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Why Politicians Can’t Work Together

And How Business Gets it Done

This week I appeared on Fox Business Network and had a one-on-one conversation With Neil Cavuto. The topic: How to negotiate with others to get a deal done – and why our leaders in Washington are failing to cooperate for the good of the country.

My take was simple, and I must say I was a bit surprised by the overwhelming positive viewer reaction. These are principles that are not new, or even very difficult. And yet, in the world of American politics, they seem, well, completely foreign.

How far we have strayed from the concept that our government leaders are working for us. As I said in the interview, “We sent them there to do a job, and instead they seem content to put on a show.”  Or, put another way, they act not as though they are “employed” by us, but rather “empowered” by us.

The way things work (or rather, do not work) in politics is, thankfully, not the way most of us live our lives or run our businesses. So, for the rest of us, let’s remember these keys in all of our interactions, negotiations, and even confrontations.

  1. Always practice civility. Your mom taught you this one when she said, “play nice” or “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. “ The first rule in any human interaction is to respect your partners, and even your adversaries. Your ability to accomplish anything is directly related to the sum strength of your relationships. And it is just human instinct – when someone treats us with distain or disrespect, we shut down all interaction. Some say that playing “hard ball” demonstrates toughness. I say it shows weakness and a very limited set of persuasive tools.
  2. Own the reality. You can’t work toward a solution unless you first agree where you are. In business and life, step one is to accurately evaluate the situation. Audit the facts. Resist the urge to jump to “solution” until you have thoroughly examined the challenge or opportunity before you. Seek agreement about what “is” before you recommend a course of action.
  3. Operate with accountability. Once a decision is made and a course of action is pursued, there will be results. Hopefully, your actions have improved your circumstances. But perhaps that isn’t the case. Sometimes your best conceived action plans fail to bring the intended result. What do you do? Take responsibility. Instead of jumping to blame or excuse making, which is an all too common response (and standard procedure in Washington, DC), own the outcome.  Cultivate the habit of accountability, and you will learn far faster, and more fully enjoy your inevitable success.

When you operate with disdain, deception, and delusion, you may be able to move ahead or even achieve some measure of success. But I ask, at what cost? And, furthermore, is that even “success?” The most successful people I know maintain unshakable ethics and strive for uplifting relationships. They are proud what they have accomplished and, perhaps even more proud of the way they got there.

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