Tackling the elephants in the room – and ensuring you and your business is as efficient as possible.
How do you tackle that kind of stuff to ensure you and your business performs at it’s best. Here at Step by Step Listening have started to refer to this stuff as the pink fluffy elephant we often avoid or simply we sense is blocking us but don’t quite understand what it is so again cant and don’t discuss it.
Let’s face it having to avoid an elephant in the room can be very exhausting and inefficient.
What kind of elephant are you avoiding talking about or taking action about right now if any?
I’m a great believer in being open, honest and congruent. I tend to think that elephants change shape once they’re in the open. I also often find the elephant you thought you were avoiding was really just covering up a little mouse that can be so easily solved.
Have you ever been in a room with a group of people and without anyone speaking, someone will give a wry smile that says,” well done, that’s just what I was thinking but couldn’t bring myself to say it”.
So who is going to say something or do something appropriate? And how do we do it with tact and diplomacy.
And what if you are the elephant?
Having discussed this with some of my business contacts earlier this week, here is what they came up with and how best to deal with them to get people to work at their best:-
1. Someone is not performing as they should or holding the group back but no one wants to mention it because:-
a. they don’t want to upset the person
b. they do not know what is driving that person’s behaviour and how to address it and / or
c. they do not want to be seen to be the one who did the person out of a job.
They don’t want to address the elephant because no-one else is talking about it. We all think that other people (particularly smart people and our seniors) know more than we do and we don’t want to expose ourselves. After all, what if they find out that I’m not as good as they think I am?
2. The team or the company or society is suffering from a blame culture. Businesses that operate like this are becoming outdated but there is still plenty of it around. At the lower end of the scale a blame culture company will prevent someone from stating the obvious for fear of being ridiculed or reprimanded. At the other end of the scale, someone makes a mistake, gets kicked round the office by the manager than fear of making another mistake actually causes more mistakes to be made. Fear of reprisals then encourage covering up or blame shifting sometimes with serious impact to the business. The sad thing is that often what starts a blame culture is insecurity on the part of the managers. A smart manager knows that if they want to look good then they should surround themselves with people who are better than they are
Both types of elephant can be dealt with by:-
1. Cultivating an empowering, respectful and listening culture
2. Encouraging good communication skills.
3. Questioning everything you do (be fascinated rather than beating yourself up. Be curious rather than challenging), all the time. Just because it was the best way of doing it at last month’s meeting doesn’t mean it is the best way of doing it this month.
4. Managers need to lead the way. If a manager shows that they are able to put their own thoughts and ideas up for critique and be prepared to adapt and change their methods, everyone else will feel so much easier about their own shortcomings.
5. Accept ideas from people who do the job every day. The manager is no longer doing the job of his subordinates every day and so his opinion will probably be based on memory rather than current data
6. Managers take effective action. Disciplining somebody or even letting them go can actually have a positive effect on morale and performance with an increased confidence in, and respect for, the manager concerned. It can often be the best thing for the person leaving too. Often they are strapped by a need for security and yet they have already worked out this role and job is not working for them.
7. Avoid making issues personal and stick to the facts – focus on the quality of the work, not the quality of the person
8. Ensure people are clear about and have adequate training for their responsibilities
A good example of getting rid of blame culture is Boeing aircraft co. When they built the 767 they announced the abandonment of the blame culture. The reason was that if someone made a mistake but covered it up they could cause them to lose $millions and even impact safety while they tried to sort out the problem. It took some time to win the trust of the staff but after a period it worked well. If someone was in error they would own up straight away knowing that there would be no impact to them but in fact praise from the management for having the courage to admit their error. It the management are able to offer a friendly and supportive environment then many elephants can be avoided when they are just baby elephants.
With thanks to Andy Galloway, MD at EQM Ltd; Mike Wallis Syn-Star IT Solutions; Gordon Tate IFA and Peter Hill, Oracle Corporation UK Ltd and the discussion via Linked in.
So you can imagine my pleasure when I read that list and know that when Extreme Listening – Productive Thinking is used throughout families and businesses alike the elephants don’t need to hide. Everyone is open and honest. They have a safe space to explore a ‘unique/unusual’ idea, to recognise mistakes and find solutions it soon becomes an area where people say ” oh! your elephant is just like mine” And together they have the confidence to put the strength of the elephant behind the problem rather than have the elephant block the way.
If you would like to find out more about Extreme Listening – Productive thinking sessions we have a 2 FREE tele-class sessions this month. Please email me on Sheryl@stepbysteplistening if you would like more information. Subject header FREE Taster Session
Thank you for Listening
Thank you to Allison Galbraith (Macintosh Wright Redundancy Specialist) for pulling this information together to make this blog possible. I love being part of a cooperative and supportive team.