Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Politics in the Workplace and the World

Sometimes a new way of looking at things is a huge help in finding ways to make things better. That was definitely true for me last night when I had the opportunity to hear author Donna Zajonc speak about her new book, The Politics of Hope.

With so much of the nation feeling disappointed or even bitter about the results of the presidential election and many of the rest telling them to get over it, and with the Washington State gubernatorial race still in question as we head into a manual recount after a machine recount further narrowed governor-elect Rossi's tight margin of victory, tilting into the holiday season and the start of a new year with all its promise, I felt the timing could not have been better.

Personally I'm exhausted by it all and want only to find ways to make it better; I feel closer now to people with whom I disagree on political matters who are able to have a civilized conversation regarding our opinions than I do to people with whom I essentially agree but cannot get past the ranting. Having been in danger for a time of staying rant mode myself and still working past the occasional tendencies to regress, I find it's important to cultivate opportunities to surround myself with hope and steer myself that direction as an alternative to fear. As far as I'm concerned, this is as true within the workplace and corporate politics as it is in the rest of our lives.

Some of you know that I serve on the board for the local chapter of coaches, the Puget Sound Coaches Association. Part of that means that I make a special effort to attend all of our program meetings. Of course, I was doing that already, which probably has something to do with how I got nominated and elected to the board in the first place. In any case, my attendance record served me quite well last night because it meant that I was there to hear Donna speak about her insights around what she calls the four stages of political evolution. While she came up with this model as a way of viewing the democratic process, I believe it can be applied in a variety of situations, including leadership in the workplace.

Take, for instance, her views on trust... where are you and your co-workers?

Stage 1 - "Trust no one"
Stage 2 - "Trust our candidate to solve our problems"
Stage 3 - "Trust only yourself and your immediate family and community"
Stage 4 - "Trust the evolutionary process and our collective wisdom to create fair policy"
From the book The Politics of Hope: Reviving the Dream of Democracy, published Oct. 15, 2004 by Donna Zajonc; used by permission.

For the corporate environment, substitute the leader of your choice for 'candidate' and workgroup and department for 'immediate family and community' and it maintains its relevance.

I share with Donna the belief that as we begin to shift in our own evolutionary processes, so will the others around us. When we reach sufficient critical mass as a group, we will begin to impact what happens at a larger level. That kind of critical mass will only occur when we reach out to each other regardless of perspective. Mathematically, it cannot occur if our conversations are restricted only to those with whom we know we agree or if we are strident in our approach, pushing away the others with whom we disagree.

Whether you disagree or whether you have tips on dealing with people who disagree with you, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts at to see what more we can learn from each other.

How are you bridging the gap between someone else's perspective and your own?