Springtime has sprung, and the zoo is filled with babies. I love the zoo, and all the ways animal behavior and human behavior aren’t that far apart. Recently I walked through the elephant exhibit and noticed how fascinated we are with elephants pooping. Yes, I said it.
Elephants consume between 100 and 125 pounds of food per day. And, as a result, adult elephants generate up to 300 pounds of dung each day. Wow. That’s a lot of waste. Translate that to the waste of energy that exists when a direct conversation is avoided.
How many meetings do you sit in each day? And, how many of those have some version of awkward silence to avoid some difficult conversation? Facilitating partner retreats often requires stepping around one elephant in the room or another.
Organizations that are maturing are often confused that they aren’t as innovative and collaborative as they once were. They feel stalled in advancing growth and profit. The culture has changed and there is confusion about how. The elephants weren’t in the room yet. They were feasting – in the closed door conversations about performance or behaviors of those not in the room.
The next time you have a meeting where conflict may be hidden, bring out the elephant. Put it in the middle of the room and use the very visual cue as a reminder to say the hard things. It takes more than one moment to remove the dung and a commitment to cleaning up the droppings will change your culture.