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#DearCongress Lessons

Twitter is exploding with the hashtag #DearCongress, partly fueled by @WashingtonPost, by Obama's speech on Monday and his suggestion to contact Congress and by general American outrage.   I rarely talk about politics publicly (I think it's a personal topic), but this isn't about the politics. We hired our leaders to do a job and they're not performing. So what can we learn for our own jobs?Here's my tweet: "Dear [Congress], If I acted the way you did @ work, I'd be fired from every job I ever had/have. You have jobs, be grateful & do them."   Here are seven bi-partisan reasons they'd be fired if they worked in the real world. Please note: this post is not intended to spur a debate on what we should do about the debt ceiling, or to pick a side. The examples here are from things BOTH parties have done.  So what can we learn from their mistakes and apply to our careers?

1) Walking away is dumb.

Can you imagine a meeting where you get so pissed off you walk up and leave?  And I don't mean with your spouse, I mean at work.  Storming or stomping out of a meeting just shows you're not mature enough to handle the pressure that comes with high-level talks or negotiations.  No CEO has ever been lauded for taking his/her toys and going home.

2) Multiple, competing plans never work.

Imagine if you were in a project meeting working with your team on a plan.  Then, a team member stands up and says "This sucks, so me and Jimmy have worked out our own plan instead. Let's scrap the team's and go with ours." As a leader, my first thought would be "why are they doing this on their own time?"  If  a plan isn't working, you vocalize that in the group and work on solutions together, or, you decide as a team to break out the group to solve particular, deadlocked issues.  You won't win any friends at work by pissing people off to become the hero.

3) "I like you better than her" polling is a recipe for disaster.

Do you ever poll colleagues or clients to see who likes which piece of work better?  And if you do, do you put names to it?  For example, would you ever say in a meeting, or follow-up to a meeting with a poll that asks: "choose whose idea you like better, mine or Maria's."  Nope, I didn't think so. Forcing people to choose sides with a person and not what pieces of the idea they like and why is antithetical to progress and coalitions.

4) Spinning words to make you look better won't.

Americans are not stupid. We know both Rebulicans and Democrats have agreed upon lingo for how they'll talk in public.  If they didn't, the comedy gods wouldn't be able to show the repeat clips of every pundit using the same spinned terms.  My favorite so far is the use of "job creators" in replace of wealthy.  When you try to be overly political in the spin doctor sense, it's just bad PR. People will see through it, make fun of it, and lose trust in you as a leader and spokesperson.

5) Thinking you're the target demographic.

As good marketers have to remember, they are rarely members of their own target markets.  There's a reason toy companies convene focus groups of kiddos. Yes, elected officials are supposed to represent their constiuencies but the average member of Congress has healthcare that's so much better than the average American. Their salaries are above average. So why the closed door sessions? Private plan building? When in doubt, go to your market. And the market is screaming "get this done and focus on jobs." Please.

6) Crying foul.

 There are few things more sad than a bride left at the altar. Part of you feels sorry for her and part of you thinks "how do you get all the way to the altar and it not work?"  In business though, it's less sad.  Instead it feels whiney and pathetic. When you blame someone for leaving you in a time of business need, it sounds like a blame game. Instead ask why they left and focus on what you're doing to reconcile the union.

7) Stop with the fake positivity.
If I hear one more political soundbyte "I'm confident we'll get there." I might drive the ten minutes from my house to the Capitol and start knocking down doors.  The fake positivity does no one any good.  If you kep promising a solution in the workplace or telling your boss "don't worry, we'll make it," you're really screwing yourself.  Great leaders know the importance of being realistic. You can still offer hope, but also educate on what the plans B, C and D are to inspire confidence.  Or you can be like Congress, offer 12 plan As and instill zero confidence.
While my hope is that by reading this you're reminded that certain tactics will fall flat in the workplace, I also hope it serves as some career advice for our esteemed members of Congress.  They'll need it when they're all fired in November.