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  • Taming the Elephant in the Room

  • A team practice for taming distractions

  • Facilitated by Joseph Anderson

    • Make your team more effective
    • Take on the obstacles that get in your way
    • See, say, and take realistic action based on a new and shared understanding of the truth of your circumstances

    This workshop is a hands-on, practical experience of the key capability for team effectiveness: non-judgmental, present-moment awareness.

    1. Set an intention: Choose a distracting challenge your team is ready to take on.
    2. Stabilize attention: Do an individualized two-minute exercise to bring your attention to the present moment.
    3. Build awareness together: Each participant says out loud one thing they are aware of in the present moment.
    4. Notice the elephant: Each person says something true for them about the elephant.
    5. Notice the reaction: Each person says something true about a reaction to the elephant.
    6. Reset: Capture learnings and actions to take, let go and begin again.
    7. Repeat steps 1-6.
    8. Make a plan to tame the elephant.
  • How it works

    Number of participants: 5-25 people who collaborate together

    Duration: Minimum of 90 minutes, up to a half or full day, depending on issues being worked on. The session may be preceded by a brief (20-30 minute) introduction to mindfulness practice.

    Team Readiness: The Elephant Process can operate at varying degrees of intensity depending on the specific distraction being addressed. Working with relatively minor distractions at first may be useful to introduce the process and demonstrate its benefits before proceeding to more significant issues.

    Who should participate: Anyone affected by the distracting circumstance is free to participate. The process is structured enough to be effective with groups with significant misalignment or conflict.

    What to focus on: 

    1. Baby Elephant – an everyday individual distraction with relatively low impact. This is a good way to learn and get comfortable with the process. Examples: “I have an upcoming dentist appointment” or “I’m hungry for lunch.”
    2. Junior Elephant – a persistent ongoing team issue with relatively low impact. Something that’s discussed from time to time but never really resolved. This is a good way to begin to become aware of team dynamics without too much at stake. Examples: Awkward Team Lunches, Thermostat Settings, Naming Conventions. (NOTE: Junior Elephants may turn out to be bigger than expected.)
    3. Jumbo Elephant – an ongoing team or organizational issue with significant impact. Among the top issues impacting the team and possibly the whole organization. This is a good way to derive maximum benefit from the process, but requires some team experience. Examples: Leadership Issues, Strategic Direction, Team Communication Challenges, Mistrust
    4. The Four Elephants Variation – one approach is to focus on each of the four classic distractions: Reactivity, Negativity, Tribalism, Change. The group identifies a typical distraction in each category and does one round for each. This is a good way to surface a range of issues and identify what further work might be needed to address them.
  • About the facilitator

    Joe Anderson, designer and facilitator of Taming the Elephant in the Room, is a consultant, coach and trainer who helps teams achieve effectiveness through human skills like mindfulness and emotional intelligence. For 25 years he has been on the front lines of technology delivery leading program, product, and dev teams. Through both painful and delightful experiences, he has seen that the single most important factor in effective delivery is human skills - and this is especially true on complex, cross-functional initiatives. When alignment and communication break down, lots of bad things can happen. But when teams have strong human skills, they break through adversity and achieve success.

    Read more about Joe here.