The Arguably Most Obnoxious Presidential Candidate Ever Won. How Could This Happen? Group Behavior S
As a country and a nation we just experienced a shock to our collective system. As half the nation cheers the President elect, the other half is hurt and deeply disappointed.
But we need to move forward. What can we do now to bring us together as a team? How do we heal as a group and move forward from this level of division? How do you motivate and energize a group of polar opposites?
I reached out to Business Building Strategist and Synergy Expert
He is an award-winning organizational behavior specialist who has worked with Fortune 500 companies in the USA and abroad for the last 25 years.
What he has to say will give you hope - and an action plan!
Chris, we have just been through a particularly poisonous, 18-months election cycle. The USA is a divided nation. For our society and industry this presents a big issue, half of our family, friends and colleagues may be happy, half of them may feel devastated. What do we do to get ourselves back on track? "Polarization drives people apart, like two opposing magnets that pull away from each other. That is how I see things happening in the nation right now, especially in the coastal areas, you have this polarization taking place as a thought process. On the other hand, if people become aligned, even as a positive and a negative, as a magnet, that attracts outside forces to that magnet. What I would like the readers to think about is: what are the areas we can create, where we can develop what I call "synergy". What are the synergistic areas that are beneficial to us both? That is the first idea, to look at what we can agree on. As in any relationship, when you can find something you can agree on, you find the first bridge to be able to work together. Even in the largest conflict areas, there is always something you can agree on. We can find something small that everyone finds correct. And through that alignment we should be able to move to more areas that everyone can agree on." What should we as professionals implement as part of the business communication process in the aftermath of this election? "The first thing that needs to be implemented is the whole idea of building trust again, between one another. How does that trust come about and what are the things we can do to build that trust? One of the first things we all have to do is to know, that all relationships begin with the relationship we have with others and ourselves. The first thing, to build trust with others, is to ask and answer for yourself, "how competent am I?", because competency in the workplace is paramount to building trust. Regardless of your political or religious viewpoint, if you are really good at your job, that will be a bridge that will build trust and respect for you. The second thing is building more consensuses. In this, communication is of vital importance. What do we mean by communication? Whenever we communicate, there is always a sender and a receiver. You have to encode your communication so that it can be decoded in a way so that people can move forward, in a clearly understandable way. Many people communicate only from their own position, rather than from the position of the person they are trying to communicate with. I have to think about how I can encode my message so that you can decode it in the right way." The election results were split about 50/50. Half the nation is experiencing pain, grieving, shock. What do you suggest they do to find their footing and balance again? "Everything in life is depending on stimulus that happens. No matter what happens in your life, in this case a political situation, we still are able to make the choices to how we respond to all stimuli. It is within the response that we really have to work. In a normal day's events that we go through, we approach our work in a professional fashion. That means that we have to be proactive in what we are doing. We have to maintain our objectivity. When we adopt a professional attitude, generally, we have a greater sense of awareness about what we are doing, because we are consciously focused on that. That, of course, influences our attitude and the way we relate to people and then the actions that we take are a complete flow from that awareness and that attitude. We call that the "3 A's": Awareness, Attitude, Action. That describes being proactive. Now, if I make that choice to maintain that viewpoint even in the way that I approach my day every day, then I get up and say "today is going to be a great day" - and simplistic as that sounds - that first suggestion affects my Awareness, my Attitude and my Actions of that day. But here is the dangerous part, and this is really what is happening in the nation: when you don't let go of a crisis that has happened to you, you actually bring into communication what I call the "3 Rs", which is the exactly the opposite of a proactive cycle. It is a reactive cycle. We can proact by making choices or we can react based on emotion, or what we wanted or the expectations not being fulfilled. The first thing that we experience when we don't let go and move on, and maintain those 3 Rs, is the emotion of Resentment. One resents the fact that Hillary was not voted in. One resents the fact that Trump's choices will affect their family. What follows Resentment is Resistance. I have heard people say "I will never vote again", "I will never support that president", and “the system is rigged". These are all Resistance statements. The final one in the 3 Rs is Revenge. This cycle is also part of the reason that so many states went red on the electoral map. People resented the fact that Washington did not hear them anymore. Many people did feel left out. They struggle. Resistance set in when they came to the viewpoint that they could not trust the system anymore. Their vote was revenge. In that process we see the 3 Rs play out in our nation.
As an individual company, the first thing you have to do is to bring people together so that they can have a discussion as to what their expectations are, moving forward. These are different people who are bound together by a common need. We need to clarify how we are going to work together. We got to understand the principles of teamwork and synergy. Synergy is a conspiracy to overthrow conflict and hate. If you are angry and upset, the key is to not transfer this negativity to someone else because that will just create a downward spiral of negativity. Anything can be resolved if people are willing to talk things out. Often, two people in an argument will allow their egos to take over, or their particular opinion. When you are working on maintaining a professional, problem solving attitude, and you stay objective and use emotional intelligence, then you can have what I call an expectation meeting. If we two had a problem, I could ask you what your expectations are, moving forward. And then I stay quiet while you speak. And then you ask me in return. Through that expectation meeting we will find common ground even though we may differ, I don't have to lose respect for you because you have a different opinion, politically. I have to adopt the mental attitude that it is "you and I together" to solve this problem, take care of this client, get this job done; rather than "you and me against each other". It is through the shared destiny principle that we can work together and through that, develop more trust." Will this also mean that eventually the individuals, on a personal level, will feel calmer, more reassured, happier? "There are always a couple of options that you can take in a difficult situation. You can decide to withdraw, and shut down, and not let go of the anger and therefor then go into those 3 Rs. Or you can make the choice that that is not going to serve your personal and professional interests. It is not going to serve your long-term outcome in a way beneficial to you. So you have to make that choice. Ask that question. That political opinion should not influence my economic opinion and my professionalism. I need to be able to work with people, as politicians do, across the aisle. There is a time for unity right now. There is nothing more important right now than to reach out to one another and start looking to create some symbiotic relationships and create synergy. The goal of synergy is to arrive at mutually beneficial gain, which people achieve, from working together. You got to focus on the mutually beneficial gain of working together, towards achieving a shared destiny. Let's bring it back to the national events right here. The shared destiny principle was the core concept and idea of what the founding fathers did, when they wrote the Constitution of this nation. They created a shared destiny document, called it the Constitution. It is really like a mission statement. In that room were people of really different opinions. Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, Washington, Madison, they did not all agree on everything! At the same time, they did not polarize. They focused on the outcome of working together which is that beneficial gain. The foundation of working together, of synergy, is that relationship trust. I can trust you even though you may have a different political opinion. Because that is not all you are made up of. That is just a political viewpoint, which you have. Most of the political viewpoints that we have are distorted anyway. If we are working together in commerce and industry, our goals are to actually become profitable, to carry out a project in a way that will be mutually beneficial. Then relationship trust is of paramount importance. How I measure your relationship trust in the workplace is based on your competency to do the job, your accountability and reliability as a professional to do the job. Not your political opinion. That is the shift one has to make. One can't allow emotionalism to affect the professionalism one is capable of. We have to come back to our sensibility. Once you do you recognize that the essence of working together is inspirational. We got to focus on the idea that, if we satisfy the client, the mutually beneficial gain from that will inspire us to want to repeat that, again, with the same people. We can't truly choose an experience if we are stuck in a place that makes us make a judgment call that has some irrationality to it. One can't make a professional judgment call based on a political viewpoint. If that was the case, democracy would never exist."
Do you think that the country as a whole will be able to move forward in a positive fashion?
"No doubt! If you actually think about the pros and the cons that happened here, you realize that many of the issues we did not want to talk about, we are talking about now. As much as some may dislike the President elect, what happened in the 18 months preceding this election, was that many of the topics were opened up to discussion that were underground. And now they are open. What is said during a campaign rarely turns into actuality. We have seen that happen over and over again and it is one of the reasons that people mistrust Washington. People say one thing, and do another. That is called cognitive dissonance. If a company does this, it is called corporate dissonance. For a long time over many years now, we have had national dissonance. The elected politicians are saying one thing and doing another. That has irritated the population to an extent where they have decided to vote for somebody who is not aligned with special interest groups and the whole Washington establishment. This toxic election cycle has opened up the conversation. We now talk about immigration, about trade deals, about the actual infrastructure of the country. We are no longer in denial about these. Coming out of denial, facing the brutal facts makes people very uncomfortable. Even if Hillary Clinton came in, we would have had to face the brutal facts, because the brutal fact is the moment of growth. To give you an every day example: if I am an alcoholic I'm going to be in denial forever, if I don't come out and say "My name is Bob and I am an alcoholic". The moment I make that statement is the moment of growth.
All of that campaign rhetoric is just that, rhetoric. When we come down to reality, there will be people working on the issues; immigration, infrastructure, financial issues that people are experiencing in the Midwest and the Deep South.
In seminars I always illustrate it with a poem, The Blind Men of Indostan.
The Blind Men and the Elephant
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
The First approach'd the Elephant,
And happening to fall
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"
The Third approached the animal,
And happening the trunk to take
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"
The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Deny the fact who can,
"This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast's tail to grope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
- JOHN GODFREY SAXE (1816-1887) (EDITED VERSION)
What the "Six Men of Indostan" have done is what we have been doing as a country. People want to see what they want to see. We can't afford this selective blindness in society, in corporations and in companies. We have to see the entire picture. We have to be a part of the entire picture. We cannot ignore the fact that we have issues in the country. It is time for us to reach out, and step across and find ways in expectation discussions. The understanding of how other people think creates this whole principle of synergy. And through that, all the healing will take place.
We need to collectively shift our mindset from the reactive cycle, the 3 Rs, to the proactive mindset, the 3 As.
Resentment, Resistance and Revenge lead to workplace violence.
Awareness, Attitude and Action will lead us back to positive action and growth.
About Chris Alexander, M.A. (Org. Psych) Chris Alexander is the founder and president of Synergy Executive Education, a highly effective change management practice specializing in people centered change. He is an award winning business building strategist, professional speaker, and author of 9 business and personal development books. So far, Alexander’s largest audience has been his two PBS TV shows, titled “Creating Extraordinary Joy” and “Joy in the Workplace.”
Many Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions have implemented his Synergy programs worldwide. He has advanced degrees in Organizational Behavior and is an expert at building high performance business teams focused on a shared destiny.