When it comes to the workplace, there are plenty of elephants in plenty of rooms, and no one seems to have the courage to point them out. For me – it’s become an obsession. I simply can’t sit through meetings where out-of-date policies, hypocritical leaders, or incompetent people are creating obstacles to success. The problem is – how to you point out these sensitive areas without a leader or his team looking inept or being humiliated? Here’s six important keys:
1) Dump the arrogance. Sure you’re smart. Sure you noticed the elephant before anyone else, but lose the attitude. You may be exactly right, but being a jerk doesn’t help win over a leader or his team.
2) Don’t blame anyone personally. After all, elephants are sometimes very old. It may appear that a current leader or member of the team created the elephant, but in most cases, it’s been around a long time. Speak about the elephant in the context of the history of the organization. Accusing someone of creating the elephant will only make them an enemy, and that doesn’t help.
3) Be very clear about the negatives. How much money, talent, time, or goodwill are we losing by not dealing with the problem? This is what often gets a leader’s attention because many times it can be measured. Figure it out, because it’s a great card to have in your deck.
4) Be very clear about the positive result of removing the elephant. Sometimes, an elephant in the room has been around so long it’s simply familiar. In those cases, employees can feel it’s not worth the trouble removing it. Give them a vision of how much better things will be once it’s gone. When it comes to change, most people fight because they don’t understand what’s in it for them. Make it clear, and you’re more likely to win them over.
5) Include everyone on the “elephant removal team.” Don’t make this a personal quest. The more everyone is part of the process the more success you’ll have.
6) When it’s done, don’t take the credit. Make it a team victory. This way, you’ll train the entire team to become elephant spotters for the future.