A reader shares: in a meeting a colleague cracked jokes regarding a stalled project they were working on. Another teammate then leaned forward and said, “It’s clear you’re anxious about this. I say we focus on resolving this rather than laughing about it.”


The comedian’s message was decoded: I’m nervous about being able to resolve this issue.


Here’s the elephant in the office: Too many offices tolerate “coded” behaviors that communicate harmful messages. Because people aren’t willing or can’t directly communicate what’s important to them and why, they use codes – and create an unnecessary maze that must be navigated in the pursuit of progress.





Everyone is culpable of this. If your awareness and personal leadership isn’t strong, codes become common:

– Claiming “I already know that” communicates other people’s ideas aren’t valid.

– Replying “yes, but” says “I disagree with you”.

– When you say “whatever!” you’re crying “I don’t have the skill to move this forward”.

– Fits of anger reveal “I’m hurting and I don’t have the emotional intelligence to handle this in a healthier way”.

– A refusal to apologize states “I have to prove that I’m right and you’re wrong”.

– When you lament another’s ignorance you’re telling others “I’m insecure with my level of knowledge”.

– When receiving feedback and you defend yourself you’re confessing you’re not capable and are arguing for your limitations.


Nothing above is new in terms of understanding. What is new is doing something about it. Take this challenge: print this list and have a “stomp the elephant” conversation with your team – with the focus on how you can communicate what you want and why, so you can move forward faster.


Today, create a code-free office.


Where will you lead – where will you stomp elephants – today?


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