Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

We've all seen this. The team leader says, "We'll begin the project in February." Immediately one of the staff says sarcastically, "Certain of that, are you?" and ten others in the room smirk. The team leader now replies, "Yes, as certain as we can be" as if she had not noticed the sarcasm.

Not a single person in the room misses the fact that the team leader could not handle the emotional message behind the words - the real message. Her credibility goes through the floor.

Name the elephant and gain credibility

To gain credibility, the team leader has to acknowledge the feelings behind the words, the feelings in the room.

She could, for example, nod at the interjector, look around at the group, and start her reply, "I know, these postponements have been frustrating..." The elephant's name in this case is Frustration. And sometimes all it takes is a significant nod, or a smile of a particular flavour - that's enough to name the elephant because it indicates, I hear what you really said.

When you might not want to name the elephant

There are times when it is best to leave the elephant unrecognised. For example, the interjector may be the only one worked up about it. To acknowledge the feelings might hijack the whole presentation and annoy the audience as well. A judgement call.


About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally-charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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