May 2010

Shannon Wells

Better Business | by Neil Ducoff


You Can’t Dance with the Elephant in Your Business

It’s time to acknowledge that there is an elephant in your business. More importantly, no matter how hard you try, it is impossible to dance with that elephant.

Reading this, you’re probably asking, “What’s up with Neil and this elephant stuff?” Well, this elephant stuff is all about that “thing” that’s been eating away at you and your business. The elephant is that big issue or problem you’ve been trying to maneuver around but not touch. It’s there, and no matter how hard you try to move around your elephant, it just won’t go away.

Still confused? Then you’re still refusing to acknowledge your elephant’s presence. So much so that you’ve gotten used to moving around it. Having your elephant in the way for so long feels almost normal. Yet, it’s a source of great stress. All that maneuvering wears you down and drains resources. The elephant needs to go away. And its removal falls squarely on your shoulders.

So what does this elephant look like?

• Your company’s payroll is too high and no longer sustainable: Maybe you moved around it by cutting your own pay. Maybe you put a payroll or two on your personal credit card. (Yes, these days, this desperate measure is more common than you think.) Removing this elephant may require implementing a new pay system. It may mean that you must lay off people. It may mean changing your lifestyle. Stop dancing around your elephant.

• Employees are not performing: If they’re not performing, how long have you been suffering from a case of intolerable toleration? Are you afraid that key employees will quit if you start holding them accountable? The elephant is your fear of addressing behaviors that you enabled by not engaging. Be the leader that your company needs and have the conversations that you’ve been avoiding. If someone quits, so be it. If you need to give an employee a “career opportunity,” so be it. Get rid of the elephant.

• You’re stuck in yesterday: If there’s any lesson this recession is teaching leaders, it’s that the game of business has changed and will continue to change at a rapid pace. What brought you success yesterday probably won’t bring you success tomorrow. Yesterday’s manner of doing business is the elephant. It’s in your way and holding you back. Let go of yesterday. Try something crazy. Something fun. Something bold. Innovative action is the best eviction notice for an elephant.

These are times for no-compromise leaders to show their stuff. Be courageous. Recognize that dancing around your elephant is draining money and resources. More importantly, the stress and anxiety are a detriment to your personal wellbeing. Stop dancing and evict your elephant.

About Neil Ducoff...

Neil Ducoff is a lifelong entrepreneur who has always been fascinated with business and how it works. He started his career off as a hairstylist in 1970 and opened his first salon in 1973 and a second location in 1975. In 1979 he sold them both to pursue business speaking, training, coaching and writing. “I really find fulfillment in helping businesses and business leaders be the best they can be, to survive and grow, and work through their problems. I like making a difference, and I really hope I leave the world a better place,” remarks Ducoff. His most recent book “No-Compromise Leadership: A Higher Standard of Leadership Thinking and Behavior” addresses what a leader needs to look at to be able to start and finish anything. As a speaker and educator, Neil saw how people who adopted no-compromise thinking were attaching themselves to this term, and it gave them the extra push to look at themselves and where they compromise as a leader. Neil notes “No compromise is like a mantra that stays with you. Once you read the book, you can’t get away from it. Everything is either no compromise or compromise; you’re either doing it or you’re not doing it.” To learn more about Ducoff and his book visit or While on either site, people can subscribe to his free Monday Morning Wake-Up, which he writes based on the principles in “No-Compromise Leadership.”