Incredible but true ...

Government flyer

Crucial leadership and negotiation lessons from our own paralytic Australian parliament of recent yea ... and the recent US Government shutdown.

Earlier this year when foreign tourists arrived at the Statue of Liberty, they were given the news that it was closed because the government had run out of money and couldn’t therefore pay public officials. 

Many tourists were of course disbelieving, however the bigger issue is that the shutdown was a complete embarrassment for America. 

While the point is regularly made that sometimes a stumbling democracy is better than communism, many compare the US Congress to a dysfunctional family where the complete absence of constructive conversations does more damage than good to the rest of the family. 

Similarly here in Australia, our own, often paralysed parliament in recent years has now been shown to have done the country more damage than good. 

While these events are a travesty, in all such crises as the US Government shutdown we can look and learn valuable lessons.

In an article on, Samuel Bacharach from Cornell University, highlights what leaders can learn from the current relationships in Congress. 

  1. Don't stay with your base too long

It’s nice when you’re on a team that is cheering you on. Everyone on your side agrees with your plans and what you say… but don’t get lost in it. Know when you get your people together on the same page, singing the same tune, and then know when to start reaching out to others. 

  1. Make only token gestures to your exact opposites

Don't spend too much time with people you can’t win over. You will have your hardliners and although you need to show that you acknowledge their presence, your efforts will be wasted on trying to convince people who don’t want their minds changed. 

  1. Try to win the middle

These are people who are open to negotiation. They want a resolution. They may not agree with you 100% but they are willing to make concessions. You will have a better chance of winning their vote. 

  1. Know when not to negotiate

Sometimes talking does nothing, especially if no one can agree what to talk about. 

  1. Don't confuse short-term vs. long-term accountability

Keep perspective. Focus on the larger group. It's not just about your team, and in this case it's not just about the Republicans and the Democrats. It's the Country, Congress needs to be answering to. 

The Australian parliament in recent years and upcoming Senate could do well to consider this advice carefully. 

  1. Keep your ego out of the game

This follows on from the previous point. It’s not about you, and if you can keep it that way, the process is easier for everyone. Don Miguel Ruiz puts it best: “Never take it personally.”