We are often asked to make tough choices. Sometimes this means making a tough choice at home, at work or politically. In the case of the U.S. election, people are being asked to make one very important decision that will shape the future. Our children will be impacted. Our hopes, dreams and aspirations will be in the grasp of a President, who will be powerful enough to broker peace or wage war. It’s serious. In that seriousness, emotions begin to take over rational thought, due to individual conviction and passion surrounding the issues. As humans, our natural tendency is to fight for our “choice”, so how can we think about living in harmony afterwards? In our minds, internal moral codes and value systems are at risk of being destroyed. And in some cases, there is no candidate who aligns with our point of view, so we then compromise our worldview and rationalize it by saying, we’re choosing the lesser of two evils.
This situation brings about an uneasy feeling when dealing with others. It’s taboo to speak about the election in certain circles and folks rarely discuss who they are voting for with strangers. It can turn volatile very quickly. In our world, there are many opposing views. Funny how most Americans say they want the overarching goal of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but can’t agree on what that looks like or how to get there. I am an American and I’m okay with that.
Honestly, every good group, organization or country has arguments and disagreements. If there is something worth fighting for and you’ve got a lot of invested stakeholders, arguments are paramount to the groups success. If we all got along, it would mean there is dysfunction or misrepresentation. The sort of dysfunction that can lead to sustained disharmony and ultimately revolution. So in short, it’s good to argue every now and then. It usually brings out the best ideas and decisions. It also lets everyone know where they stand.
There really isn’t much difference when comparing an election to, working on a group project, building a brand or deciding which path to take during a cultural overhaul. Many stakeholders are brought together and need to come to a decision that will shape the future of, something. To the members of the group, it’s likely to have a different meaning for everyone. Some more personal than others, based on previous experiences. The group will likely have various members with different ideas and strengths. Consensus will not come quickly on a good team and arguments will probably occur before the final decision is made. One thing for sure, everyone will not get their way.
So how can we make tough decisions and live in harmony afterwards? I’ll give you 5 ways.
1. Begin with the end in mind. Using Dr. Covey’s wise advice, it’s important to remember that every group should be aligned around a main theme or idea. It is necessary to have some level of harmony, in order for the principal goal to be met. Individuals and groups need to align around a common purpose in order be okay with the choice in the end. If the final choice supports that common goal and is pledged to that purpose, then it should be supported by all.
2. Allow for contributions by everyone involved. Buy in is important, as is a feeling of inclusion in the decision making process. If folks aren’t talking, get them talking. It’s best to flush the negative thoughts out behind the closed doors of a planning meeting rather than out in the open. Healthy feedback by pertinent people will yield better options.
3. Understand that no one will be 100% happy. The options presented for a decision should be a melding of ideas from the entire stakeholder group. When asking for consensus on the path forward, a fair question is “Can you live with this?” Most folks will need to give up some wants, for the good of the group. Agree to disagree. No individual or agenda should be higher than the main goal of the group conscious.
4. Don’t go against a decision that is unpopular to save face with others in the organization. – As a leader, you have an obligation to your team, but you have a responsibility to the company vision and mission. The company’s desires outweigh the wants of the individuals doing the work. A middle manager’s loyalties lie with both groups. A good leader knows that he or she will be doing their people a disservice, by not telling them “no”, when “no” is required. It is the goal of a good leader to create an environment of transparency and be clear about why things aren’t happening the way “common sense” may dictate. If that manager goes against a decision made at a higher level to save face with their team, they will ultimately lose respect from both groups.
5. Respect everyone. Saved the best for last. Understanding that just because someone has a different opinion than you doesn’t mean they are crazy or weird, it just means they have a different opinion. Afterwards, we’re all going to go home and get back to what really matters. There is no reason to hate others or hold a grudge because someone disagrees or votes differently. They feel just as strong or stronger about their position, as you do about yours. That alone makes them worth being heard.
In order to live united after “the choice”, we need each other. By aligning the team around a goal, having a fair decision making process and supporting that decision without backpedaling, a healthy atmosphere is created. At work and in politics, respecting the position of others, gives them permission to have a voice in our decisions and vice versa. We then have the ability to live freely in the aftermath, without condemnation and in harmony. Learning to listen before speaking is an example of respect. Understanding what words to say is knowledge. Saying the right thing at the right time, is wisdom.
How will you act after the “choice” is made?