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Melting the Permafrost Layer

Did you ever feel like senior leaders have no idea what’s really happening on the ground? My friend Kelly calls this the “permafrost layer”, and I see it in most companies. I’ve encouraged you all to take responsibility for your world, so I ask you, “How are you complicit in creating leaders who don’t know what’s really going on?” And I ask leaders, “What can you do to melt the permafrost?”

Leaders - are you creating fear? What are you doing that’s discouraging people from giving you the truth? Are you creating a safe environment or one of fear? I had an executive ask me indignantly, “What are they afraid of? We never fire anyone!” People aren’t afraid of being fired, they are afraid of criticism and shame. That’s a lot worse than being fired.

If you criticize everything that crosses your path, you’re a like a black cat, creating bad luck in the form of fear. When people are afraid, you aren’t going to get the truth, and a permafrost layer develops.

Workers - are you coddling your leaders? When workers make everything look rosy, we are building the permafrost upwards. When an environment of fear is in place, it’s hard to say anything negative when reporting upwards. This is where courage comes into play; it takes courage to speak the truth. I had an executive client once tell me “If you listen to what they tell me you think everything is rosy, but I look at our results and I know it’s not.” Most of the time when people have the courage to be honest, in a productive way, it pays off. And when it doesn’t? Well did you really want to work there anyway?

How have you melted the permafrost layer in your organization? Let us know!

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