Getting Vertical: From the Iceberg to the Balcony
Finding New Angles and Perspectives
A couple of weeks ago in The Value of Symmetry in Enterprising Families, we were looking at things on a relatively horizontal plane.
This week, I want to take a 90 degree turn and move us to the vertical axis, and see what we can gain by changing the angle and seeing what we can learn when we look at things from a new perspective.
Once again, this is a post inspired by a discussion with colleagues, who were together over a group Zoom call, all trying to learn to serve our family enterprise clients even better.
It’s amazing how often sessions like these get me thinking about ideas in new and useful ways, and I’m glad to have this outlet for them.
Writing these weekly blogs forces me to think about them in ways that I can explain easily, which often comes in handy later.
Iceberg, Straight Ahead!
It’s easy to think of an iceberg as a potential villain. I’m not going there, but instead to another visual analogy.
I think everyone’s familiar with the part about the visible portion of the iceberg, above the water line, being only about 10% of the entire mass of the entire block.
One colleague in that aforementioned call brought up the idea of having to dive deep into the water to look at a family’s issues from various depths, to try to identify the real root of certain presenting problems.
Of course the things on the surface are easier to see, but then again if everyone could see and agree on all the problems, there would be a lot less work for people like me!
The Old Standard “30,000 foot” view
So one way to get vertical is to do a deep dive, but what about the other direction, up?
Many people talk about the view from 30,000 feet, and that can also give you a very different perspective that can be useful in a lot of ways.
As someone who has studied family systems theory, I’m a big fan of the idea of looking at things from outside the system, because it is often so much easier to understand what’s going on when you are not stuck in the middle of it.
It’s a key reason that bringing in an independent outsider can be such a benefit to so many families.
The Balcony Is High Enough
But you don’t need to get into a plane or helicopter to begin to get some of the benefit from the new perspective that an overhead view can provide.
In fact, that’s where the balcony comes in.
If you really went way up into the sky, you wouldn’t be able to hear what people are saying or notice the facial reactions of the people anymore, and these are key to understanding what’s going on.
A balcony is just high enough to allow you to see things differently while remaining close enough to stay in touch with the emotional field in the family group.
Horizontal Views Are Often Obstructed
There are naturally limits to any analogy, but I think this one still has some juice left in it. When you’re all on the same horizontal plane, your view of each other is often obstructed.
There’s a reason why round tables work better for many kinds of meetings than rectangular ones.
When a family invites someone like me to work with them, one of the things that they get, in addition to my unbiased independence, is the advantage of different perspectives.
So whether I am trying to dig deeper and look under the surface, or going up to the balcony to see how things look from up there, it’s all about trying to get the family to better understand and clarify what’s going one.
Shining a Light on What I See
Of course sometimes when I travel to a different plane and notice something new, it can be an interesting task to figure out what to do next.
Most often I try to shine a light on what I’ve seen and share it with the family, if only to verify what I think I’ve found.
But that isn’t always the right thing to do; sometimes I need to process what I’ve seen before sharing.
Either way though, getting vertical by going deep or going up can both be valuable ways to gather important information to help a family move forward.