In recent years, politics have typically been contentious and divisive on both a party and a personal level. I do not believe that this serves any of our countries well—we can do better. As we seek to make political decisions that will help make our nations great places to live, we might want to apply some important lessons that we have learned about what makes a great workplace.
As I reflect on political coverage in the media, it has occurred to me that the concepts my co-authors and I explore in our book, The Culture Question: How to Create a Workplace Where People Like to Work, could easily apply to how our nations are run as well.
Throughout the research for the book and our collective consulting experience, my co-authors and I have found that healthy workplaces attend to the following six areas:
- Communicate your purpose and values. The best way to unite and inspire people is to bring their focus to a unifying purpose and set of values that they can easily understand how to live out. Politicians and voters would do well to remember that no matter which political party is speaking, there is probably a common purpose among them in creating a great nation.
- Provide meaningful work. When talking about the economy, we must move away from simple measures like how many jobs have been created. Rather, we need to bring our attention to employment that is meaningful for people and that provides a measure of economic security.
- Focus your leadership team on people. One of the most striking aspects of our research was the high correlation between leaders who demonstrate that they care for their employees, and employees trusting their leaders. We need our politicians to genuinely care about us as people, rather than as voters. They should demonstrate how they care for people in concrete, tangible ways.
- Build meaningful relationships. In a world where our technology disconnects us, we need our politicians to focus on creating ways for us to build strong relationships with our neighbors both locally, nationally, and internationally. When our relationships are strong, our quality of life goes up and we are able to focus on other things that matter to us like our work.
- Create peak performing teams. For our political processes to work well, elected officials need to work effectively with each other despite party differences or they will ultimately fail us. The leaders of our political parties should focus their teams on ways that they can work with people from other parties that have been elected, rather than on making them look bad.
- Practicing constructive conflict management. Our research clearly shows that when leaders fail to respond to conflict quickly and effectively, it makes it difficult for others to respond to conflict effectively and it sours the workplace. The same is true on a larger political level—our leaders need to help people resolve conflict quickly, transparently, and based on a set of values or rules that guide us all.
The best workplaces, and the best governments—the ones that truly succeed over the long term—realize that, at their core, they need to focus on these six pillars to create healthy dialogue and ultimately a healthy organization or nation. When employees and politicians lose this focus and begin to compete with each other in negative ways, their energy for accomplishing the work gets spread thin and, ultimately, they cannot do what they were hired to do.
When making an important political decision, it becomes easier to cast people who are affiliated with a party other than our own as the enemy. Political parties begin to work against each other rather than for the nation. I wonder what would happen if everyone agreed to remember that no matter what someone’s party affiliation is or where they stand on a certain issue, they likely have good intentions for the country and want to see it become the best nation it can be—a place where everyone likes to live.