The United Kingdom is asking its population of 45+ million registered voters to decide today who should form the government that will run the country and take critical decisions that will impact on our lives for years to come.
First Past the Post
We operate a ‘first past the post’ election system, but it does not look as if there will be a first past the post. This will mean some re-positioning and negotiation by the key players arriving at a point where two or more political parties can coalesce around some areas of agreement – this may lead to a formal coalition or some other more loose arrangement.
Now imagine the first cabinet meeting of the government. Imagine the politics (small ‘p’) and confusion that could prevail unless the cabinet quickly finds an effective way to communicate. Changing position, modifying views and opinions and behaving differently towards your cabinet colleagues after weeks of aggressive electioneering and conflicting debate will be difficult and for some impossible with periodic outbursts and direct opposition.
Oddly enough, this sounds a little like some board rooms that I have been in both as a director and as a consultant. Imagine, in your organisation, the impact of a group of individuals holding wildly differing values and beliefs; conflicting visions and having clashing personalities. I would not rate the chances of your business surviving in the long term, let alone thriving.
Can Coalition Work?
All coalitions include differences, agreements and diversity. If the common areas of agreement and the diversity of opinion, skills and interests are harnessed and used effectively of course they can work, but only if the core areas of agreement are clearly understood, agreed and shared by everyone. Wow, this sounds like some of the elements associated with teams!
Whether a team of ministers, directors or staff, clarity and commitment to a common purpose and vision is a must. Recognising that at different times different styles of leadership, negotiation and communication are required. Making sure the needs of individuals, departments, teams and the ‘job-in-hand’ are addressed is key. Ensuring that you communicate and engage the wider audience and other stakeholders in discussions and reviewing progress is key.
I am of course simplifying what will no doubt be a highly charged and passionate negotiation between Messrs. Cameron, Miliband, Clegg, Farage, Ms Sturgeon and Wood and other key players. But maybe, just maybe, they would learn something from attending one of our training programmes.