Every business owner has an elephant in their room, representing those issues that you would rather avoid than confront. It sits there whether you like it or not, waiting to be noticed and addressed. The longer it waits, the more likely it will sabotage your business. The things you avoid may include:
– the follow up phone calls you need to make to customers and potential customers
– the report you need to write
– the under-performing staff member you need to talk to
– the bill you need to pay
– the changes in your industry that you would rather ignore
– the business plan you haven’t gotten around to actioning
– your personal problems that affect your work
– your tendency to waste time on non-work-related tasks.
Confronting these issues is potentially painful and uncomfortable, and it’s easier to pretend they are not there. Your old habits just keep repeating. This may be the BIGGEST mistake business owners make. The elephant has so much to give if only you approached it, listened and learned.
The elephant is actually a part of you. The pioneering Psychiatrist Carl Jung named the conscious, acceptable part of our Self the persona, and the unacceptable and unconscious parts the shadow. When confronted with the truth, we defend our persona’s and deny our shadow side. An important first step in dealing with the elephant is to notice when and why you get defensive when communicating with others, either in how and what you express, or how you block or filter information inside your head. This process is also something you can discuss with your business coach. It is important to improve your awareness of your own defensiveness.
It is an important developmental skill to be able to admit your shadow and work on improving yourself. The second step is understanding why you get defensive. Your ‘why’ will be about something that doesn’t fit with your persona or image you hold of yourself. If you can allow your persona to be more flexible rather than rigid and extreme, then you will become better at handling the truth and more open to learning. It is so important to be honest with yourself if you want to be successful in business.
For example, part of my persona is the belief that I am always on time for meetings. If for some reason one day I am not on time, then I get defensive and blame something or someone for it. This projection of unwanted emotions out to others is a sign I am not listening well enough or taking full responsibility for my actions. The more I do this, the more I get stuck repeating the same mistakes and not learning from them. I notice my business coaching clients do this all the time on various aspects of their business, and sometimes these bad habits can be extremely detrimental to business.
The third step is taking full responsibility for yourself, including owning your actions. If you can be more aware of your defensiveness, more flexible with your persona, and more willing to take responsibility, then more of what was shadow becomes conscious and dealt with constructively. In my example, I learn to manage my time better when I admit there are flaws in my behaviour, prioritising and decision making that I need to improve.
These three steps to taming the elephant are a challenge for all of us, and remember the elephant is present in your business every day. It’s your choice to ignore the elephant or approach it and manage it. People with a strong psychology make friends with their elephant, and the results can be awesome.