Book Review: Don’t Feed the Elephants!

Don’t Feed the Elephants! – Sarah Noll Wilson – Book Cover

Book: Don’t Feed the Elephants!: Overcoming the Art of Avoidance to Build Powerful Partnerships

Author: Sarah Noll Wilson (@sarahnollwilson) · Twitter

Genre: Non-fiction, business

Review copy: Reedsy Discovery

Available at: Amazon.in

Recommended: Must Read

Don’t Feed the Elephants! by Sarah Noll Wilson is a handbook for personal and professional life. With an appealing cover and text embellished with relevant drawings, the content of the book is engrossing. Building on the proverbial elephant in the room, Wilson, a leadership coach with a doctorate in Adaptive Leadership, reflects on common behavioral issues that create barriers at work and home. Feigning ignorance, harboring avoidance, seething in silence, or telling problems to people other than those who can resolve them, are some hallmarks of “feeding peanuts” to the elephant in the room.

Sarah Wilson writes on the subject from a place of knowledge and experience. By sharing her life scenarios and professional case studies, she expounds on concepts of vulnerability, courage, mindfulness, powerful conversations, and even curiosity. The subject will resonate with many, including those who walk out of meeting rooms knowing too well, “If there is more truth in the hallways than in meetings, you have a problem.

The book has nuggets needed for good leadership and relationship management, including references from other writers. As Wilson observes, “… a productive relationship is one where all parties can disagree openly, effectively, and respectfully.” After establishing the book’s premise, including explaining the science behind a triggered Amygdala, Wilson names the elephants that we nourish at the expense of our mental peace and spiritual growth. She provides cheat sheets to not only identify each but also how to tackle them out of your life.

The questions toolkit is handy, and one can create their own each time one faces an elephant. The book has relevance for leaders with information on unconscious bias, feedback, intentions, team dynamics, and conflicts. Wilson explains the significance of learning to identify and stop feeding elephants in corporate setups. She also advises how to introduce the concept of elephants to a team.

Elephants belong in the vast expanse, not the shallow confines of insecure minds. Use Sarah Wilson’s book to set them free and liberate yourself from mind games and self-manipulations. I relished this book and will refer to it often. The anecdotes were enlightening and relatable. The writing is crisp, and the book is well-organized. This truly enjoyable and informative book deserves to be on your bookshelf.

The Myth of Great Leadership

This is also highlihted in Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, where she says that modern boardrooms should leverage the strengths of introverts, including complex problem solving, deep thinking and strategizing. Interestingly, in the first few pages the author narrates an incident where the introvert had to do the hard-sell talk and negotiate. It is not that introverts cannot talk; it is not that they are shy; they are observant, they are unassuming, and they are great listeners.

I have worked in a couple of different industries, company sizes, and, of course, different roles in my career, spanning 2 decades and counting. My observation is that in maximum cases, the ones who can really talk and hog the space in a meeting or a forum and be charming enough to indulge peers and seniors alike, are the ones who reach the top management levels faster. Smooth talkers, smooth operators are definitely liked by all and are the light and life of any organization. People adore them. Fair enough!

The disparity arises when they are only talking and take less action, and have even lesser in-depth knowledge, primarily because they think they know it all. As avid speakers, who love the sound of their voice, they are also poor listeners. Winning through speech becomes their hallmark, even a considerable part of their professional ego, and rise thereof.

In contrast, the silent slogger does most of the work, spends time researching, learning, listening, ruminating, bringing out thoughts and ideas, but if not articulate, then the dias remains a distant object. Often, such people receive appraisals that show them as mild, invisible, non-communicative. Interestingly, they are also trusted with the workload and called upon to deliver.

This is also highlighted in Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, where she says that modern boardrooms should leverage the strengths of introverts, including complex problem solving, deep thinking and strategizing. Interestingly, in the first few pages, the author narrates an incident where the introvert had to do the hard-sell talk and negotiate. Not that introverts cannot talk; not that they are shy; rather they are observant and unassuming, and are listeners. The top positions may, however, remain elusive until introverts develop and exhibit art of the glib.

This, I believe, constitutes the biggest malady of any organization, bureaucracy, even nations. Until the doers are at the helm of affairs and credited for the work they produce, everything else is smoke, mirrors, mist, and a lot of public relations events. Even at the pinnacle of power and commanding all authority, if one does not govern with compassion, decide with the support of knowledge and advice, administer with competency, and lead by example, the leadership skill is a full-blown myth.

For those interested in understanding and also explaining introversion, especially to children, BBC One in its BBC Idea series, explains the Quiet Power of Introverts in a short animated video.

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