better.  

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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AYLESBURY, Buckinghamshire, HP18
Written by Adam Collins, Leadership + Career Growth Coach (ICF ACC)
AYLESBURY, Buckinghamshire, HP18

Adam Collins (ACC) is a life & executive coach. He spent 25 years in global leadership roles in advertising. In spite of contrary evidence, his self-doubt often distorted the positive reality of his life & career. Now a coach, he partners with his clients to create insights & actions that enable them to live & work with confidence & resilience.

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