Getting Match-Fit for 2022

It’s amazing the lengths we’ll go to avoid the things we don’t want to face.

Here are some examples I’ve seen and experienced recently …

  • A conversation where the one thing that needs to be addressed to move the whole thing forward, just isn’t being discussed.
  • The meeting where you know that very few of the actions will be completed and no-one will be asked to be accountable.
  • Situations where comments, slurs and off the cuff remarks are dismissed as ‘just kidding’ or ‘having a laugh’ rather than being addressed and called out for the unacceptable behaviours that they are.

One of the things we learn to do as researchers is to ask the questions that other people aren’t willing to ask and have conversations that other people don’t feel safe holding. We get beyond the quiet desperation of ‘not good enough’, to the deeper question of, “What might be possible… if we go there?”

The power of avoidance lies in fear.

We avoid naming the elephant, calling out the lack of accountability or the unacceptable behaviour because we’re scared. Scared of confrontation, scared of disconnection from others and scared of not being able to handle what comes next. We convince ourselves that reallocating the work, moving that team member or extending the deadline will be better in the long run. But what it really does is keep us playing small and staying safe. It weakens relationships, stifles progress and undermines performance – our own and the people we lead.

The challenge is that the conversations we need to have to face what’s being avoided feel dangerous. And that’s why, time and again, we just don’t go there.  We call it “being polite.” We pretend it’s so we don’t offend people. But what it really is, is looking the other way, sweeping the issues under the carpet and stuffing the dirty clothes in the closet.

But at some point, we’ve got to clear them out; we’ve got to face the uncomfortable truths rather than avoid them. Because if we don’t, there becomes a festering smell in our cultures, our teams, and relationships that impacts everything we do.

I was reminded of this recently, working with an executive team. There was clearly an elephant in the room. It was large (and probably pink) and it was doing a great job sucking the trust, creativity and innovation out of the room. In the process it was stifling progress, undermining performance and making what could be a high performing team, fragile. Together we acknowledged the elephant, named it, wrangled it and they became unstuck. It’s a work in progress, but  that’s exactly the point; they’re now making progress where before they couldn’t because the elephant was in the way.

2022 is coming and we need to get match fit.
Avoidance isn’t going to work as a strategy; it’s time to clear out the closet.

Because as we deal with whatever the post-COVID ‘normal’ looks like – for ourselves, our teams and the people we lead – ‘going there’ is going to be even more important. There’ll be a whole new bunch of uncomfortable truths to face and a new set of dangerous conversations to hold. And avoiding them will just stifle progress, undermine performance and keep us fragile.

We need to stop playing small and staying safe. We need to stop pretending, ignoring and sweeping.

If we do – if we choose to go there – we’ll unlock possibilities for ourselves and our teams that simply weren’t available before.

So come on, let’s go there…

  • What’s an elephant you can help name?
  • What’s a truth you can turn towards?
  • How can you hold space for what may feel like a ‘dangerous’ conversation?

And if you’d like some help, let me know; ‘elephant wrangling’ is my speciality.

Dr Paige Williams

Dr Paige Williams

International Speaker, Author, Mentor


Determined to help leaders move beyond just the need for resilience, Paige provides practical, evidence-based strategies for leaders to become antifragile, lead themselves and their teams to thrive and succeed in the Decade of Disruption.

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