What I’ve Read Lately: The Elephant in the Room

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“The Elephant In The Room”
By: Diana M. Smith
ISBN: 978-1-118-01542-1

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Thoughtful business leadership requires skill in a great many areas.  As we progress, we practice continually, learning and then succeeding each step along the way.  One of the most important areas we need to succeed in, yet seems often ignored or overlooked, is relationships.

The Elephant in the Room is an excellent look at how relationships make or break the success of leaders and organizations.

I personally enjoyed reading this book.  It is a good blend of first-hand experience (she’s a studied practitioner); real-world case studies (e.g. Steve Jobs & John Sculley at Apple); and, instructional processes aimed at enabling the reader to assess their own relationships.

My favorite part, the most inspirational and self-reflective are the first two parts: Understanding Relationships and Strengthening Relationships.  The third part Transforming Relationships, requires the most effort as Smith takes us through the actual mechanics of the process.

The Elephant… clearly illustrates the need for everyone—especially in the heat of the moment—to take a step back.  When things are starting to spin out of control, freeze the moment (capture that ‘frame’ in her terms), and try to engage the other party in understanding why they’re responding the way they are.  In example after example, Smith walks actual participants through their way of thinking.

New ways of thinking are important. New ways of thinking about your relationships also important—especially if they might make or break you and/or the business.

More often than not, the participants might not even know why they’re responding a certain way.  For instance, one CEO exhibits irritability and anger, adopting a professorial manner, whenever he’s feeling anxiety.  Simply knowing it is ‘anxiety’ triggering the demonstrated anger can help others defuse a situation.  Defusing a situation can not only let the immediate discussion return to being productive, it can also save or improve relationships in the long term.

It is not uncommon for senior leaders to seek out coaches.  The idea of seeking out a coach to—specifically—help me in improving strategically important relationships (e.g. important to my success and/or the business’) was a new idea.

I recommend reading this book.  The first half gives more value than most similar books.  The second half is gravy (or, icing if you prefer).