Makarios Consulting Blog

How to Handle Elephants (and Smaller Animals)

Sometimes it seems easier to check off the small items on our “to solve list” and save the big ones until later.  “Later” meaning when we have more time, less on our plates, after we’ve researched the issue a little more, or any number of excuses we can muster. But the “big ones”—the substantial, continual issues—will haunt us and affect countless aspects of daily operation if we allow them to continue. We like to call these critical issues the “elephants in the room.” These are the problems that everybody knows exist, but nobody is willing to address. They are large, they are powerful, and they cause tremendous upheaval.

The temptation is to handle the little problems first. We tell ourselves we need to “clear the decks” so we can focus on the elephants. We can’t fool ourselves. Little problems will continue to consume all of our time, and the elephants will never vacate the premises. We need to tackle the big problems first. Doing so will remove leadership blockages, operational inefficiencies, toxic interpersonal dynamics, and financial waste. It also will make the smaller problems that much easier to address.

The following steps will help you handle the elephants (and their smaller counterparts):

  • Identify the issue with clarity
  • Discuss the issue thoroughly—but only once
  • Determine the best solution
  • Assign the solution to the appropriate owner
  • Implement the solution for a positive result

By following these steps, we can clear the air and free the elephants, opening us up to a fresh start. These steps also are helpful when it’s time to reach out and grab an opportunity. We must addressing elephants and opportunities in real time rather than putting them on the back burner. That way, our ability to achieve our corporate vision will increase dramatically. Don’t be afraid of elephants or opportunities, both are quite trainable with just a little finesse and a healthy dose of initiative.

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