Having worked with many senior leadership teams, a common issue raised is the ‘Elephant in the Room’, which in many cases is a significant barrier to high performance. Recently I was talking to a senior executive leader who once again referred to the ‘Elephant in the Room’ and it caused me to reflect on not only how often I come across this phenomenon but how and why is this the case. 

I concluded that in many cases the ROOM has been built around the ELEPHANT.  In other words, the ‘Elephant in the Room’ has been around either since the inception of the team or at least for such a long time, that the room as then been adapted and renovated to fit the ‘Elephant’.

How many times have you observed a team adapt or ‘accept’ a behaviour from a team member rather than address the behaviour?

I see this over and over again, where teams would rather adapt and accept the behaviour than have the hard conversation.  Every time this happens we then reinforce the negative behaviour and give the person permission to display the behaviour.  More importantly, we have just renovated the room for the size of the elephant.

The more we accept the ‘Elephant in the Room’ the more we renovate the room around the elephant, until the elephant grows so large that the elephant is no longer able to exit the room.  It is at this point that we have an ‘Elephant’ sized problem that we are unable to resolve.

Why?  Because no one has had the courage to tackle the ‘Elephant in the Room’ early enough.  Instead we have IGNORED the behaviour and allowed the Elephant to grow. 

Now the Elephant is so large, with so many room renovations, that the Elephant can no longer fit through the door, and is now unable to exit the room!

We need to STOP renovating around the Elephant, and instead start addressing the ‘Elephant in the Room’.  We need to have the courage to speak up in a respectful but direct manner and simply make an observation of the Elephant.  The earlier we address the Elephant, the more likely we are able to assist the Elephant to exit the room before it gets too large for the room and before we start renovating the room to accommodate the size of the Elephant.

If you see an Elephant, speak up, let everyone know about the Elephant.

Once we have named the ‘Elephant in the Room’, we can start to work through how to find a solution to address the issue and EXIT it the Elephant from the Room. 

If you ever find yourself or your team RENOVATING the room to accommodate the Elephant – STOP.  Ask yourself: “Why have I not addresses the Elephant?  What am I worried about? How could I best go about having a conversation about the Elephant?”

Have you got an ‘Elephant in the Room’?  If yes, then what are you going to do about it?

If your team needs assistance in addressing the ‘Elephant in the Room’ then please contact us and we will assist in exiting the Elephant from the room.

Yours sincerely

The ‘Elephant’ Whisperer


Contact Greg Bayne by email: greg@tlcsolutions.com.au

About the author

Gregory Bayne is one of the Directors of Total Leader and Coach Solutions Australia.  Greg works with senior and executive leaders assisting them to make shifts in the way they work, the way they think and the way they live their lives to become better leaders, colleagues and team members. Greg has a particular focus on assisting leaders create a culture or accountability and high performance. His expertise and knowledge is around building and developing a culture of accountability, leading high performing teams, and getting the most out of people to deliver the highest standards of work. We cultivate sustainable behavioural change in individuals, teams and organisations to drive a performance culture.

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