James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA

Wherever there is conflict, confrontation and crisis, there is contention. In today’s Twitter, Blogger and bloviater dominated world, working to resolve important issues, questions and decisions often begins very contentiously and ends only after one side is beaten and leaves the field; there is a mutual withdrawal, or mostly commonly, one side wins and the other side stays angry.

Winning, it turns out is never about getting 51 percent of individuals or groups to concur or comply; it’s getting 51 percent of those who matter. This thinking leads to an axiom and a law.

Lukaszewski’s first axiom of winning in contentious situations: Almost every decision of any consequence is made despite serious, often powerful collateral contentiousness. The media can be mad, or support someone else, some of your neighbors can be irritated, even your employees can be against you, but stay the course, be constructive in your approach and you can win.

Lukaszewski’s law of success and survival: Neither the media, your severest critic, angry neighbors, irritated legislators, nor regulators can truly stop what you have set out to accomplish. The most significant damage is almost always caused by the intervention, timidity, or hesitation of an overoptimistic boss or Board, well-meaning friends, “supporters,” or relatives, and failure to address the issues raised by those who feel victimized by the process.

These seven principles are the components of a strategic approach for winning:

1. Wage peace every day: Reduce the production of critics, enemies and victims at every opportunity. Talk tough, act tough, or threaten and you will have war for sure. War produces casualties, victims, and new critics, all of whom will live long enough to destroy, delay, or stop your best efforts.

2. Reduce contention: Contention is the absence of agreement. Work for agreement, incrementally, every day. Stop causing contention.

3. Seek permission rather than entitlement: Getting permission depends upon gaining public agreement and consent. Avoid and resist anything, anyone, or any decision, that delays, denies, disables, or damages the permission process. Act like you’re entitled to a public decision and you’ll really be stopped cold.

4. Control testosterosis: Anger, irritation, frustration, and confrontation cloud judgment, damage relationships, cause misunderstandings, create critics, naysayers and rarely accomplish anything good. Stop taking contrary views and negative messages personally. The only one who is suffering from this is you. No one else cares. Remain calm and carry on.

5. Be Democratic: Recognize and leverage from the patterns of democracy, avoid political games and game players, all those people have their own agendas. They will dump you in a minute.

6. Work as directly as you can: Like most everything that matters in life, agreement is generally achieved, when the principals commit to sit down face-to-face and directly work out their differences. Engagement builds stakeholder support, and reduces the production of critics.

7. Communicate Intentionally: Success depends on simple, sensible, positive, declarative and constructive communication, common sense, direct, prompt action, empathy, transparency, and engagement. Explain to everyone as well as remind them of your communication and behavior intentions so they will know what to expect and how to behave in return.


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