3 Ways to Turn Political Brawling Into Constructive Teamwork

Fights on the floor of the Texas Capitol. Local elections focused on dirty politics. A must-watch reality show in Washington D.C. about who is the biggest liar. These are not scenes from the latest good vs. evil epic Wonder Woman. All of this happened in the last few weeks in our modern political society.Whether you are on the left or right, this is a bitter pill to swallow. There is a shared sense of frustration about what is happening, but more importantly, what is not happening, in our political discourse.What can we learn from past leaders about navigating change and conflict? It is not unlike how Americans felt during other times of upheaval, such as the Industrial Revolution, when change was happening so fast, and it seemed beyond everyone's control.I have spent this spring not only analyzing our discourse, but also thinking about these questions and re-reading my undergraduate books on political philosophy. I offer a few ideas for collective conversation.1. Stop the blame game. Dr. Phil is famous for saying, "Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?" Let's reframe this question for politics: Would you rather be right or make progress?Blame is a collective race to the bottom and it is a primary reason we are at a deadlock in many of our important political discussions in Dallas. To create real change and impact, we must rise above blame and focus on collective solutions.In these times, I remember what my mentor, the late Dallas County Commissioner Roy Orr, often said: "You should never burn a bridge you might need to cross again." He always looked for ways to create the win-win. Making enemies never solves the problem; it only hurts your ability to build widespread support for your ideas.2. Focus on the marathon, not the sprint. We have so many issues to solve in Dallas -- poverty, homelessness, housing, streets. But, let's face it, we are too in love with the quick win. The folly with this philosophy is that it ignores the trade-offs among cost, speed and quality in any project.Many of our toughest problems are complicated. To solve them quickly, you often sacrifice quality or boost costs. In doing so, you leave people out of the conversation, leading to discord and an incomplete solution. Jumping on a solution without truly understanding the problem can triggers unintended consequences.To win the marathon, it is important to use tools, such as data, but it is equally important to just get in the race, experimenting with innovative options and focusing on continuous improvement along the way. The process may take longer, but as the African proverb says: If you want to go far, go together.3. Choose hope over fear. The pace of progress can be disheartening. Yet, we've made progress in the past not through fear, but through the collective hope for a better tomorrow.But, to do it again, we as leaders have to do a better job managing the perception of our causes. It is easy to share negative statistics and stories or tear down someone else's good work, but it takes real commitment to elevate the bright spots that are happening every day and give credit to others for their hard work.Our greatest presidents did this. Abraham Lincoln was famous for inclusion of outside viewpoints in his decisions. Franklin Roosevelt used fireside chats to help Americans make sense of the changing times and focus attention on a shared vision.To be honest, I believe that the main reason we haven't solved big issues in Dallas is not that we don't have solutions, but we haven't collectively decided on them as a priority. We aren't all-in. To win, especially in the face of challenges, we need to create hearts-and-minds campaigns that unite us with a common sense of destiny.Our greatest challenge right now is bringing people back together toward a shared sense of purpose. We have to put ego aside and choose the greater good. We need to remember who we are and what we have accomplished.We need to fight for what binds us together and against people and organizations that seek to divide us. And, we need to work each and every day not just to be great, but act great.Suzanne Smith is chief executive of Social Impact Architects in Dallas. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Email: suzanne@socialimpactarchitects.comWhat's your view?Got an opinion about this issue? Send a letter to the editor, and you just might get published.  Continue reading...

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