Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Peacemaker or Troublemaker?

The Big Gun
When you think of peacemaker who or what do you think of?  What first comes to mind?  For me, I thought of the belt-fed machine gun capable of firing more than 500 rounds per minute; used by United States troops in World War II and the Korean War.  It was called the peacemaker because there was no other weapon that compared to it at the time.  When used it could wipe out the enemy as they were encountered.  Peacemaker can also be defined as “one who makes peace especially by reconciling parties at variance; a person or organization that attempts to reconcile parties involved in a dispute” which reminds me of my wife and mom – both have mastered the art of peacemaking. 

Weakness or Strength
There are those who view peacemaking as a weakness but, in fact, peacemaking requires great strength.  Peacemaking does not mean avoiding conflict but rather meeting conflict head on without making the conflict worse.   In order to achieve lasting peace, the peacemaker requires a special inner strength to look beyond the common solutions of intimidation and retribution in order to find creative ways of solving the conflict. Peacemakers require a strength that allows them to put aside typical emotions as they pursue paths which satisfies the question of who the parties ought to be there in clarifying the questions of who the parties ought to be and who the parties want to be.

Moments of conflict provide opportunities for peacemaking which helps to enrich our knowledge and understanding of conflict resolution in many important ways.  There have been many notable peacemakers that have taught the world valuable lessons.  Many peacemakers use the same approach towards conflict resolution. 
1.      Contact
2.      Cooperation
3.      Communication
4.      Conciliation.
Jimmy Carter Approach
Jimmy Carter is considered a peacemaker however; I have differing opinions of President Carter.  Several of the Iranian hostages who were held for over 400 days were my peers.  President Carter was unable to secure their release while he was in office.  However, after leaving office President Carter did make strides in peacemaking in various parts of the world.  Carter had several characteristics that made him an effective peacemaker after leaving office.  He had an uncanny ability of defusing or calming down both sides of a conflict.  As an effective communicator he was able to address issues and not feelings.  Jimmy Carter was a master at bringing parties together in agreement or compromise.  Once successful conflict resolution was achieved Carter gave credit to the parties involved, if he failed he called it like it was. 

In 1994, Carter traveled to Pyongyang North Korea in attempts to dissuade the North Koreans from nuclear proliferation.  Carter's credentials gave him credibility with Kim Il Sung.  What was important about the meeting is what Carter did during a CNN interview after the first day of meetings.  “By announcing on CNN Kim Il Sung’s promises, Carter locked both sides into conducting the third round of negotiations that eventually produced the Agreed Framework” (Caprio).  Carter was uniquely qualified as a former President and Nuclear Engineer which enabled him to communicate effectively.  Even though Carter was successful in achieving agreement on a framework he was highly criticized – accused of having weakened President Clinton's  and “for his being 'gullible, naive, or an appeaser'” (Caprio). 

Peacemaker or Troublemaker
Many have questioned did Jimmy Carter overstep his bounds as a former president in his attempts to be a peacemaker?  Was he doing freelance diplomacy, in conflict with current U.S. policy and against U.S. interests, and possibly in violation of the law? Or was he simply acting as a private citizen, using his celebrity to make headway with a group that would otherwise be hostile to the United States?  I believe any world states-person such as Carter would consider trying to break the stalemate through contact. Carter is a Christian man who is also a world leader who has always stood for justice and human rights.  He has always taken the issue of the sanctity of life seriously which could easily be used to make the argument he considered he had no choice but to try stop the potential bloodshed of conflict. 

Another example to consider with Carter is how he dealt with Hamas. In the protracted conflict between Israel and Hamas, Carter added new ideas from a high-profile position which shook up the status quo.  As peacemaker, Carter showed the world that the issues between Israel and Hamas were much grayer than the Israeli and U.S. government portrayed them to be.  While it was unlikely an ex-president would be able to extract major concessions, what Carter did in his meetings with Hamas was still notable.  Carter's success with Hamas came from his ability to enter the dialog with a cool head, with the intent to achieve compromise and conciliation from both parties.  Carter was good at peacemaking because he was a good listener and approached each situation with an open mind and clean slate.  He called it like it was bad or good and ensured credit was given when credit was due.
Unity and Respect
Peacemakers strive for unity.  Their guiding principles steer their efforts in conflict resolution to unification and understanding.  They strive to establish sustained relationships of respect. They have an uncanny ability to defuse conflict and put people at ease which invites trust.  Peacemakers have an ability to synthesize what is divided antagonistic conflict into a unified acceptable compromised conflict resolution.  In other words it is perfectly acceptable to agree to disagree as long as concerns of both sides are treated with respect and understanding.  Who are the peacemakers in your world?  Are you a peacemaker?  What conflicts are you currently in that could not be resolved by just respectfully agreeing to disagree?  We can all be peacemakers by being good listeners, approaching conflict with an open mind and establishing or renewing relationships through understanding and respect.

Review of A Moment of Crisis: Jimmy Carter, the Power of a Peacemaker, and North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions, by Marion Creekmore, Jr. (2006) Korean Studies Review 2007, no. 2 http://koreaweb.ws/ks/ksr/ksr07-02.htm

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Trust Is Not A Given

Thinking Trust

Recently, I finished reading Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Teal Book of Trust.  The book attempts to outline the many aspects of trust: earning it, losing it, how to keep it, and why it’s important.  It got me thinking.  Who do I trust and why?  Who trusts me and why?  Seemingly, simple questions to answer but I found that to not really be the case.  There is much that goes into trusting and being trusted.

What is Trust?

Trust is defined by the dictionary as “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.”  However, trust is really much deeper than a simple definition.  Trust is also fragile; it must be earned; it can easily be lost; it can be a measure of the level of predictability; it can be acknowledged through a decision; it is the fact of knowing and believing; once established it is very delicate; and it comes with risk.  Trust can be something you feel or the result of a cause and effect.  In just about everything I do I am either trusting or distrusting the person, thing or situation – there is no gray area.  You either do or you do not trust.

Easy to Earn

Ernest Hemingway stated “the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”  The proof is in the pudding so to say.  Your actions are evidence of your trustworthiness.  When entrusted to complete a task or follow through on something, do you?  Do people have confidence that you will get the job done?  Trust is earned through actions.  “People ask me why it’s so hard to trust people, and I ask them why is it so hard to keep a promise? – unknown” Governments trust or distrust other governments based on actions.  Products are trusted based on delivering capabilities promised and the confidence in the manufacturer to continue delivering quality products.  Just as Craftsmen Tools are trusted our Military is trusted as a result of integrity, strength and the ability to get the job done.

Easy to Lose

As quickly as trust can be earned it can be lost.  When promises are not kept, distrust is the result.  If I promise a client that I will deliver a widget or service by a certain date the client is expecting that widget or service to be delivered by that date.  The client may build other plans around the date I provided building to the level of trust and expectations.  If the date slips the level of trust my client has in my ability to deliver slips.  If the date continues to slip at some point the client will distrust any date I provide and will begin to question my ability to deliver on what I promised – at this point the client has lost trust in me.  My credibility and the client’s confidence in my ability to deliver fade, and their level of trust in me diminishes to the point of distrusting me.

Business deals, transactions and relationships happen because of trust.  An element of trust is the expectation that someone or something will do the right thing.  When you trust there is a feeling of confidence, of being safe and comfortable with the deal, transaction or relationship.  The opposite is true when trust is missing and the deal, transaction or relationship fails to happen.

The Best Situation

Mutual trust is a great achievement which requires commitment.  When each party trusts the other great things can be accomplished.  When soldiers trust their leaders to make the right decisions in the heat of battle and the leaders trust their soldiers to follow through battles are won.  In business the same holds true.  When management trusts the workers, and the workers trust management, not only is a competitive advantage realized but great things are achieved.  Breaking down walls by building levels of trust is instrumental to any relationship.  Mutual trust builds long lasting relationships in both personal and professional worlds and decreases undesirable outcomes.  When you think about it everything we do in our personal and professional lives are centered on some type of relationship.

When I think of trust, I think of it as an end result.  Everything I do should be driving towards an end result of trust.  The result is dependent on many things but most importantly on two characteristics:  my character and my competency.  Character reflected in my ability to have good intentions and integrity to do the right thing.  Competency reflected in my capacity and capability to provide positive results.  In the end George MacDonald said it best “to be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.”  Who do you trust and who trusts you?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Preparing for the Game

Watching the Sugar Bowl reminded me of what happens in business.  One team came ready to win while the other team came over confident destined to lose.  Many times I have pitched an idea, product or service only to find my competitor winning out in the end.  Over the years I have spent much time thinking about those times - the times I thought I had the deal in the bag only to find out I didn’t.  A friend recently sent me a quote that painfully reminds me of those hard lessons learned – “There is nothing to be ashamed of when you prepared to the best of your ability.  But you have ample cause to be dejected when you know you didn’t prepare properly when you had the ability to.” – John Wooden

There have been many times I went into a deal thinking I have this, so I didn’t spend a great deal of time preparing.  I would think, “I have this, I know this, I have this in the bag”, only to lose in the end.  Not until it hurt badly did I decide to change.  The other piece of the puzzle is you have to believe you can win.  When you believe you cannot be beat there is a higher sense of confidence.  People like to deal with people who are confident.  But there is a danger in confidently believing you will win.  As the Florida Gators demonstrated in the Sugar Bowl misjudging your opponent and confidently believing you will win without proper preparation will end in losing.  Louisville on the other hand confidently demonstrated their belief they could win by flawlessly executing what they prepared for in practice leading up to the game.  

The same holds true in whatever the situation – sports, relationships, business or a difficult situation.  How well do you prepare?  How well do you know your job? How well do you know your product or service?  These are questions you should be asking yourself.  When capabilities, products or services are very similar many times the deciding factor will be who is better prepared.  I promise just one more Sugar Bowl example.  To start the second half Florida kicked off to Louisville.  Florida kicked an onside kick something they had not done all season.  The Florida coach must have assumed that Louisville had prepared for the game based on what they saw on this season’s game film – since there were no onside kicks on film maybe Louisville could be caught by surprise.  However, that was not the case.  In fact, Louisville had anticipated the possibility and had a majority of their receivers on the field instead of the special teams players – which was something the Florida coach completely missed.  Louisville had prepared for all possibilities.

How many times have you sat across the table from a customer only to be blindsided by the competition because you didn’t fully prepare for all possibilities? 

As I begin 2013, I am resolute in being prepared for all possibilities that come my way.  As John Wooden stated there is nothing wrong if I prepared to the best of my ability but do not win.  But I have no one to blame but myself if I lose because of a lack of preparation.  It starts with believing, moves to preparation and ends with confidently demonstrating you are prepared for all possibilities.  What do you believe you will achieve in 2013?  How are you preparing for the game?