The CEO and the Elephant in the Room- How to Break Down Silos

I was having a conversation with a CEO the other day and we were talking about their priorities for the remainder of the year. He is focusing on growing the business and fortunately business is booming. The main focus for him right now is his team - getting them all aligned, breaking down their silo-mentality and seeing the big picture. This is when he told me the story of the Elephant and the Blind Men.

In the story, there were six blind men who were each asked to describe an elephant. Each man felt a different part of the elephant, and therefore, had very different descriptions of what the elephant was. For example, one man felt the tail and described the elephant as a rope. One man felt the belly and described the elephant as a wall. One man felt the trunk and said the elephant was like a tree. While each man was correct in his own way, none could see the overall truth.

This story plays out in business all the time, we focus on our own areas of control and believe that is the 'most important thing'. As leaders, we need to shine the light on the vision/mission/strategy to there is understanding, buy-in and engagement. There are a few simple steps you can take to measure your own team's understanding:

  1. Ask them - individually - what the top three most important things are for the organization today.
  2. Ask them - individually - what their team is doing to support these top three things.
  3. Ask them - individually - how well they believe their team understands the 'top three'.

This simple litmus test will let you know if they are really seeing the 'elephant' that you want them to see. If they are all aligned - bravo to you, make sure you keep driving that clarity. If they are not, make it the agenda item for your next meeting. Spend time as a team understanding, uncovering and aligning to the overall picture. As a leader, you are responsible for bringing this clarity and building a strong team around you that understands it, champions it and leads their teams to achieve it.

In my 20 years of experience working with executives and their teams across the globe, I have found that when you start here - a lot of the problems (symptoms) become an easier fix. Getting that line of sight for your team and your organization is critical for success - we are all lean in resources and need to keep the energy focused on the goal.

If you are interested in sharing your story with me or learning more about how I have helped executives and teams like you, please reach out to me at

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