Composure | Why Elephants
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Why Elephants

Culture is like an elephant because it’s big and intimidating. It’s hard to overlook and difficult to shift. When its energy is harnessed, it is incredibly powerful. And whilst we understand elephants in some detail, there is always a bit of a mystery on what makes them unique.

The ‘elephant in the room’ saying is reflective of many leaders in organisations regarding culture – they know it is there, but are often unwilling to discuss it and address it, even though it is obvious, and everyone knows the impact it is having in the organisation.

There are many characteristics of elephants that are reflective of culture in organisations.

Elephants have acute senses that help them pick up the cues and clues of what is going on around them. Did you know elephants:

  • Can smell water from 15km away and have the best sense of smell in the animal kingdom
  • Can hear one another’s trumpeting calls up to 8km away
  • Have the largest brain than any other land animal and have three times the number of neurons as humans

In our work in culture we will readily bring the unconscious and sub-conscious senses to become far more conscious. When the conscious becomes more present, people begin to appreciate what they don’t know and their assumptions and beliefs are challenged and tested. This is particularly relevant to culture, as some leaders are completely oblivious to the power of culture. Or they may have some awareness however, it is superficial and lacks depth. In our experience this is more often the case as leaders will talk about culture without a depth of knowledge on how it can be transformative in their world.

In powerful cultures, people are far more attuned to their senses on what is good about their culture and what needs to improve. They are prepared to back their senses and bring them out through quality conversations and feedback.

Like the elephants we need to act on our senses more effectively to survive and thrive. This is an important part of the shaping and shifting phase of culture transformation. The key is have your senses on alert all the time so that the culture you see and experience becomes a driver of the way you lead and operate as a leader and an employee.

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