Removing the Elephant in the Room

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November 14, 2017

~A HIGH PERFORMING MANUFACTURING TEAM releases a new product with a major defect resulting in lost revenue.

~A HOTEL LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE decides to allow job sharing resulting in happier employees, but creating holes in staffing.  Guest Service is suffering

~A GROCERY STORE MANAGEMENT TEAM  decides to eliminate self- serve checkout resulting in irritated customers and long lines.

Teams make decisions everyday … some with positive result and others with negative.  While many decisions affect a company’s productivity and profitability, an even more dramatic effect is on the health of the team.  Good decisions with good outcomes serve to drive morale, trust and camaraderie, while poor decisions have the complete opposite effect. 

A team’s history plays important role in team effectiveness.  When bad decisions are not revisited, they can fester within the team… creating that elephant in the room that everyone pretends to not see. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a team that had a few past “undiscussed bad decisions” that were adversely affecting the team’s ability to move forward; some team members were silently blaming others for the problems, some people felt angry  about what happened  and  some had “shut down” , feeling their ideas were not valued.  Overall, the impact of the poor decisions had paralyzed the team from being positive and productive. 

Luckily, situations like these are not incurable.   There are some simple steps you can take to remove the “Elephants” and build a path back toward trust, respect and more positive team energy.  Below are 5 steps to help you and your team move forward.


  1. Recognize the Elephant in the Room.  What is the issue no one is talking about? State it out loud.  Acknowledge its presence and get team to acknowledge its presence.
  2. Talk about what happened and allow everyone to share their perspective on what happened and what they saw as the impact.  You will be amazed to hear how differently people see and felt  the same thing
  3. Look for lessons learned.  What could have prevented some of the issues that arose?  What did you learn?
  4. Identify critical actions for the future.  What will we do differently?  (These can be communication driven, operational, interpersonal, process driven). 
  5. Get team agreement on next steps and committ to actions.  Follow up on actions in a set number of days to ensure follow through and continued agreement.  Modify plan if necessary. 

As simple and straight forward as these actions are, it is not an easy process.  Facilitating difficult conversations takes courage and finesse.   If you are the leader of the team, your facilitation of this conversation must come across as open and non-judgmental.   If this is challenging for you, you might consider having your company’s HR manager assist you or you can call a Team Performance Coach.  Goldin Leadership Group has skilled facilitators and certified Team Performance Coaches available to assist you.  For more information contact Anita Goldin at 949-387-3436