Killing the Elephant

It is hard to imagine that any extreme actions or examples, such as killing or death, could motivate any real value in a workplace, however, it is such drastic measures that are sometimes needed to generate momentum and teamwork.

It is ironic how simple can be so difficult to understand at times, yet other times it can be so hard to see. The idea of, not being able to see the forest through the trees, comes to mind when facing such challenges. Occam’s Razor is often times misquoted, however, it states, it is not the idea that the simplest solution is most likely the correct one, but the fact that the solution that concludes the fewest assumptions, given that the hypothesis are equal, is correct. We love to over complicate the hell out of everything and wonder why results are delayed and solutions never come. Are we solving problems or the problem? ...maybe we are not solving anything. Can someone simply say something, and therefore it exist. We are not gods.

There is a strategy that I like to call ‘Killing the Elephant’. Mere acknowledgement of something is not enough, we must act. Nelson Mandela said, "Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world."

“Solutions without actions are just suggestions."

The idea of killing the elephant is an analogy for working through the process to not just acknowledge something, but to do something. This way of thinking is extremely important to motivating action and executing ideas and not just acknowledging they exist. For the purpose of this article I will be using meeting, discussions, and working sessions as the examples. In these types of settings, people react one of two ways; with anxiety or with eagerness. As selfish beings we have a tendency to think our idea is the best, in thinking this way, our default action is to speak and not to listen.

"If all you do is talk, then the only thing you know is what you tell yourself"

Going into meetings and working sessions with an open mind, or better yet, the mindset to kill the elephant, and not this preconceive notion of outperforming your colleagues, can ultimately lead to greater productivity and allow success to flourish. Futhermore, the real question is, what do you do once you kill the elephant. If you can learn to enjoy the process more than the outcome you will accomplish more from learning than doing. On Quora's website there is discussion about elephants; someone actually did the math, and estimated that it would take approximately 26 years and 4 months to eat an elephant. (28,000 servings at three portions a day = 9,600 days. You can see where I am going with this, I hope. A dead elephant is the least of your problem, the real solutions are in what happens next.

The list below is part of a more complex strategy that will begin to transform your meetings, working sessions, projects and self. You can't just ignore the elephant you have to destroy it, for what is re-birthed from the ashes will be unrecognizable. The interesting thing is, that over such a great period of time, if all you look at is the end result and not the incremental improvements, than you are not doing anyone justice. Recently, NASA discovered a planet that may be habitable, only one thing...it is 31 light years away. It would take approximately over 500k human years to get there. If you are only focused on the end result, you may never see it.

Empathy

This is the foundation of everything else that follows. Empathy is the ability to put aside your own reference and absorb and reflect another's. When you begin to see the world differently through someone else's eyes, you can begin to have new perspective. The idea is not to discard or ignore your own position but to expand from others. This is the first step in killing the elephant, because you have to destroy your selfish nature and be okay in being vulnerable.

Leverage Past Failures

Past success and failures teach a valuable lesson to be learned from. We are somewhat forgetful. It is humorous how humans will make the same mistake over and over. They say elephants never forget, but I do not think that is true of us. I have sat in several working and project planning sessions where not one person even thinks to compile historical data before the meeting. Failure is easier to repeat than success so you should have plenty of data points to leverage.

Empower People

There are task people and process people. It is your job to identify those types and adjust your expectations accordingly. Additionally, you must allow people to voice their opinions not just the facts. This is easy because everyone thinks they are the brightest light in the room. This allows you to understand the why. When you understand the why it is easier to know the how. Give people a chance to surprise you.

Perfect the Progress

You are in it for the long haul. You have time, so use it. Doing is learning. Try, Fail, Analyse, Adjust, Repeat. Too many people just try, fail, try, fail. This is not effective and will cause burnout and allow negativity to set in and effect the entire team. Don't forget to praise positive progress more than you discipline negative progress. Moral has to be maintained throughout the process.

Help Your Team

Leading by example is the best way. Helping your team may not mean picking up a shovel or a spoon, it may mean being a cheerleader or a sounding board. You can't be a team if you don't each other and understanding your team or simply the people attending your meeting or working session is so important to generating the most out of the process. If you know what motivates one another than you know how to help everyone achieve their individual goals and by default, you unified goal can be achieved.

Analyze the Process

Analyzing, and adjusting are the game changing steps in the killing the elephant process. So many people think trying is the same thing as executing, it's not. To try is to attempt a plan without knowledge of the results, whereas to execute is to implement a strategy with a known or estimated outcome.

No is Not an Answer

Sometimes you may not be asking the right questions, however, in my experience, it is how you ask more than it is what you ask. When no is not an answer, you must find an alternative. This process forces creativity, team work, and a little bit of effort but there is always a work around and there is always a way. Think of this as a sort of reverse of the 10th man rule.

Transparency

Collaborative platforms and open discussions is the key to effective solutions. It is very difficult to give your opinion, share your experience, or even generate facts when you don't have all the information. This really should be first but elephant does not start with a T.

This was meant to be a thought provoking idea to encourage action and for the record, no elephants were harmed in the writing of this article. You can slice and dice this a thousand different ways, but at the end, it was never about killing the elephant, it is always about what happens next. Do you have a plan, are you open to ideas, do you encourage and motivate your team, do you ask why, and do you constantly improve.

Reference:

https://www.wamda.com/2013/12/6-inspiring-quotes-entrepreneurs-nelson-mandela

www.quora.com