During a regular update meeting, Peter asked one of his emerging leaders, “Where do you feel frustration at work?”
Peter Aceto is CEO of Tangerine a Canadian company with over 1,000 workers. According to Forbes magazine, Peter is just as likely to ask, “What don’t you like about working here?”
Peter Aceto embraces vulnerability as a strength, not a weakness. Many leaders hang onto old school beliefs such as: “Never let ‘em see you sweat.” Such thinking limits trust-building vulnerability. Your team needs to hear you say, “I don’t know.” “I was wrong.” “I need your help.”
Shhh, there’s an elephant!
Elephants are everywhere. Homes. Communities. Cities. Organizations. Perhaps, your workplace. You know there’s an elephant in the room when the situation:
- Stirs emotion — it’s a sore spot and people have strong feelings about the subject
- Seems obvious — the team sees it, they know what’s going on
- Is consistently avoided — if you dare bring it up, the “leader” shuts the discussion down, old school style
Authentic leaders believe the “elephant in the room” is fair game. Indeed, it must be hunted down. “Yes, we will address the situation.” Ignoring the problem disengages the team and sooner or later hinders productivity.
Here’s the reality: denial, avoidance, and minimization only feeds the elephant — allowing the problem to grow and become more costly.
That elephant in the room restricts your team’s ability to move. Morale suffers, engagement erodes, and productivity declines because elephants take up a lot of space and energy. Your top talent will look for an exit … the room is too small.
Why keep an elephant?
Top performers expect leaders to be willing to address the elephant. They question why “No Hunting Allowed” is posted on certain people, topics, or situations? A few reasons for this might be:
- Old-school thinking: “I’m in charge, and I don’t care what others think.”
- Vulnerability is considered a weakness, not embraced as a strength, and
- Deception — the belief that silence means resolution
Warning: Hungry Elephant
Leaders must deal with the elephant if they want to maintain a productive team.
Gallup defines engaged employees as “involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.” How long do you think an A-Player will remain enthusiastic about their job if an adverse situation remains unaddressed?
For example, what happens to engagement when someone:
- consistently drops the ball?
- dodges personal responsibility?
- is routinely late to work?
- talks down to others?
- uses anger to manipulate?
- doesn’t listen?
- is the boss’ favorite?
In the United States, employee engagement remained flat from 2014 to 2015; 32% are engaged in their work. The same poll reports 50.8% of workers are not engaged, and 17.2% are actively disengaged.
The not engaged employee is —
…not hostile or disruptive. They show up and kill time, doing the minimum required with little extra effort to go out of their way for customers. They are less vigilant, and more likely to miss work and change jobs when new opportunities arise. They are thinking about lunch or their next break. Not engaged employees are either “checked out” or attempting to get their job done with little or no management support.
Given this reality, it’s prudent to address anything that threatens your team’s engagement, right? Because we know elephants:
- Consume emotional energy, positivity, enthusiasm, and trust
- Occupy a ton of space leaving little room for collaboration and innovation
- Destroy energy and commitment, “If that’s how it is, who cares?”
To achieve top performance, you must address the elephant in the room.
Creating Space to think
Peter Aceto is building a great company. Seeking truth and dealing with the elephant in the room is necessary. Leaders of top-performing teams develop vulnerability-based trust. Without vulnerability, the leader is unwilling to acknowledge mistakes, oversights, and issues — so the elephant stays. Leaders, when are willing to be vulnerable, allow their teams to engage in a healthy debate about the elephant, creating space to think and come to a resolution.
While it’s not difficult, it isn’t easy. You must create space to address your elephant. Removing the elephant (accountability) will improve performance.
- What’s your elephant?
- What fear holds you back from being vulnerable? From addressing the real issue?
- What does it cost you or your team to let the elephant stay?
Here’s to your Safari hunt and future success,
Image credit: Tofom via flickr