03
Sep
12

How to get rid of the elephant

All leaders have elephants to deal with in their companies. Some are baby elephants that just get in the way while others evolve into huge obstacles that block all forward progress. Of course, the elephants I’m referring to are the large and small problems that leaders have to deal with. So while your kicking back this Labor Day, enjoying your adult beverages and BBQ, take a few minutes to ponder the size and extent of that herd of elephants waiting for your return on Tuesday morning. More importantly, ponder what you’re going to do to get rid of them.

No, I’m not trying to ruin your Labor Day by reminding you that there are elephants stomping around your company doing damage. My intent is to give you some strategies to get your elephants under control – or even better – to get them back on the game preserve where they belong.

Here are my big game strategies to get rid of your elephants:

  • Stop playing game warden: A game warden’s job is to protect wildlife. You’re not a game warden – you’re the leader of a company. Those elephants hanging around your company living room aren’t your pets – they’re obstacles to growth. More importantly, your elephants don’t like or eat peanuts – they consume cash by getting in the way and devouring resources. And the longer they stay, the more “normal” it feels to have them around. Unless you’re in the zoo business, elephants don’t belong in your company.
  • You let them in – you get them out: That’s right, you let the elephants in. You procrastinated on a small problem and now it’s a big bull elephant, wreaking havoc and gobbling up resources. There are certain aspects of being a leader that you don’t like (budgets, holding others accountable, confrontation, etc.) so you avoid them like the plague. Next thing you know elephants are popping up in all the places you don’t like to deal with. No leader is a complete package of skills, but every leader can learn to effectively strengthen skills they lack. Heck, you’re the leader – you can hire people that love the things you hate to deal with. Fact: Directly or indirectly, you created the elephants plaguing your company so you’re the one to get them out.
  • Hunt big game first: No-compromise leaders know that the key to banishing elephants is to go big game hunting first. Those big elephants, like a payroll that’s out of control or excessive debt, are killing the company faster than the little ones and need to go first. You know exactly what and where those big elephants are in your company – they’re too big to hide. So, leave the little elephants alone until the big ones are gone.
  • One bite at a time: It’s going to take planning and execution to get those big elephants out. And the best strategy is to do it one bite at a time. First, you need to isolate what caused the elephant to occur and address it. Then comes your hit list of corrective action like reducing payroll, cutting expenses that are “nice to haves” not “gotta haves,” or firing your bookkeeper mother who loves you but knows nothing about cash management. Fact: “One bite at a time” means one tough decision after another. If it doesn’t hurt or rock the boat, you’re not taking a big enough bite.
  • Elephants never forget: Congratulations, you got rid of your elephants. But guess what? All that stuff that caused the elephants to appear in the first place are just waiting for an opportunity to get back inside. No-compromise leaders make change initiatives stick over the long term.

OK, now you can continue enjoying your Labor day – but go easy on those adult beverages. You’ve got some elephants to deal with tomorrow and you’ll need a clear head. No Compromise.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click above to comment.

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.

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2 Responses to “How to get rid of the elephant”


  1. September 11, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Neil,
    You crack me up. Your style of writing gets to the meat of the issues quickly and gives me tools to deal with problems I thought only happened to me inside my head.
    Love it.


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