The following is a transcription of Voice of Bold Business Radio Program 78: Elephants in the Conference Room

Program Notes Can be Found Here.

Transcript of Program 78 – Elephants in the Conference Room

Jessica: Welcome to the Voice of Bold Business Radio, I am your host Jessica Dewell of Red Direction. Today our technical producer and our post-production specialist Scott Scowcroft… I don’t need to say anything more about him, you just need to check him out at, is talking with me about elephants in the conference room. Everything we talked about comes down to an element of push-back, questioning assumptions, and being on the same page, having shared meaning. You’ll hear more right after this:

Announcer (amid background music): Welcome to The Voice of Bold Business, the show that provides everything smart leaders need to evaluate situations, build relationships, and create solutions. Jessica Dewell candidly talks about the skills necessary to build tenacity, and do more with less. And now, here’s Jessica:

Jessica: I wish I could have been a fly on the wall as Scott was preparing for this program, because he really puts a lot of thought and energy into the things that he does, and how he shows up, and I really appreciate that about him. You’re going to hear as we start talking… we’re going to just jump right in Scott, so at any time just interrupt me… is a lot about communication and how our own personal fears and our own personal beliefs actually can get in the way of our communication.

If I were to hold up a mirror Scott, and I were to look at myself and I were to think about the way I communicate, it’s really interesting because I think I’m a good communicator. However, when I’m out in the world and things are happening, it becomes obvious to me really quickly that I’m not always as good of a communicator as I think I am. If I hadn’t practiced and developed a self-awareness for that, I might not even know that I was causing reactions in other people. That’s actually what made me want to write the article ‘Elephants in the Conference Room’, is that sometimes we get in our own way. If were to just look at the simple truth and recognize that sometimes we get in our own way, and the way we communicate is hindered by our own beliefs, and sometimes, you know this Scott, I’ll write it off and I’ll be like, “oh yeah, I thought you were in my head with me”.  That actually is a kind of a quasi-excuse. It’s not even kind of. It’s not even quasi. It’s an excuse, almost like an apology, for not having taken the time to communicate better initially. We all fall victim to it, and at least I recognized it in myself, and I’m like, oh yeah, okay, I’m going to play it off and say ‘Okay, got it. I will talk more, I will share more, I will ask more questions, I will listen a little closer.’ When I do that “excuse” it’s more of a ‘Okay, noted, changing course’.

Not a lot of us have that ability yet, and it’s a skill that we don’t think we need to learn. Scott and I are very different paths in terms of where our careers are, what our experience of life has been, and knowing that simple truth that we all have motives…

Mine, when it comes to communication sometimes is ‘of course you’re in my head because I know you love it as much as I do!’ Which is a a little bit of a fallacy… no, it’s a lot of a fallacy isn’t it?

Scott: I did in fact read your article about the elephant in the room and a lot of it was about communications, and as all good articles do, it prompted additional follow-up thoughts, and one of them that came to mind based on your article Jess, is that communication has really two parts.

The first part is content. If you don’t have something to say, if your thoughts are scattered, if you’re all over the place, or no place at all, then communication is probably going to stop right there. As you talked about, the beginning of communications is having your values and your principles down, because once you have values and principles… in the business setting we’re talking about now… then that provides a larger context that you can compare and contrast what you’re wanting to say with what you’re actually communicating.

Then the second part is the delivery, and there’s a skillfulness to delivery of using words that other people understand. For example, it’s okay to use jargon if you’re talking internally, but if you’re talking to the outside world, don’t use jargon. Another element of delivery is to educate and entertain. There is some value in not being boring when you’re trying to communicate. Whether it’s with your team or your clients.

Jessica: Underlying all of that, MOTIVE.  We are going in with intention, and we can use that intention for good, we can use that intention for not so good. We can use it to manipulate, we can use it to grossly deceive people, we can use it out of sincerity, we can use it to be confrontational sometimes, and direct.

We talked about this in a previous show a little bit about this range of emotion, and depending on how we’re looking… and I’m just going to stick with this content, the delivery, and the self-awareness piece… depending on what we’re doing with it, could be perceived by other people based off of the amount of emotions that they have a range of. Just like the way I choose to deliver something may be based off of my range of emotions, which is going to be different than yours Scott, which is going to be different than somebody else’s.

Somebody told me once, and I have no idea if this is true… Men typically can identify eight emotions. I joked and I said, “Well, I know some that can only identify four”, (she laughs) and then I was like, “Wait, I know women that can only identify four. Oh wait, look at any toddler in the world, they can only identify four…mad, glad, happy and sad”. If we’re limited to mad, glad, happy and sad, and we’re trying to put context delivery and self-awareness into this, we really have to understand what our purpose is and know the other person a little bit too, to make sure it’s received the way we want it to be received, just like what you were saying.

Scott: You talked about the value of details, and paying attention to details. You normally think of details in terms of data, but details could also be in terms of intuition, because there are subtleties that occur when you’re perceiving. I’m sending, and you’re receiving, in terms of good communication. You’re also picking up on the emotion that I’m engendering in you, if not exhibiting in myself. They say that almost all, if not all, decisions are emotionally based. Do you believe that?

Jessica: I’m gonna go back to motives. I think our motives are rooted in emotion. I think a very skilled businessperson may have an emotional first response and may approach solving a problem with their team a certain way, from a place of emotion. Yet it will become clear to anybody who practices problem-solving skills and empathy where emotions are getting in the way because other stuff is going to start to surface during this problem-solving process. We’re looking at… what are the options, how does it look a little bit down the line, does it make sense for us to consider this, how does it help us right now? As well as unknowns, the things that we block from ourselves when we are dealing with our emotions and having emotional responses come front and center.

That’s where this elephant in the conference room really comes back to it, because if as a leader, if nobody will step up and tell me I’m leading from a place of emotion, and I don’t have the skills, or I’m so involved to some degree that I can’t see it, and everybody just says, “Yes Jess, Yes Jess, yes Jess”, they’re as culpable for the failure as I am that we’re going to embark on.

Right? So when I talk about communication and I talk about elephants in the conference room, it’s, what does our culture look like? What are the values that we’ve decided to communicate with, and agreed on communication process? So that whoever might be emotionally involved and blinded by their emotions, can basically be saved from themselves and not take the whole team down with them. It’s a place of recognizing, “we’re all there”. We all have been there sometimes.

Scott: Then the elephant in the room isn’t the conflict of the issue that’s at hand, it is the masking of the issue at hand. If there is something that is secret, there’s something that is not revealed… if it’s not out there on the table to be discussed, then that becomes the elephant in the room.

Jessica: Yes.

Scott: On the other hand, if something arises… and in business, something is always going to arise… if you open it up and you take a look at it, then it becomes something that you can deal with. It’s no longer the elephant in the room. It might become the 800-pound gorilla in the room… but there’s a difference between the two, right?

Jessica: That’s right! We look at it, we see it, and it changes. She laughs

Scott: Yes. Now the question becomes… now that it’s exposed, what do we do with it? That’s downstream from it being an elephant in the room. Now just because it’s exposed doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be solved. You still need something that is skillful in order to be able to recognize it for what it is, and then decide how to proceed from there.

Jessica: You know that old adage, “do what I say, not what I do”, or, “walking the walk or not walking the walk”, those are the types of things that cause unwritten agreements to occur. This concept of… it doesn’t matter what goes on in this meeting, we’re here, we’re going to discuss it, we’re going to spend an hour, we’re all going to leave, and some other decision is going to be made without all of us. Those are the types of things that really fly in the face of whatever we’re trying to do with our teams. Our teams can’t grow and learn to trust and try things and fail, pick themselves up and try again, if they have no control over anything. They come to meetings, they show up, they’re all in, they have ideas, they make a decision, and then after they leave the room, the decision is changed. That undermines on so many different levels. Then you’ve got this concept of… ‘we’re going to do it my way or the highway’. Well, the highway may be the long way around to where you actually want to go. There’s a whole lot less scenery and a whole lot less opportunity to see what’s going on out there. You learn quickly… can somebody speak up around this person or do we have to stay silent? Or do we stay silent because it doesn’t matter what we say, something else is going to be decided anyway?

Both of those are elephants in the room, and they’re the quickest way to dismantle a team. They’re the quickest way to lose morale, have low productivity, and high turnover.

Scott: I’m going to challenge you a little bit on that.

Jessica: Oh! Do, do, do! Let’s go. (Enthusiastically)

Scott: You’re making an assumption that teamwork is important and that everyone needs to be… there can be two different ways of approaching work. One is ‘my work is my life. It’s an extension of me’. Another is separation of work and home life, work and play. I think it’s entirely possible for there to be some industry, some businesses out there where it’s all business and has nothing to do with you. You come in, you’re paid a certain amount of money to get tasks done, and that’s it. If you perform, that’s fine, and if you don’t perform then someone else can come in and do the work for you.

Jessica: Right. In those cases, if that is the culture, nobody should ever be invited in to the conference room and asked their ideas. Period. Maybe I was making an assumption. But I also can bring home what I was saying in the sense that, if you’re going to involve your team in coming up with an idea, and helping find a solution, you better be ready to follow it. Because if you’re not, who are you, and what kind of a role model are you? Does that make sense?

Scott: It’s a matter of trust and safety.

Jessica: It is.

Scott: If you ask me to involve myself in the decision-making process, then I’ve got skin in the game. Perhaps where clear communications and delineation of roles comes in as well. There are often times two or three different ways of doing the same thing and they could all be equally valid or equally as useful. Or it could be that I will come up with an idea that is less valuable than the one that you have, but because that’s my role, this is what I’m doing in life, it would be better to just go ahead and follow what I’ve suggested, let me learn from my mistakes and then we’ll go from there.

Jessica: I’m going to go back… because you’re right, I did make an assumption. I made an assumption that there were decision-makers in the room.  Laughs I’m glad we have that clarified, because you’re absolutely right Scott, in everything that you said. Depending on what the role is, depending on how things are going, depending on what the culture actually is, and culture isn’t anything we can say is it? Culture is how it feels, what our experiences are, the things we know to be true, even if they fly in the face of words that are said.

Scott: Yeah. You just can’t run a business essentially by rules alone. A – you won’t know which rules are better than others, and then B – you’ll just have too many. I worked at one place that my assistant, in exasperation said, “Well I guess what we have to do is put up a sign that says ‘Don’t run down the hallway with a knife in your mouth’”  At the end of the day, if there are underlying values and principles, then people ought to be able to apply those underlying values and principles to whatever situation crops up. With consistency, they’ll be able to say, ‘Ah! Based on all of this, I know which way to proceed.’ And that’s proceeding without an explicit rule. It’s just implicit, but of course you’re going to do this and such in this situation. That provides for a maximum amount of flexibility to adapt to different situations because we’re not all Ottomans. We’re not all lined up in just one color as it were.

Jessica: You made me think of another assumption. That we want to communicate well with our people. I made the assumption that nobody wants to control information. I made the assumption that nobody wants to keep people in the dark and not give them the whole story. I think I need to acknowledge that that is also an assumption here, because there will be people listening who operate like that. They’ll be listening, going, ‘Oh, it’s just all this rah-rah stuff, all this motivation stuff. This is everything I’m hearing everywhere else. But you guys don’t get it. The power is in holding all my cards close to the vest’. There’s something to be said for that because there is a type of power there. I’m going to look at you as your employee… let’s say Scott that you are my boss and you did that. You held things close to the vest, you never told me everything, you invited me into a conversation so at the end you could say ‘Yeah, and we’re going to do it this way because of this and this and this’, which are all key pieces of information I didn’t have to join you in the conversation. I would look at you and think, hmm, you’re acting like a three-year-old. Who are you? And do I want to play this game with you?

Scott: I don’t know if this would be called push-back or not, but let’s see how this goes…

Jessica: Call it whatever you want.

Scott: Something that I was playing off of the article that you had written, and that’s the difference between the rat race and networking. It’s a matter of scarcity. If the industry that we’re in is relatively new and there’s lots of room for growth… all boats rise in a rising tide, and people who are our competitors are actually our allies because the more successful they are, the more successful we are because there’ll be a greater adoption of the innovation that we’re introducing to a young and maturing marketplace. But once a marketplace has matured to the point where market share becomes an issue so that the pie isn’t ever growing, but the pie is stagnant, and now I’m either going to get a larger piece of the pie, or you’re going to get a larger piece of the pie… then that’s a dog eat dog, that’s the rat-race. I’m in competition with you, and I’m not going to share something with you, or be open because your success is my failure. Taking that internally within the company, it could be that, ‘hey, I’m going to be more successful in this company… I’m going to rise higher in this company, if I happen to be more successful than you. Therefore, I’m going to do whatever is necessary. If that means withholding information from you, or not helping you when I could, not being a team member, but out for myself. My team is…

Jessica: Me.

Scott: Yeah. Or, my team is out to beat your team. All of that. That’s where corporate culture is, and there are some companies that operate on that model. As far as I know, that might be very successful.

Jessica: If you’re starting from ground zero and it’s all about posturing, and it’s all about secrecy and it’s all about ‘do what I say because this is what we need done’, without any other information… I’m not saying there’s not a place for some of that… I’m saying that as a culture as a whole, over and over again, people will get tired of that. Nobody wants to be a pawn. Nobody wants to feel used. At least I don’t. Maybe I’m making some generalities and I’m expecting everybody to be at my party again.

Scott: I guess this needs to be the definition of what is successful. I’m trying to think of some examples of some industries that fall within the rat race. Everybody loves to hate telecommunication companies. The cable company for example.

Jessica: Sure. Or cell phone companies at this point.

Scott: And cell phone companies. It easily might be that there are some industries that are inherently a particular way, because of the scope, because of the size, because of just the way the system is set up. What I think I heard you say Jess is that’s not sustainable.

Jessica: If I’m a company, and I’m going to do things and I’m going to make plays like a poker player because I’m trying to lead my company down this path. I’m trying to gain market share. I’m trying to grow. I’m trying to take over other companies. I’m going to do it in any way I can because I want to win. I want my business to win. Whatever win means. It could be success. What does it mean to be successful? Well if I’m going after market share, that defines what my success is. If I’m going after a number of customers I can truly serve, that’s going to define what my success is. And they feel very different.

I think we almost need to go all the way back to what you said about success. How do you define success and recognize what it looks like when I’m successful, when my business is successful? When my people are successful? Having the top sales people, having the best talent? Getting the most of whatever. That is a very clear culture than somebody who might go, ‘well, you know what? We have a problem to solve. How do we find the people that need the solution we have. The inherent words are different. It goes back to that communication piece too.

Scott: One of the assumptions that you’re making Jess is that we all want to work in a collegial, collaborative, cooperative environment where everyone has their own role and they can become the best person that they can become.

Jessica: You’re right! Because we’re in my head and it’s my party! No just kidding.

They laugh

Scott: Exactly.

Jessica: I love this because it’s important to talk about. You’re right. That is an assumption that I am working with from the things that I say, so saying it out loud helps whoever’s listening to our conversation see where you are and where I am in our dialogue.

Scott: I just have to believe that there are some people who don’t think that way. It might be that that’s the difference between…

Jessica: There’s a lot of people that don’t think that way.

Scott: In which case you might have to say Voice of Bold Business might not necessarily be appropriate for them, because it doesn’t take them down the path that they wish to go down.

Jessica: That’s true. That’s true, and I’m okay with that because there are so many different ways to do things. I love to look at the sky and watch the clouds as I’m walking down the street, or strolling someplace, when they actually look like shapes. I can’t say that all the time for Seattle Scott… having lived there, I know… but for Boulder we get these rolling clouds and I’m always seeing these cool shapes in the clouds. I end up tripping. I end up tripping because I’m always looking up in the sky. Then I’m like, you know what, that’s okay. I can look down. You know what I noticed when I look down? Shiny pennies, and nickels and dimes. One time I found a fruit loop in the rain. And the fruit loop would not dissolve in the rain. It was the weirdest thing ever. Yes, this was in Boulder. One, you have to recognize… where are you looking? Two, you have to recognize… what are you looking for? If I’m only looking to get ahead, I might look at the coins on the street and go, ‘cool I have 35 more cents today’. But, if I’m looking up at the sky, I might go, ‘I’m never going to look at the sky because there’s nothing useful for me up there… unless I need to know if I need an umbrella’.

I almost wonder if it’s our outlook on life and how we’re looking at situations, because I am more of an optimist than I am otherwise… and I do seek out joy and simplicity and unique things that other people might not see because I don’t know what inspiration it’s going to bring me. I know I will get inspiration, I just don’t know of what or where. I’m using that as I’m just walking down the street and doing things. To and from meetings, to and from the parking lot to my car… whatever the case may be… as I’m going in to a workshop… it doesn’t matter. Whereas somebody else might have a totally different mindset. It might be totally destructive, they might be totally in to the what’s next, have I checked this off my list, and it effects how we communicate, what we communicate, and the language that we use.

I’m going to make an assumption here… actually I’m going to make more of a leap, and I’m going to tie what I just described to how I look at relationships. No business owner. No business owner ever did it all by themselves. Every single business owner, even if you’re a solopreneur out there, sitting on you couch while you’re listening to this, or driving your kids to school while you’re listening to this… you still have a cell phone that you’re checking email on, or social media, or staying in touch with the school where your kid is going to be so you have work time. We never are in this by ourselves. That’s one of the things, that you’re right, because it takes a team. Our team might just not be a traditional team.

Scott: I did not mean to imply that there aren’t things such as “best practices” or “quality of life”.

Jessica: You didn’t.

Scott: Certain things are more sustainable than others. For those who then are looking for the secret to happiness is what we’re really talking about.

Jessica: Is it? Or is it the secret to sanity? I’m not sure which.

Scott: In an umbrella of happiness might be questions of stability. It might be financial stability. It would be feeling good at the end of the day… feeling good at the end of your life… a life without regret. Think about collaboration and cooperation and good communications and getting those elephants out of the room by virtue of being open and honest, and not trying to hide secrets…

Jessica: Here’s what you need to know to show up at this conversation.

Scott: Exactly.

Jessica: Everybody, you are listening to The Voice of Bold Business Radio with myself and Scott, talking about ‘Elephants in the Conference Room’, aka our motives in our communication.  If we are trying to communicate well, and if we are understanding ourselves, and if we decide to look at the way we speak and how we’re viewing the world… are we inclusive or exclusive… is one example of everything we’ve talked about in the first half of the show… it comes down to purposeful action. Some sort of a plan. Doesn’t it? To be able to communicate what we want when we want, how we want, in the way we want… to get the results we want.

Scott: That goes back to the two parts of communication… content and then delivery. The content is having a plan. It’s worthwhile to have plumb the depths of what your business plan is, what your objectives are, where you are now, where you want to go. Having a plan is being knowledgeable about the context of where you are right now and where you want to be.

Jessica: What is it we’re trying to do? Are we trying to change a culture? Are we trying to figure out why our clients keep leaving for somebody else? Are we trying to just do what we do so well there’s nowhere to go but have success? Phew… that’s a different kind of problem…  Are we so unsure of where we want to go that we’re doing nothing but listen to motivation and self-help and getting all revved up, yet don’t know what that first step is going to be? I almost think, if we’re thinking about planning or thinking about communication, if we were to pare it all the way back, it’s ‘What do we want to do?’ What is the purpose of actually opening our mouths in the first place? We could even apply this right now to The Voice of Bold Business. Or, go back a few years and apply it to The Jess plus Scott show. How about if we start there Scott… The Jess Plus Scott Show. The purpose of having communication and being online and having an engaged audience, which we did… Jess and Scott right here ladies and gentlemen… we were really on target. And we communicated to the point sometimes we frustrated each other. And the reason we frustrated each other is because the more we talked, and the more we planned, and the more we worked together, we became much better at figuring out where we were on the same page and where we were on different pages. In those places where we had different visions for what we were trying to do, we had a little bit of strife on occasion. The cool thing was… strife and conflict and all that stuff… it actually made our show better. Because we talked more. We figured out more, we thought more, we were much more purposeful in our actions, and we were able to bring our visions together. I could have totally made a rosy story, looking backwards, hindsight being 20/20, so I can’t wait to hear what Scott says about this! As our practical example of some actual collaborative experience that we’ve had. She laughs

Scott: I would agree that I think that we had very clear objectives for that program, and one of them was, you’ll remember, well just to get experience on the platform itself, to get our skill set that would go up. The second was, you phrase that you wanted to bring out the sparkle in people. It was to engage people in a genuine conversation back and forth, rather than many of the other models that we had been seeing. Then I think the third component, if we’re going to be using that as a model for other enterprises, is that we weren’t competing with each other. You had your role and I had mine, and they complemented each other. What you would attempt to do was to bring out the best in me, and what I attempted to do was to bring out the best in you. The more that you succeeded, the more the success was for me. That’s so much true for any leader in a business setting as well. I can remember, I had one boss and he kind of shocked me one day. He had suggested that one of the people who worked for him go to a different system. It was an improvement in terms of her role in the company. I said, “Why would you try and promote this person out of your system? She was really great here, and now you’re going to have to come in with someone who is brand new.” It was just his philosophy that regardless, you do the best you can in the best interest of the people who work for you, and if they move on and they move up in the company, then more power to them. It A – benefits the company, so there’s that. B – it’s good networking.    C – after 10 or 15 or 20 years if you want to look at it selfishly, you will have populated the larger corporation with good friends and allies throughout the entire organization, so as you go up the ladder yourself, you’ll be going up into territory that’s already been pre-populated with friendly faces. People who know and like and trust you. It was that mindset of a win, win, win trusting ‘I’m in this to serve you’ environment that was more sustainable for the individual, for the company, and for yourself.

Jessica: That’s interesting Scott. It takes me back to… my first company was acquired, and all of a sudden, not only did I live in a different state and in a different city and different rules applied to me because I was the new person and I was the recent acquisition, and of course “I” meaning my entire team… when I personally would go back to the headquarters, it took me a long time. I went in to something established. I went in to a place that promoted within. I went in to a place that nobody knew me from Adam. Well actually there was an Adam, so they did know me from Adam… She laughs

Scott: That’s pretty easy to do.

Jessica: But it took a long time. Seeing my results, and being in conversation… not all the time, not every day… meant that the process took a lot longer. It was really interesting because I felt alone a lot of the time. I think people, even if they’re being promoted within an organization, they all don’t have that skillset that you described in your story with that boss. How cool for the people who came in touch with somebody like that to be mentored and guided and pushed and recognized their strengths, to get them where they wanted to go. Because it did benefit everybody, and it raises everybody up.

Scott: Just popped in to my head as well that as a leader, as someone who has a skill set… I mean we all have to work someplace… if it’s a buyers’ market, then I get to pick which company I want to work with. If I’m skillful enough. If I’m valuable enough, I can look around and say, ‘that’s the company I want to work for’. Some people might say nowadays… Google… people would just love to work for Google. The thing is, become as valuable a person as you possibly can in the workforce, and then you can pick a company like that. If on the other hand, the market is just flooded, and you’re not very skillful, you might have to put up with, ‘you know I really hate my job, but I have to work in this environment, because we all have to have a job, so that’s what I’m going to do’. Women had this problem for a long time.

Jessica: We still do.

Scott: And you still do. There’s a little bit of a revolution going on in that the internet and online collaboration tools and a number of other factors is liberating for the individual. When I was growing up, freelance was a bad word. If you could hack it, you’d be in the workforce, but if you couldn’t hack it, then you would be a freelancer. That’s not the case anymore. What freelancing I think nowadays means is that you get to pick and choose the teammates that you want to work with and collaborate with. Then you become part of this network of people who are like-minded and you choose to come together with people that you like working with on a project. You do the project and then you separate and reform for a different project. That’s different than if you are hired by someone, you’re working for someone in a brick and mortar company. That requires a skill set… you don’t get to pick who your colleagues are, who you work with. That’s a skillset of, well it doesn’t matter who you are, I’m going to be able to get along with you and adapt to you regardless, and it’s just going to be fine. That isn’t bad, that’s just different.

Jessica: Both of those skill sets that you’re describing Scott… are valuable and important. Sometimes I think this concept of collaboration gets confused, because in every team, and it doesn’t matter, even if I choose to work with a whole bunch of people, there’s going to be somebody on that does less, does the least, skirts by, and everybody else is picking up the slack. If we’re not addressing it, if we’re not talking about it, if I don’t come and say, ‘you know what, something crazy happened in my life, here’s what it is, it’s taking a lot of my energy. I have these things that are due, and now we are all affected because of what’s going on’. Whereas if I don’t say anything at all, now we’ve got a double whammy. I’m distracted, and people don’t understand, and when we aren’t saying what’s on our mind, people will fill it in for us. As much as when people are saying what they want with a motivation to manipulate.

That’s an elephant! That’s an elephant we have to watch out for. The person that doesn’t do their work, and the reason that that work is not being done. Is it somebody who’s going to just take the credit and swoop in at the last minute? I’ve worked with a lot of people and collaborated and volunteered with people who were like that. It’s something we’ve just got to know… okay, there’s that person… got it. Every team has one. No judgement here! I just know, I have to think twice about anything they say they’re going to do in relationship to what I have to do too to make this outcome be reached.

Another one is the concept of ‘I’m going to use all the rest of you to climb up, and I’m going to be the high performer and I’m going to be the one that everybody looks at, and I’m a Prima Dona.’ Both men and women are like that. They’re basically those untouchable who say, “just be glad I’m on your team. I’m going to get you whatever you want”.

How’s that for networking? If we bring those people into our organization we know we’re going to have to deal with it. If we find ourselves on a team, and we see that person, we now know we have to deal with it. Sometimes we can walk away. Sometimes we don’t have to be connected to them. Sometimes we do.

Scott: For purposes of our talk, almost everything that needs to be done is done as a team effort. No one person can do it. If there happens to be a prima dona on staff, or if there happens to be someone who is in the rat race, or someone who on the one hand is sloughing off, or on the other hand someone who picks up the slack and does the extra mile and a half or two miles because others aren’t… all of that is a reflection of the leader of the team. Whether it’s the whole organization, the founder or the president of the organization, or the department or the sector, whatever it turns out to be, there are ways that you can correct that. If the leader doesn’t first of all recognize it, and then secondly doesn’t correct it, then it’s the leaders fault. It isn’t the person who’s in the frontlines. It isn’t the follower. Words matter, and definitions matter. Leader doesn’t imply it’s explicit that they’re leading. If the person who is the follower does not follow, then what happens? If the leader doesn’t exercise the appropriate leadership, the leader cannot sway the team to go in a particular direction, steer the course, then that person is not a 10, that person is a 5 on the scale of 1 to 10.

Jessica: Those people tend to get… I don’t know if you remember the program with Simon Berry… shouty shouty… he was a shouty shouty boss.

Scott: Yeah, shouty shouty.

Jessica: Totally cracked me up because this concept… sometimes bosses that are shouty shouty are saying they’re driven, when in fact they’re just tyrants. I think that’s what you were describing just then.

Scott: Yeah.

Jessica: if the leadership’s not there and can’t get followers, what happens? I’m going to stomp my feet and throw a tantrum and you better do what I say. Whoops. That a trap we can all fall into… the shouty shouty boss. Have you ever thought about Groupthink? Groupthink can be an elephant in the conference room. We forget, we are so like-minded, and we are so on the same path that we don’t look at anything else outside of what we’re thinking. That is also a sneaky problem that can come up and it gets us sometimes related or not to throwing good money after bad. I mean when we’ve got a project and we’ve invested a large percentage of our budget to make said project work and it’s not working, we’re going to give it more and we’re going to give it more, because it’s like it’s too big to fail. There are franchises that when you’re looking at them, they also have their… they rank their businesses according to size, the franchise owners. They all have businesses that might be too big to fail. In a service world, that might be that top client that makes up the majority of the basket of eggs. The golden egg in all of the eggs in the basket. If something were to happen to that, then what? We get blinded by that concept that we’ve got to do whatever it takes to keep that. That can get in our way too and prevent us from seeing other opportunities and actual real problems that we could be avoiding in our companies when we’re thinking and strategizing and looking at the initiatives that we have and how we’re going about them, and what’s coming out of them. The results that we’re seeing, or the results that we’re not seeing and are expecting to see, and what are we going to do about it and how do we address that? We can first go to our communication.

Scott: What you’re describing is an unbalanced group. If you’ve got Groupthink there needs to be someone in the group who is thinking out of the box or who is able to see the landscape beyond on the tunnel vision that everyone else has. Just coming right back to “the buck stops here”. It’s up to the leader to identify what constitutes a well-balanced, well running organization, and to make sure that all of those pieces are put in to… as best as they can. If they’re under resourced, then that might be a problem.

Jessica: The skill Scott that you were talking about, and you also said it indirectly, responsibility, and a whole bunch of other skills that go in to problem-solving and communication… these soft skills that we can use and we can hone. It comes down to, let’s take a look at our business, let’s take a look at our business units, and what can we do to at least make sure that they’re not traveling 100 miles an hour with no brakes in their vehicle. I really think what we’re talking about here when we’re talking about communication, being on the same page ultimately, with the responsibility of the leader is, get these people going and get out of their way, make sure the brakes work, kind of thing.

What is a process that could be done within the workflow of the organization that you’re in, the team that you’re leading? Because realistically, why we do what we do needs to be evaluated and must be evaluated occasionally, as much as the just documenting and understanding what we’re doing and what the result of what we’re doing is. That concept of that process… it’s going to bring things to light.

You noticed from the very beginning everybody, Scott was calling me on assumptions I was making. Yes, assumptions based off of who this podcast is for, who this radio program is intended to reach and help and grow with you. So, what is your problem-solving process? What are the catches that are in place to evaluate what’s happening, to look at the results, and to figure out if a change or shift in something is needed because we need to know where we’re going, or where we thought we were going is not actually where we’ve ended up. Which is also an important thing to know. The more thought… and thought takes time and we don’t give enough time, but the more thought we give those two things… creating a process, understanding where the catch points are for our safety valves if you will, in our problem-solving process, can help identify these elephants, these communication things. Going back to the very beginning of what you were saying Scott… we can find out, is there a problem with our content? Is there a problem with our delivery? Is there a problem with our motives and our self-awareness of what actually might be happening?

Scott: To some of what you’ve been saying, is communications takes the power out of the elephants that are in the room. If there’s secrecy, if there are things that are hidden, if there’re things that are not addressed, if they are not even realized… then they have power and it’ll be an inhibiting factor to anyone’s success. If you are able to first of all expose, and then to address those issues in an environment that is safe and trusting… I guess there also needs to be an element of skillfulness also that goes in to that.

Jessica: I’ve got to say this, because I am moved to say it… then you’ll get the pun in a minute… when I was doing a follow-up article to this one, ‘The Elephants in the Conference Room’, I do not know where this article will be published yet… but I was thinking about it, and I was thinking, you know, elephants, if they’re in a tiny room, they eat a lot of food, and everybody poops… and here’s a weird interesting fact that I know nobody wants to know… you’re going to hear it anyway. That is that the weight of an entire person, like 160 pounds, every single day. That’s a serious amount of smelly stuff that’s going to go back to the earth, that’s going to end up just taking up space. And if it’s sitting on a conference room floor of carpet, it doesn’t get to go back to mother earth. It gets to sit right there and stay smelly.

If we’re not dealing with this stuff. If we’re not actively recognizing that it could appear… only when we start smelling the whiff of elephant in general, let alone what happens after an elephant eats… we’re going to have big, big poop on our hands.

Scott: Well, a couple things Jess. First of all, good luck with that article.

They both laugh

Scott: Secondly, we don’t call it the mouse in the room. We call it the elephant in the room, and it’s because it’s a problem that may have started off as a microbe maybe even, or a mouse, but because you didn’t pay attention to it, it just got bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until it became the elephant in the room. If you don’t take care of it at that stage it will become the whale in the room.

Jessica: Cheers to that.

Thank you for listening to ‘Elephants in the Conference Room’. You can find all the program notes at  You can also search ‘Elephants in the Conference Room’. Subscribe and rate this program. You’ve listened, we want to know what you think. Do you have another elephant that we didn’t discuss that has gotten in the way of your leadership, of leading your team, or you being an effective leader? We want to know! So, stop by, rate us, give us a comment, and make sure after you subscribe, to come back and check. We air programs every Tuesday and Friday for your listening convenience to your preferred listening platform. Your clarity, your feedback loops, the wisdom that comes from every experience we have, are all important to recognize and welcome the elephants that are hanging around in your office, in your conference room. We want to know, Scott and I, what do you do to address elephants that are in your conference room?

Announcer – Subscribe at and get more information, program notes, and past episodes. Bold leaders approach each situation and focus on action to achieve a higher level of leadership. Jessica Dewell, your business advocate is the host of The Voice of Bold Business Radio. Thank you for joining us.