How Can Elephants Help Leaders?

Laura Novakowski  -  Feb 07, 2014  -  , ,  -  Comments Off on How Can Elephants Help Leaders?

Today, as a 720thinker I would like to use a different lens.  Let’s look at elephants – one of my favorite animals. I love their largeness, strength, and persistence.  Now those are great attributes, so I’d like to correlate how those very positive attributes, are all too often present, not always positive and yet generally avoided. So how possibly could elephants help leaders in business?

Please considFeb_7_14_elephantinroomer three questions:

What is the elephant in the room?

This elephant is the challenge that is so big, strong, persistent, and so disturbing to your business and yet you have not admitted it was in the room.   Can you imagine how crowded the room is with all the draining mental and physical energy that it takes to just keep that huge issue off the table because no one is willing to be the first one to admit that it’s really there?

And yet off the table it stays. It pushes and shoves into our space, consuming every inch of our business, the elephant causing us misunderstanding, mismanagement and misalignment.  We spend so much time pretending that it doesn’t exist that we convince ourselves it’s not really impacting our business.  The elephant sits there affecting our trust,  our strategies, our relationships and our results.

Feb7_14elephantontable What can we do with the elephant? Put the darn elephant on the table!  Get out the open that overwhelming obstacle that is sucking the air of your success. To lighten the load, have some fun with this and actually put an elephant in the middle of the conference or dining room table.  Yes, butt first, really does make a statement. Once the decision is made to no longer avoid that immense problem, the problem solving can begin.

It’s amazing to experience the tension diminish and the excitement rise as the mistake, issue or out-and-out fear are verbalized. No more energy is directed at hiding. Instead, empowerment and engagement start to climb.

Feb_&_14_onebiteatatime_2013How can we proactively deal with  the elephant?  “One bite at a time!“  Now people can start building or re-building trust.  This is not the time for goal setting. Nor is the time to edit, criticize, critique, point fingers or blame. It is the time for open dialog, admitting fears and, if there is time, brainstorming to really get the ball rolling.  Usually is will take more than one meeting. People may need to walk away from the elephant because they are still not sure of the name.  Don’t be too quick to pass judgment if everyone is not willing or even able to talk about the elephant. Leaders will need to reflect and reframe their own relationship with the elephant and be willing NOT to try to swallow it whole.  Remember – elephants are the largest mammal on dry land.

I actually collect elephants.  Keeping them on hand helps me to see problems with a different lens.  I take them out of the corners, put them on the table and then start taking one bite at a time.  After all, I do believe leaders cannot have too many “friends” too help them deal with those big business challenges.

We would love to learn your thoughts and ideas.


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