My eleven-year-old daughter unearthed a new, highly technical business term: the mollusk. While preparing for a science test she asked me if I knew what such a creature was. Because I’d fallen asleep in 10th grade science class (I didn’t tell her this), I replied, “Nope. Do tell.”

“It’s has a hard outer-shell and it’s an invertebrate, which means it has no backbone.”

Unbeknownst to my daughter, in that moment she helped me prepare for a test – an important leadership exam. Recently, I had made a mistake at the office, and rather than owning up to it I was being defensive. And I was delaying, delaying, delaying the steps needed to rectify the situation.

Translation: I had the outer shell: defensiveness. And I had no backbone: I was unwilling to take action. I was an office mollusk.

Mollusks turn into big elephants for a lot of teams, evidenced by the fact that so many organizations move at a snail’s pace. (Those who didn’t fall asleep in science class caught the intended pun: The snail is a mollusk.) Teams with mollusk-mania often hear these phrases:


– “I could never have that conversation with him. He’s my boss.”

– “Let’s ensure we have 32 meetings to discuss this before we make a decision.”

– “I didn’t do anything wrong. He’s the butthead.”

– “Don’t even try. The budget will never get approved.”

– “I wouldn’t say anything if I were you. CYA, baby.”


It’s time to lose the defensive shell and grow a backbone. Here are the words our team will hear me utter more often:


– “I take responsibility for this.”

– “I recommend we… because…”

– “What can we do to move this forward – faster?”

– “These are the facts… and here are possible solutions.”


How strong is your backbone? Will you pass your leadership exam today?

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





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