Popular legend suggests that when elephants reach an older age they instinctively leave their herd and go toward a special place known as the Elephant Graveyard. When their journey is done, they die there alone, far away from the group so that their passing does not adversely impact the family by slowing them down.
Whether the legend is true or not, we can draw a useful parallel to organizational life and learn something important from this animal instinct. There are “elephants” all around us. Only the DNA of these elephants is formed from the miscommunications, unresolved conflicts, unmet expectations, performance breakdowns, denials, and outbursts we experience in the course of our working lives.
The old saying – “the elephant in the room” – describes these often unmentionable issues that are known by most to be present, yet they intimidate direct conversation about their nature and influence.
How many aging elephants are lingering in your workplace? What is stopping you from giving them permission to go away and expire so that you can move on, unencumbered by the weight of their memory? The following suggestions are offered here as a resource to address your “elephant in the room:”
- Make the Undiscussable Discussable – If something has been “off the table,” then put it back on. If an issue or topic has been buried by taboo, then take a risk to bring it up to the surface. Whether the issue is between two or 22 people, reduce the stigma by initiating an open, honest, and safe discussion.
- Put the Elephant in All Three Dimensions – The proverbial blind men touching different parts of an elephant and all describing something very different is a helpful analogy. Don’t assume that everyone “knows exactly what’s going on here.” Invite people to share their perspective on the issue and don’t judge the way in which perspectives are expressed differently concerning the nature and causes of the issue.
- Focus Everyone on Moving Forward – Pose a powerful question to start down the path of resolution. For example: “What do we need to do to resolve this and move on?” Questions like these initiate conversations about possibilities and give permission for people to let go of the past.
Implementing these three suggestions can be difficult; however, they offer a meaningful way through the deeply-rooted issues that can bog us down. Find out how Sostrin Consulting can help you resolve your greatest organizational challenges.