HAPPY HOLIDAYS! WINNING WHEN EVERYONE IS MAD AT SOMETHING, AT SOMEONE, AT YOU? How Waging Peace and Reducing Contention Can Bring Success -Seven S

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How Waging Peace and Reducing Contention Can Bring Success
-Seven Strategies-

Wherever there is conflict, confrontation and crisis, there is contention. In today’s Twitter, blogger, and bloviator dominated world, working to resolve important issues, questions and decisions often begins very contentiously and ends only after one side is beaten and leaves the
field; there is a mutual withdrawal, or most commonly, one side wins and the other side stays angry. This contentious era seems bound to continue.

Winning, it turns out is rarely about getting 51 percent of individuals or groups to concur or comply; it’s getting 51 percent of those who matter. This thinking leads to an Axiom and a Law.

Lukaszewski’s 1st Axiom of Winning in Contentious Situations: Almost every decision of any consequence is made despite serious, often powerful collateral contentiousness. The media can be mad, or support someone else, some of your neighbors can be irritated, even your employees can be against you, but stay the course, be constructive and incremental in your approach and you can win, probably less than you hoped for, but enough to start or continue.

Lukaszewski’s Law of Success and Survival: Neither the media, your severest critic, angry neighbors, irritated legislators, nor regulators can truly stop what you have set out to accomplish. The most significant damage is almost always caused by the intervention, timidity, or hesitation of an overoptimistic boss or Board, well-meaning friends, “supporters,” or relatives, and failure to address the issues raised by those who may feel victimized by the proposal or the

These seven principles are the components of a strategic approach for winning something:

1. Wage peace every day: Reduce the production of critics, enemies, and victims at every opportunity. Talk tough, act tough, or threaten and you will have war for sure. War produces casualties, victims, and new critics, all of whom will live long enough to destroy, delay, or demolish your best efforts.

2. Reduce contention: Contention is the absence of agreement. Work for agreement, incrementally, every day. Stop triggering contention.

3. Seek permission rather than entitlement: Getting permission depends upon gaining public agreement and consent. Avoid and resist anything, anyone, or any decision, that delays, denies, disables, or damages the permission process, act like you’re entitled to a public decision, and you’ll really be stopped cold.

4. Control testosterosis: Anger, irritation, frustration, and confrontation cloud judgment, damage relationships, cause misunderstandings, create critics, naysayers and rarely accomplish anything good. Stop taking contrary views and negative messages personally. The only one who is suffering from this is you. Who else cares? Remain calm and carry on.

5. Be democratic: Recognize and leverage from the patterns of democracy, avoid political games and game players, all those people have their own agendas. They will dump you in a minute.

6. Work as directly as you can: Like most everything that matters in life, agreement is generally achieved, when the principals commit to sit down face-to-face and directly work out their differences or agree to help the victims. Engagement builds stakeholder support, reduces the production of critics, and helps reduce confusion.

7. Communicate intentionally: Success depends on simple, sensible, positive, declarative, and constructive communication, common sense, direct, prompt action, empathy, transparency, and engagement. Explain to everyone as well as remind them of your communication and behavior intentions so they will know what to expect and how to behave in return.

Over the 40 years I’ve been helping clients get public permission, communities, critics, individuals, and organized opposition have consistently grown more powerful in their ability to stop or significantly alter the plans of even the worthiest projects and powerful organizations. With “social media” the power of individual opposers will continue to expand.

I’ve also learned that you can achieve your objectives with people being upset, the media angry, your employees split, and in communities that may be more divided than unified.

Winning depends on altitude (keeping calm) and attitude:

1. Candor: Truth with an attitude delivered immediately. One toxic strategy is to fail to answer every question, provide key information before it is truly needed. Another toxic strategy is to work to disparage, demean, or discredit those who oppose or express concerns about the project or proposal, and take their concerns public.

2. Patience: Accomplishing your goals is going to take longer and cost more than you ever imagined, even to achieve smaller, interim milestones.

3. Resources: Success will defy financial management. More money will be spent for things one never imagined would happen or be requested or required. The price will be high. Keep your finance people in the loop otherwise they may cut your legs out from under you.

4. Stomach Power: Set your stomach for all the lies, misunderstandings, deceptions, bad behaviors, and misrepresentations created by angry, frightened, unqualified, and even qualified people. Opponents have real power, combined with a willing media, new and legacy. The outrageous motives they ascribed to you needs constant explanation, or your good work and intentions will just keep bouncing away.

5. Staying Power: Community decision making is slow, silly, relentlessly questioning, sloppy, expensive, confusing, and emotionally driven. Settle back and go with the flow. Kick up, kick out, and you’ll go nowhere quickly while creating more victims, critics, and naysayers.

When the boss (you) keeps asking “when can we stop answering questions”, the answer is when the questions stop (they never do). When the boss stops answering questions, that’s when credibility disappears.

6. Pragmatism: Winning means constantly waging peace and re-acquiring community consent daily. It means relentlessly doing the doable, knowing the knowable, getting the getable, and achieving the achievable.

Democracy is a process. Those who propose, if they can stay the course, can expect to achieve less than they had hoped, sometimes far less, but usually wind up with more than they need to successfully achieve their objectives. Objectives are likely to change as the community has its say. If you believe that you are entitled to get what you are asking for, you will be entitled only to disappointment.

Your goal is to help work preemptively, constructively, and productively to shorten the timelines and lower the barriers that are an inevitable byproduct of public decision making. Wage peace and win earlier if winning is even possible at all.

Winning in a contentious environment requires seeing what is possible, accepting less than you had hoped for, while relentlessly staying focused on the next steps in the process. Winning is always incremental. Become a constructive incrementalist.


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Edited by Anna Chu, The Lukaszewski Group’s Executive Editor. As an avid reader and creative writer, she is, among other projects, currently working on writing her first novel..