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Do You Address a Problem? Or Avoid it?

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So often, I hear people speak about “the elephant in the room” as if it is a person—but it’s not.

Yes, a person, process, or project may cause issues.

However, it is our avoidance that ultimately creates the elephant.

Your annoying coworker is not an elephant.

Your coworker’s annoying behavior is not even necessarily the elephant.

But your aversion to addressing your coworker’s annoying behavior?

That could be what gives the elephant life.

The elephant is created when people see a topic, problem, or risk that impacts success.

But, they avoid acknowledging it, do not attempt resolution, or assume a resolution isn’t possible.

Let me say it another way:

Conflicts and disagreements on their own don’t equal an elephant in the room.

A positive, productive relationship is one where all parties can disagree openly and effectively.

People feel safe addressing barriers to success, rather than trying to avoid them.

Conflict in a relationship where elephants are present looks very different.

It will likely lead to resentment, paralysis, or a feeling of resignation.

When we don’t recover, repair, and move on from conflict, success is difficult.

If that sounds familiar, it’s time to think about addressing the problem.

The elephant search needs to begin.

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Sarah Noll Wilson is on a mission to help leaders build and rebuild teams. She aims to empower leaders to understand and honor the beautiful complexity of the humans they serve. Through her work as an Executive Coach, an in-demand Keynote Speaker, Researcher, Contributor to Harvard Business Review, and Bestselling Author of “Don’t Feed the Elephants”, Sarah helps leaders close the gap between what they intend to do and the actual impact they make. She hosts the podcast “Conversations on Conversations”, is certified in Co-Active Coaching and Conversational Intelligence, and is a frequent guest lecturer at universities. In addition to her work with organizations, Sarah is a passionate advocate for mental health.

Comments (1)

Short and succinct but full of gems!

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