Civility in Business & Politics

We are living in unprecedented times where the divide widens, lack of civility threatens relationships and the ability to make thoughtful decisions based on facts is increasing.

As evidenced by the recent impeachment proceedings and the State of the State address, the political divide runs deep along partisan lines and threatens the very premise on which our country’s foundation was built.

As evidenced by the recent impeachment proceedings and the State of the Union address, the political divide runs deep along partisan lines and threatens the very premise on which our country’s foundation was built.

As we enter the throes of this election year, where do we go for here?

One of the first places to start is to engage and to follow in the footsteps of our Constitutional Forefathers who despite their divisions continued to debate with genuine and honest civility.  The irrefutable test of civility is not when policies and issues are easy or obvious, but rather when policies make us uncomfortable and anxious.

More recently and after the 9/11 tragedy, President Bush called for a new era of civility in honor of those who lost their lives.  He wanted us to talk to each other in a manner that heals and not wounds.  There is no better opportunity than amongst this great divide to practice such wise words.

Especially when facing challenging policies and deliberations, as did our Constitutional framers, we need to seek to discover common values; we need to listen intently to the other side with an open mind and more importantly, an open heart; and we need to accept the fact that the middle ground is where all the answers are.

Conflict is natural and usually inevitable, differences of opinions are human, but lack of civility in conflict resolution is not what made our country great.

What made our country great are the values that everyone has a voice, everyone is equal, and everyone deserves a chance to speak and be heard in a courteous manner.

In today’s world, political conflict resolution has resulted in everyone going to their corner and automatically circling the wagons around their partisan or philosophical camps.  Once the divide reaches this level, all everyone is seeking is the easy “gotcha” power plays.

After all, that is what rallies their base and provides the illusion that those elected officials are fighting on their behalf.

The business community practices conflict resolution in a totally different manner than our elected officials.  They are not interested in gotcha moments and have never achieved sustainability by everyone negotiating from their corners.

On the contrary, tribalism and polarization in the board room only serve to isolate those that are not committed to finding a solution for the advancement of the company.

At the end of the day, not everyone in the board room will be happy with a decision, but assuredly, everyone will work towards whatever is in the best interest of their shareholders.

We have heard on numerous occasions from business executives when they say, “I am a businessperson first and a Republican or Democrat second.”

The private sector does not thrive on conflict, but rather must assure stability and predictability in order to develop an effective competitive strategy.  Success can only thrive in finding a delicate balance between risk and growth and any existing conflict will derail any efforts of growth.

Life is presenting us with unchartered waters, and the waves are pushing us all into different directions.

But much like the surfer that eyes the one wave to ride, we need to not allow conflict rhetoric to take us away from our core values and common ground.

Robert Ficano is former Wayne County Executive and Sheriff and can be heard Sundays, 8am, on 910am.

Mark S. Lee is Founder, President & CEO, The LEE Group, and can be heard Sundays, 11 am, on 910am, and you can listen to “Small Talk with Mark S. Lee” podcasts at leegrouptinnovation.com