At ConvergenceCoaching, we try to avoid political matters in our business communications. But as I contemplate our nation’s Independence Day and look toward the inevitable summer and fall election rhetoric, I feel compelled to write about something that has been troubling me for a while: political in-fighting and the damage it does to our nation, and on a smaller scale, in CPA firms around the country.
Many of us don’t realize that our Declaration of Independence states that, “…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” What has happened to our “all for one and one for all” mission in this country? From where I stand, as a nation, we are so busy debating doctrine, slinging polarizing and dramatic statistics, insults and threats and feeding on 24-hour news that we have lost sight of the magnificent possibilities that our forefathers envisioned when they founded this country 236 years ago.
And, while we are busy fueling the advertising machine that doles out negative “them-versus-us” sound bites all day, every day, we have forgotten a number of crucial habits that could elevate us as a nation and get us re-centered on our strategic purpose and mission which is cited in the Constitution as, “. . . to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” These habits include:
- Learning about the issues – instead of letting the media feed you news and information, consider going out and getting it yourself. Like any good researcher, seek multiple sources from different viewpoints for your news. Read the viewpoints of opposing parties garnered from learned sources, not just the usual suspects (like your local newspaper and the 24-hour national news sources).
- Listening thoughtfully – when people of opposing views or different affiliations are sharing their position, listen quietly and use responses like, “I see,” “I understand” and “I can appreciate that” — instead of arguing your viewpoint. See what you can learn from truly listening instead of allowing your mind to race ahead to your response or retort, which hampers your ability to hear anything others say.
- Considering other viewpoints – stop and stand in the other person’s shoes. Feel their pain or passion. Try to understand their position and why they feel the way they do. Don’t be afraid to stray from your party’s position or change your mind. It is okay to agree with some of the ideas of your political party and to “switch sides” in other areas. My husband and I have somewhat different political leanings, but there are many issues where we both agree – and we focus on our common ground and acknowledge and respect the areas where we have differing views, too.
- Avoiding righteous postures and language. My partner Tamera and I have different religious and political backgrounds and yet we are the best of friends and colleagues. We don’t avoid discussion of areas where we differ philosophically, but we are careful to respectfully listen to one another’s views and to refrain from polarizing, “I’m right and you’re wrong” language and tone of voice when we engage in these discussions, so we can maintain our relationship and leave room for further dialogue, learning and understanding.
Our nation faces gigantic economic, environmental, and social issues. Our “competitors” in other countries have gained considerable advantage – especially those in the East – while we have engaged in a continuous cycle of internal competition and have allowed the political and media machines to distract us from our core purpose of working together to build one nation.
In many firms we serve, we see this same phenomenon played out on a smaller scale. While partners compete internally for resources, “credit” and compensation, their external competitors make in-roads with clients and recruit their best people away. Instead of focusing on constructive communication, shared solutions and aligned behavior, partners allow philosophical differences, like engagement size, client size, industry focus, governance or other “simple” issues to drive a wedge in their firm, fracturing teamwork and offering competitors the advantage.
So, who are you going to be about differences of opinion and political in-fighting at work and in our nation’s political sphere this year? Will you fall prey to the bad habits of vilifying opposing views, building or joining divisive political “camps” and believing the first “headlines” (or rumors at work) that you hear? Or, will you practice the ideas of both Gandhi and Powell, outlined below, that will give your firm and our nation a fighting chance to succeed?
Spiritual and Political Leader
U.S. Army General
On this 4th of July, let’s get back to the basics and pledge “our lives, our fortune and our honor” to tackle our challenges with shared solutions that will take all of our collective intelligence, innovation, inspiration and teamwork to resolve. I’m game – are you?