The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and President George W. Bush will meet for lunch today. While they do have some personal ties, there has been a fair amount of mud slung about. This could be a tough meeting.
So what’s this got to do with change management, you might ask?A lot. Think of a plant manager and a union leader, or two heads of recently merged companies, or rivals inside a company who need to work together. It’s all the same thing. I have seen meetings like these break down in a two ways.
- The meetings are so sweetly polite that the players need insulin just to get through these encounters.
- Or, they break down into competitive finger pointing and blaming.
There is an alternative, and I hope Speaker Pelosi and President Bush have the capacity to adhere to guidelines that could make this (and subsequent) meetings successful. 1. Focus on the future. It’s hard to point fingers at each other when you focus on challenges and possibilities in the future. Think of it, when couples argue, they often pull out sins that were committed decades ago. They do much better when they shift to talking about what they want their lives to be like. 2. Allow potential knee-jerk reactions to pass. It’s likely that either party could say things, inadvertently, that will set the other one off. That’s almost inevitable. The best thing to do is notice that you are about to get sucked into a non-thinking knee-jerk reaction, take a breath, and let it slide. 3. Find issues of common concern where it will be relatively easy to work together. Working together on easier (but not necessarily less important) issues can build trust – and trust will be critical in the months ahead. 4. Make a commitment to keep coming back to the table. There is nothing magic in these suggestions. Nor are they easy to do. But they are key to effective conversation that could lead somewhere productive. Rick