How I learned to ‘out’ the elephant in the room

| 5 April 2024

One of the higher-order skills that leaders (and coaches) can have, is to ‘out’ the elephant in the room in a skilled way.

How many elephants are you tripping over right now?

Think about all those meetings or conversations that would be much more effective if you could deal with that huge grey thing.

Instead, you tell yourself:

  • I don’t know how to say ‘it’ and not get caught in an elephant stampede.
  • Challenging the status quo feels too dangerous and threatening.
  • It’s safer just to keep my head down.
  • There’s no point. Nothing will change.

When you’re the leader who can shift the direction of a conversation or a meeting by bringing the elephant centre stage you have a real superpower.

The good news? You can learn that skill.

These five things helped me overcome my fears and they’ll help you too:

One – experiencing someone else kindly and compassionately enabling me to ‘out’ my elephants.  There I am trying to convince her that I can’t do something because ‘I don’t have time’ but really – I’m bloody petrified of failing. But once the elephant is out there, I can decide what to do with it. Suddenly, I have a choice.

She could have avoided the elephant.  But I would be no further forward.

Two – The realisation that staying quiet rarely serves anybody long term.  I once worked with a guy who couldn’t tell one of his team why she kept getting knocked back at interviews. ‘She’s clever but she’s “negative, whiny and a permanent victim”’ he told me.


Well, if that were you, wouldn’t you rather know? I would! And if someone can tell me with fearless compassion and help me explore a different way, I’d be delighted. (FYI I wouldn’t use the words ‘negative, whiny and victim – that’s what we don’t want.  I’d tell her what I do want instead because I care about her career development.)

Three – Here’s something I use often and you can too: Pause a meeting halfway through and ask everyone ‘What are you noticing?’ You’ll get some interesting answers. You don’t need to say, ‘Why is nobody listening to Jan?’ or ‘You’re going off on a tangent, again’ because invariably they’ll say so themselves (but only because you asked the question.)

The elephant is out! Helping a group of people see their processes and patterns helps them change the ones that aren’t working.

Four –The neuroscience of conversations – when you understand the power of language and how words create trust and openness (or don’t) you have a high-level influencing skill. Elephants? No problem. You can learn these skills and have a toolbox at your disposal when you work with me 1-1 or in my Lead with Confidence programme.)

Five – getting over my thoughts around conflict, rejection and ‘being nice’ and acting from a place of curiosity and confidence rather than fear (yes, it takes practice and a few deep breaths.)

Six – answering the question: What are the costs and consequences of saying nothing vs. saying something?

I strongly encourage you to learn this skill – the quickest way to do this is to join my Lead with Confidence programme.  You’ll get a chance to talk about your own elephants, your organisational elephants and learn and practise the Conversational Intelligence® skills  and tools I share with you.

Your confidence will grow, you’ll be more leaderlike and your influencing skills will sky-rocket.

Here are all the details. The next programme starts 10 April 2024.