I continue to use the analogy of “Moose-on-the-Table” with many management teams to get at issues that are blocking their progress but aren’t being discussed (click here for an excerpt from The Leader’s Digest explaining this concept).

I was working with the head of a small professional services organization where prior to the retreat, her autocratic style was identified as a big Moose hindering the team. During our offsite retreat this Moose was joined by equally large siblings in a Moose-on-the-Table exercise showing that professional staff was very inhibited by feelings of very low trust, respect, and openness within the organization. When faced with this type of feedback, too many leaders discount, rationalize and (consistent with the problem) try to command the Moose to go away (often by expressing extreme annoyance with people who point to the Moose). Of course, it doesn’t. It just starts hiding under the table and lurking in the hallways as part of whispered conversations.

I encouraged the leader to use the Moose feedback (and work that will emerge from a teamwork and communication initiative they launched as result of the retreat) as the key opportunity to reduce the “We/They Gaps” between the leadership team, professional staff, and administrative support staff. I pointed out to her that this is a great chance to examine the leadership team processes around meetings, planning/review/follow-through, Staff Forum, and decision-making.

One of the major problems within this organization is that the biggest Moose was sitting in the chair at the head of the leadership table. Her style and approach shut down debates and discussion and created unhealthy jockeying and politics among the team. This rippled out in the organization through turf battles, disrespect, and blaming.
I tried to coach her toward getting feedback on her leadership and working to shift her style. Unfortunately, she would not look in the mirror. As far as she was concerned, the problem was with everyone else’s leadership. The rift between her, her team, and the rest of the organization grew ever bigger and the organization’s results steadily declined. She is no longer there today.