Moose-on-the-Table: How to Have Courageous Conversations Addressing Barriers to Teamwork

A Customized and Practical Half or One-Day Moose Hunting Workshop or Part of a Management Team Retreat

Imagine a team meeting around a conference room table. They are reviewing operations and making plans. Standing in the middle of the conference room table is a great big moose. No one says a word about the moose. Everyone carries on as if this situation is normal. Meanwhile the moose is eating papers at one end of the table while plopping out moose pies at the other end. Team members are passing papers around the moose’s legs. They shift in their chairs to make eye contact with each other under the moose’s belly. No one says a thing about this.

When people aren’t having courageous conversations that identify and address the Moose-on-the-Table, the results can be quite serious. Sometimes the consequences are public disasters like the space shuttle explosions. More often, people are quietly killed, injured, or stressed out because team or organizational issues aren’t being addressed. Customers are lost, quality deteriorates, productivity slips, innovative ideas are smothered, and companies go bankrupt because people don’t openly talk about and address barriers and issues.

Signs of Moose-on-the-Table issues include:

  • Real discussions happening in the hallways after the meeting
  • People agree — then go and do their own thing
  • Big problems or issues are minimized and touchy issues avoided
  • Helplessness, cynicism, and apathy
  • Growing turf protection and silos or walls between departments
  • Blame storming, fault finding, and sniping (often wrapped in “humorous” zingers)
  • Commitments continuously not kept and deadlines missed
  • Meetings waste time, drain energy, and frustrate participants
  • Lobbying, politicking, and decision making outside the team meetings

Let’s Get Practical

For almost 30 years, Jim Clemmer’s practical leadership approaches have been inspiring action and achieving results. His 2,000 plus presentations and workshops/retreats, seven best-selling books, columns, and newsletters are helping hundreds of thousands of people worldwide because they are inspiring, instructive, and refreshingly fun. And most of all…because they work!

Jim is constantly distilling his exhaustive research, extensive experience, and collection of best practices into easily understood, highly energizing, and practical applications. His workshops are so effective because they inspire action and provide “how-to” steps that — when used as directed — dramatically boost results.

Educational Workshop or Facilitating a Moose Hunt

Customizing any Moose on the Table workshop starts with defining the key objectives and outcomes of the session.

Half–Day Moose on the Table Workshop

Educational workshops are for groups larger than an intact team (usually five to ten people) who all report to a single supervisor, manager, or executive. This can range up to audience sizes of hundreds of participants. The main focus of a workshop is on individual learning and personal action planning.

A design variation is to have a few people from the same intact team together in a small cluster or even the entire intact team of five to ten members together at a series of round tables within the larger workshop. In this configuration participants learn, assess, prioritize, and plan as a team.

Workshop Agenda

  • Navigating Adversity: Choosing to Be a Navigator (moose issues as opportunities), Survivor (waiting and hoping they will go away), or Victim (helpless and overwhelmed in “Pity City”)
  • Emotional Intelligence: Mind and Skills Sets for Addressing Moose-on-the-Table Issues
  • Moose Tracks: Signs of Moose on the Table
  • Moose Risks and Rewards: When Moose Run Wild
  • Moose Hunting: Practical Tips, Tools, and Techniques
  • Dealing with Moose on the Table: Practical Action Planning

What Participants Gain from This Powerful Workshop

  • A practical “how-to” workbook with many concrete application ideas
  • Ideas and inspiration for dealing with adversity and difficult change
  • Tools, techniques, and ideas for strengthening their team/organization
  • Reflection time to reassess personal and professional priorities
  • Learn how to help shift their team’s language and culture toward Navigating around difficult issues
  • Understand and apply the power of emotional intelligence
  • Pinpoint moose issues and priorities to be addressed
  • Establish personal, team, or organization improvement plans
  • Reframe and refocus negative changes/adversity
  • Recharged, reenergized, and reinspired
  • Common languages/approaches for a more open team or organization
  • Insights for coaching and developing others

Moose Hunting within Other Workshops

Most of Jim’s workshops contain references to his Moose-on-the-Table concept. The Moose-on-the-Table section can be accentuated and extended to include moose hunting exercises. Within most workshops participants would identify moose issues to be addressed back in their workplaces or with other members of their intact teams (who may not be at this session). See how Moose-on-the-Table activities are often a key part of this session.

Another Option – Blending Staff and/or Various Management Levels

This may start as a half or one-day workshop for staff and management together with organization or team assessments, identifying Moose-on-the-Table issues to be addressed, and possibly brainstorming solutions. Using this approach, everyone gets the same message, develops common language, and gets involved in the improvement process (which dramatically increases commitment to change). Jim then facilitates a senior management team priority and action planning session during the last part of the workshop (often the afternoon of the second day) to make decisions and begin implementation. Sometimes the progression is first a half-day with everyone, continuing with a day including all management, and a final half-day with just the senior intact management team of five to ten.

Management Team Retreat

Participants are an intact management team that works together as a unit planning, making decisions, and running operations. The size of this single level management team is usually five to ten people all reporting directly to one manager, director, or executive.

With an intact management team, moose hunting is usually part of a larger one-day workshop or two-day retreat. This puts this effort in the best context and dramatically increases the chances that the team will develop action plans to address the moose issues. Click here to view Practical Team Retreats and see how Moose-on-the-Table activities are often a key part of this session.


Asking participates to identify Moose-on-the-Table issues and then not exploring them thoroughly and addressing them effectively will make the situation worse and reduce morale. This also raises the “snicker factor” for other survey or input activities and makes participants more cynical about the organization or team’s effectiveness and just how open its leaders are to dealing with problems and issues.