Non-profit HR Leadership: Are you poised to effectively move forward—and through those tough organizational conflicts? Here’s how to get extraordinary results—first, by identifying your hidden HR Elephants!

Written by Claire E. Knowles on . Posted in Courage, Human Relations, Leadership

We all know that human capital is indeed mission-critical—that having the right people and the right processes, communications and systems in place makes a real difference in your organization. Underscore that all work in any organization happens because it is done through people—people interacting, communicating, doing (together)!  


People, teams, groups, organizations can get messed up—lose their compass, their professionalism, their impact, their coherence, their focus, their effectiveness.   Hidden, negative HR Elephants can besiege organizations—the whispered-about, back-of-the-room hidden elephants that everyone, including the Leadership, knows are there, but no one wants to address, nor knows how to address them—yet everyone knows the elephants are a big problem and a leadership issue—having the most impact on your team’s effectiveness! Denying your elephants begets a negative spiral for you, as a leader, and is a drowning struggle for your organization.


As a recent State-wide SHRM conference speaker, I spoke about the Three Big Mistakes may HR Managers make that Damage their Professionalism, Hurt their Careers and Negatively impact their Organization. At first, when asked about their lurking elephants, there was some obvious denial. “Oh, you don’t think you have any elephants? Better look again!” And then we began to uncover and name them! So what are your hidden elephants doing to you? How and why did they take up residence in the first place?


Two big reasons why elephants stay under the rug and go unaddressed are a lack of wherewithal (or leadership courage) to lift them up, and a lack of safety/trust to bring them forward to get resolved. Being able to maturely and diplomatically raise up the elephant issues for the betterment of the organization becomes a key definer of true leadership! Do you have the skills, means and the processes in place to do that?

Are you ready to learn?


To go elephant hunting is easy. In this SHRM workshop we talked about the recurring patterns—elephants are easy to spot and with the right leadership tools and processes, also easy to address. The more elephants you have, the more things fester and go unresolved, the worse off your organization is. But when you lift up and address your organizational elephants, that is when transparency, openness and accountability come. Organizations are craving this and HR Managers/Leaders hold the key to go “elephant hunting.”   Is your organization overrun with negative elephants?


So, let’s take a deeper look at:

  • An obvious problem no one wants to discuss.
  • The excuses given for not being able to achieve…
  • The turf holders for “We always do it this way!”
  • The Patterns that happen/the emotions that repeat.
  • What were you dreading as you went to work?
  • What is the overdue conversation that’s got your name on it?
  • What was the last thing you were personally or professionally
    complaining about?
  • For how long have you been coping, and why is that?
  • How many people spoke up to challenge the status quo at
    your last meeting? Why not?
  • What is it that you didn’t talk about today, that you should have?
  • A wicked problem that doesn’t get resolved…that just keeps on
    going on?


It is a Leadership decision to move forward, or not—To move to the next level, or not.—To be empowered, or not.—To de-tangle the knotty ropes, or not.—To lift up the hidden elephants, or not. What is your Decision? (You can start identifying, lifting up and addressing your elephants—one at a time—in quiet, respectful ways—no need to start a stampede!)


Bottom Line: Do you have a skills/gap analysis for having the leadership know-how/wherewithal to find and address your elephants? Why not? What will it take for your organization to have people engaged and courageous enough, and leaders/processes in-place to lift up and address your elephants on a regular basis—integrated and internalized? So that your business can move forward with gusto! So that….

  • You can go to work with excitement, not dread.
  • You can come home from work without swearing under your breath…have your sanity back.
  • You can have both employee engagement and satisfaction and better retention rates, along with civility and trust.
  • You no longer have to dance around issues that go unresolved.
  • You can have an organization, with your own roadmap that practices transparency, has openness, respectful communications and accountability.
  • Ahhhhhhh!Elephant 1



Claire Knowles, a distinguished career HR and Labor Relations Manager, is author of two Amazon Best-Selling books. Her latest, “Can You See Them Now? (Elephants in our Midst)”—Discover the Hidden Elephants that are Lurking In Your Organization or Work Team…Then Vanquish Them! is available on It was specifically written for Human Resource Managers and Leaders. Visit Claire’s website: for more information about Claire’s bio, and her consulting and speaking work. She can teach you how to lift up your elephants—with the roadmap that never fails.


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