Elephant Hunting! – A Vital Skill for Teaming Leaders


Few things are more frustrating than sitting in on a “team meeting” and listening to the “team leader” talk about everything but the very issue you know is the most pressing (and the most felt) one of the moment. Sometimes a team will experience a rift or a division that brings some hurt, confusion and disgruntled emotion into the atmosphere. The temptation of leadership is to avoid acknowledging the “elephant in the room”, to just ignore him, to pretend he doesn’t exist and hope he will just leave on his own, to attempt to move ahead with discussions, plans and dreams with a business-as-usual approach. When these moments occur, the emotional elephant is so present and so real that it is virtually impossible for team members to focus on the tasks or challenges at hand.

Some of the potential “elephants” that show up among teams and team meetings are:

  • Unresolved tensions
  • Incomplete discussions
  • Unkept promises
  • Unclear roles
  • Inadequate communication
  • Unclear measurements
  • Uncertain goals
  • Insufficiently oriented new team members
  • Overly controlling leadership actions
  • Compromises of team values

Great teams and team members are not just aware of the elephants; they are elephant hunters! They regularly chase them down! They know that the elephants in the room, the unresolved issues and poor communications, are enemies of teams and teaming; they know that untended, they can take the life, fun and motivation right out of the room, and right out of the team. Great team members and leaders are great elephant hunters!

Did you know that when an elephant, a real one, is born that it weighs about 150 pounds? (Wow! Talk about a big baby!) And, baby elephants begin walking within 15 minutes after their birth. (And I thought humans were well developed!)

The same is true of the proverbial elephants in the room. When you allow an unresolved or unacknowledged issue to enter your team environment, it will grow like no one’s business and start walking around and bumping into people as soon as it is born. Great teams will not tolerate elephants in the room.

So, learn to be a great elephant hunter. Sniff them out and deal with them swiftly. Sometimes the conflict and dialog produced by the elephant hunting will cause issues and truths to come to the surface that albeit are at first awkward, but are absolutely key to the development of the team, of the church and of their mission. Do you have the courage to confront the “elephants in the room” on your team? Your team is praying you do!


In the next Teaming Life post – look for more specifics on effective “elephant hunting” skills for you and your team.