The Elephant in the Room. The Sacred Cow. The skeleton in the closet. Every company has certain issues that they avoid bringing up at all costs. Sometimes the issues are too uncomfortable to confront. Or the same issue has been discussed many times in the past and still nothing is being done about it. Sometimes it’s because we’re afraid that someone will get personally offended just because we brought it up.
The issues that are most often avoided are people-related issues. Someone is underperforming, but because they’ve been with the company forever, their lack of performance becomes the norm or status quo.
During client meetings I place some fun stress toys on the table to help release tension when it rises. Two toys that I use most commonly are an elephant (it’s the elephant in the room) and a cow (the sacred cow). When it becomes clear that someone is holding back, not being completely open and honest, we toss them the elephant or the cow. This makes it easier for them let it out and say what’s on their mind.
“I’m the Elephant in the Room”
In a recent session, it was clear that there was tension within the team right away. As we were designing the Accountability Chart, one team member picked up the elephant, put it on his shoulder and said, “I’d like to address the elephant in the room that we’ve all been avoiding.”
Everyone froze. You could feel the tension in the room nervously rise.
He continued: “I must be the problem because there are at least two people on this leadership team that I can’t communicate with. Whatever I say either falls on deaf ears or immediately gets shot down.”
After much heated discussion, it became clear that another member of the team was harboring resentment over an email exchange from six years ago. It hadn’t even been mentioned until now. They had been carrying this issue for years.<
The team ultimately settled on setting 90-day priorities, called “Rocks,” around improving their team communication. They agreed that improving their communication and team health was the most important priority to move the business forward.
In just two months, the team made significant progress in healing crucial relationships, and they are now communicating in a much more healthy, open and honest way.
Don’t Be Afraid of Those Tough Issues
What issues are you avoiding in your business? Acknowledge the elephant in the room with your team. This will help you confront tough issues that have been lingering for ages.
How do you do that? Get back to the basics, design an Accountability Chart with your leadership team. Get everyone to speak up, so you can hear their perspective of the right way to structure roles and responsibilities with your leadership team. Then set Rocks around solutions to solve the issues you uncover.
It’s time for you to take action and make progress–stop letting these issues linger!