I am just angry. Two weeks ago, I posted about how I stay cool (click here), how I triage situations. So when I started to be really angry last week about the government shutdown, I thought I had no business writing about it. But then I asked my key questions – is anyone going to die? Lose their job? Or go to jail? Well, in truth more than 200 patients of the National Institutes of Health have been unable to enroll in clinical trials and that delay can be life threatening. And as for losing a job, more than a million federal workers have been furloughed and millions more contract workers are furloughed. Then there are all the meals at restaurants that won’t happen because people are cutting back, cups of coffee that won’t be bought at local coffee shops, clothes that won’t go to the dry cleaners, movie tickets that won’t be purchased (not to mention the popcorn), gifts that go un-purchased or reduced and so on and so on. So will people lose their job? Yes. So in fact, being angry is perhaps not healthy but is justified.
So how to turn this around? Are there leadership lessons to be understood? Here are five:
1) Good leaders value their workers, not hold them hostage. Yes, leadership decisions can impact the workforce (or the family for that matter). But to deliberately use punishing the workers as a negotiating tactic is unethical. In the case of federal workers and contractors, these are people who have made a commitment to serving the American public. In any workforce, as leaders, we ask our workers to commit to the team, to each other and to the customers. Our commitment to them is part of what makes that work. When a leader communicates that the work is not valued, why should the workers care?
2) Good leaders focus on the work, not the stage of the negotiation. Good leaders aim to solve a problem. If getting to yes requires some negotiation, so be it. Often in negotiating, it’s not unusual to use a deadline to get to an agreement. But to run out the clock by not acting for a long period of time to create that urgency, is not leading, it’s stalling.
3) Good leaders negotiate in good faith. If they say they will accept a particular offer and get it, they do so. They do not say, “Oops, I’m going to need you to double that.” The problem with changing the offer midstream is not that the bigger thing is wrong, it’s that the bait and switch approach breeds distrust. Once you do this, you may get the bigger thing this time, but next time, your offers won’t be taken seriously.
4) Good leaders understand that in negotiation, they will be called on to compromise.. They don’t say they won’t. They don’t say this is my only offer, unless they really mean it and are willing to accept the result. Instead, they consider what other options they might be willing to consider and what the results might be – for themselves, for their team and for those they serve.
5) Good leaders develop creative strategies that will provide the best result for the most people. We are a week into this crisis and all the offers are the same ones they were a week ago. If you want to move forward, you have to bring something new to the game. Compare this to the situation with Syria a few weeks ago. A new option completely changed the game.
In my dreams, the impetus for this blog is over by the time you read it. I suspect that won’t be the case. But at the least, we can all look at how we treat our colleagues, how we negotiate, and how we formulate strategy to be better leaders no matter where we work.