Teamwork: An Elephant in the Dark

Elephant oblique

Teamwork? Here’s a poem by Rumi, a 13th Century Persian poet. It says a lot about the difference between a bunch of well meaning individuals and a high performing team.

Some Hindus have an elephant to show.

No-one here has seen an elephant.

They bring it at night to a dark room.

One by one, we go in the dark and come out

saying how we experience the animal.

One of us happens to touch the trunk.

A water-pipe kind of creature.

Another, the ear. A very strong, always moving

back and forth, fan-animal. Another, the leg.

I find it still, like a column on a temple.

Another touches the curved back.

A leathery throne. Another, the cleverest,

feels the tusk. A rounded sword made of porcelain.

He is proud of his description.

Each of us touches one place

and understands the whole that way.

The palm and the fingers feeling in the dark

are how the senses explore the reality of the elephant.

If each of us held a candle there, and if we went in together, we could see it.

Drawn from the book I’m currently enjoying, by Elena Aguilar. A brilliant read, sharing her own worst and best experiences of leading teams, and how to build a high performing team. While the organisational setting is education, it’s highly relevant anywhere. Highly recommended. Click the image to get your copy.

5 Signs of a Toxic Workplace

When your working atmosphere gets toxic, everything else becomes hard or even impossible to achieve. Today I’m re-posting an article by Janie Smith as I’ve come across far too many toxic workplaces like this. And it can sometimes be easier to turn around than we think. The alternative, if we don’t, is too horrible to contemplate.


Janie quotes behavioural scientist Darren Hill, who picks out these 5 signs:

  1. Passive-aggressive communication is the norm
  2. Lack of discretionary effort
  3. Death by committee
  4. Clock Watching
  5. Lack of quality, shared experiences.

Read more here.

All of these symptoms indicate a lack of engagement – mirrored by, and probably caused by, a lack of leadership. How many are you experiencing? Maybe you’re too busy to change things? Or maybe these problems leave you in practice with too much hard work just to keep the business going.

Some suggestions: it’s time to make your purpose crystal clear and to invest energy in communicating that to your team. It’s time to show zero tolerance for undermining, negative attitudes. It’s time to show lots of appreciation for people who put in the extra mile (or inch) so that they know they, and their efforts, are valued – even if they simply come in with a positive attitude.

If you’re in this chicken and egg situation, give me a call and I’ll happily spend a bit of time getting to the heart of how you might make life a lot easier.

Every success, Hugh

Spending $8 Million to Successfully Solve a $20 Problem

This is a great illustration of something I’ve seen all too often. We have people with practical intelligence and great problem solving abilities right under our noses. But we underestimate them, fail to give them opportunities to engage with and solve problems, and waste the talent at our disposal. To our cost. In this case, nearly $8 Million.

Read the story “There Is A Moral To This Story That Only Engineers Will Fully Understand” here:

Found at


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