December 29th, 2009 17:00 EST
Breaking Down The Barriers of Politicians and The Powerful
We`ve gone through quite a bit as a nation over the last several years. And while most of our emphasis has been on national and international issues, we still have to deal with keeping all of our own businesses going and hopefully growing right here at home.
While our country goes through its economic and wartime rigors we, of course, have our domestic policies to deal with. And a large part of those policies have to do with business. We are constantly going through the process of elections, either the process itself, or politicians positioning themselves for one in the future. Every year these events set in motion a course that affects us quite a bit more than most of us consider.
Our business lives are affected by the executive, legislative and judicial branches nationally, as well as on the state and local levels. We have laws and regulations that help, hinder and complicate our commercial lives. And through it all we have a certain psychological need to deal with our elected representatives with a particular respect " and reverence that sometimes befuddles me.
Now I`m not saying to disrespect anyone. What I am questioning however, is how we go about dealing with politicians. Will someone explain to me why we have to address the people we, ourselves, have elected with such titles as Mr. Senator, Ms. Congresswoman, Mr. Mayor, Ms. Councilwoman, yes, even Mr. President? It makes everything so formal and forms an automatic barrier between the plain folk (those who actually gave the elected ones their jobs) and the office holder. The titles denote power, which, as we know, can easily go to the office holder`s head. What`s the deal? Someone begs you for a job, you give it to him or her and then they set themselves up in this protective shield. Then, many of the folks who let them have the position get intimidated by the office and the office holder.
Oh, I couldn`t call the Senator, I`m sure he`s much too busy ". Huh! The Senator is directly affecting your business "call him! And, ask for Steve or John or whoever your senator is. We need a reality title check. Here we sit, trying to get our business done not knowing how this or that regulation will affect us and we have this mystique about those we hire to get stuff done "and for us no less!
This also, to a slightly different degree, holds true for how we deal with the people in our businesses. How do you think the people who work for, or with, us feel about approaching the President or CEO? The titles alone set up a barrier unless the officer makes a solid effort to interact with people in a way that not only makes them approachable but also makes them interact with others as an equal member of a team.
The titles we hold are only as good as the profitability of the companies we help run.
Companies that have solid growth, quite often are those whose quality of life status tends to be high. Quality of life includes how great it is to work for the enterprise. When people feel heard, cared about, respected and equal, the company almost always gains. When the employees feel intimidated the opposite effect usually happens.
Respect doesn`t come from titles it comes from deeds, the heart, and intangibles that people pick up through interaction. Respect breeds respect. Companies, and the people who run them, will find it easier to get higher productivity and creativity when they treat their employees as equals. Just think about how you feel when someone plays the power game on you, not very comfortable I`m sure.
Titles, when used to denote position description, work from an understanding of who a particular party is dealing with when it comes to sales, marketing, research, etc. It`s always good to know that, if you`re a salesperson, you are speaking with someone who can actually buy. But after that, the process of building a solid relationship should move from heavy formality into the area of being able to speak with a person on a one-on-one basis as equals. It`s tough to build a real relationship, (a call-up just to see how you`re doing " relationship) in sales, management or any other position when one person is held in a subservient position. Remember, people buy from people they like and people are more apt to get things done faster, better and with more enthusiasm when working with or for people they like as well. Equality builds equity, both from a financial and human resources perspective.
I`ll never forget an article written by a journalist shortly after the six-day war in the Middle East. The author was taken by the fact that all the members of the Israeli military called each other by their first names. He was amazed that the enlisted personnel called each other and their officers Zvi or Avi or whatever. When he asked a person of rank how they felt about it, the response was basically that it made it easier to get things done, that everyone could relate to each other and that it broke down barriers. What a novel approach! Cut out the false pretenses and just get things done.
We business people are always talking about holding ourselves, and those who work with and for us, accountable. Why then do we allow barriers to be put up that hinder that process in so many areas of our lives? It seems to be much harder to hold someone accountable when you`re scared to death of them or at the very least somewhat awed by them.
Years ago a vendor of mine took me to meet one of his larger clients. He felt that I could help them resolve a problematic situation. As we were driving to his clients he told me that he always addressed the man he was going to introduce me to as Mr. Jones (not his real name) and that he was very formal and quite intimidating. Yet this person, or shall we say his company, owed my vendor (we`ll call him Bob) quite a bit of money. It`s interesting to note that it always seems harder to deal with people, even collect money from them, when you`re afraid of them. How convenient for Mr. Jones to be intimidating AND owe Bob money!
Into Mr. Jones` office we marched, Bob said Mr. Jones I`d like you to meet Dan Goldberg " (not Mr. Goldberg mind you!) and the positioning was in play. From a tactical perspective, was I to say Mr. Jones it`s a pleasure to meet you ". Or should I have said Mr. Jones you can call me Mr. Goldberg "? It`s really all about power. I quickly looked around the room and noticed that the nameplate on his desk said Daniel Jones. That was my opening. My response was Hi, I see you and I have the same name Dan ".you don`t mind if I call you Dan "and please call me Dan ". Through the corner of my eye I could see my vendor stiffen. But Dan Jones said, No, of course, I don`t mind ". Barriers broken, one-on-one conversation started and no pandering.
Our businesses are too important to have artificial barricades put in our way. Don`t be afraid to take some of that power " away from those who use it to stay one step removed from genuinely interacting with, or being held accountable by, you. Otherwise, before you know it, you`ll be cowering in front of someone who owes you money or unnecessarily awed by someone getting ready to introduce or pass a bill that will adversely affect you and your business or even someone who`s getting ready to do something that will less than maximize the potential of your company.
Dan Goldberg is a keynote speaker and the President of Dan Goldberg Consulting, L.L.C. a training, coaching and business development firm located in the Philadelphia, PA area. He is the author of the book Lighten Up and Lead, " co-author (with Don Martin) of the book The Entrepreneur`s Guide to Successful Leadership, " and author of The Six Steps To Solid Sales Successâ„¢ " and The Seven Elements of Successful Managementâ„¢ " programs and the audio tape Growing A Successful Business ". You can contact him at:
firstname.lastname@example.org, visit his website at: www.dangoldberg.com or reach him at: (215) 233-5352. You can also follow Dan on twitter at: http://twitter.com/dannygoldberg, become a fan of Dan on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/DanGoldbergFB, and/or join his new facebook group; Mastering enLightened Leadershipâ„¢ at: http://bit.ly/DanGMeL.