Attack By StratagemBy
Every organization needs to develop a unified plan of attack. In the classic book of military strategy “The Art of War”, Chinese General Sun Tzu conveys many harsh, but diversely applicable tidbits of wisdom. In reading through the book’s translation, as everyone should at some point, it doesn’t take long before you are struck by the concisely conveyed strategic brilliance of its author. Though written and revered by those who would make war, this ancient piece of literature provides intellectuals of all sorts, an invitation to explore their goals and evaluate the means by which they seek to make accomplishments.
In a chapter called “Attack by Stratagem”, Sun Tzu explains that the preferred route to victory is not by way of death or destruction, but by peaceful means. Conflict produces damage, it creates victims and it devalues resources. In armed confrontations, these losses are conceptualized as broken bodies, burned homes and crumbling infrastructure. In organizational dealings, collateral damage can manifest as broken relationships, burnt bridges and crumbling support. In neither case, can victory truly be enjoyed, if it comes at the heels of such needless loss.
For all of us, the ideal goal is to build relationships and respect along the path towards success. As anyone who has ever tried this now knows, it is rarely possible. You will not always agree with those whose mind you must change. You will not always be invited into the ground you wish to gain. You will not always be greeted with the respect and acceptance that you would offer those yourself. But then again, you cannot let any of these circumstances stay your progress in the name of cordiality. While some would take that last sentence to be a justification, it was meant as more of a challenge.
Timothy Shoemaker is a speaker, writer and educator from New Jersey.
Sooner or later, most of us will run into a person or entity that will frustrate our efforts. Either due to action or inaction, these man-made obstacles are common to nearly every effort that seeks change on some level. While we cannot let our organizations sacrifice progress in the name of cordiality, it is equally unenviable for us to pursue progress without regard for cordiality. The challenge then, perhaps better labeled as an Art, is to balance the virtue of your efforts, with the nobility of your ideals.
Many of our organizations will at times be placed on a crash course with some form of resistance. Since we can’t always swerve around it, our goal is to mitigate the outcome to something along the lines of a fender-bender, rather than a ten car pile-up. Some essential rules of etiquette can help in this regard:
Get It Right The First Time
A good speaker knows his audience before he opens his mouth. A good organization knows it’s obstacle before seeking to address it. If you’re dealing with a shot-caller, make sure you consider how his decision could affect his superiors and subordinates. Take a moment to explore their background, and invest some effort in addressing any underlying issues that could be adding to your impasse.
Consider the flavor of your position. Could it be posed in a more inviting way? Corporations spend millions on this stuff. For example, ask a twelve year old to choose between “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice”. It’s like choosing between ice cream and candy. Ask that same child to choose between “Pro-Life” and “Anti-Abortion“; the answer comes much quicker. Like the child in the previous example, your audience is not likely to know your subject the way you do. It’s important that the finesse of your interaction targets their “gut response”. While you’re at it, bleed emotion out of any communication. Use less hand gestures in person, and less punctuation in writing (no bold, capitalized or underlined words). Use five words, instead of ten. Don’t use “I“, when “we” or “the organization” is appropriate.
“Semantics” says you? “Survival” says I. The manner in which you package your organization often means much more than the legitimacy of your cause, or the energy of your efforts. People can agree to disagree. Strong working relationships can be fostered, even amongst a storm of contention. That is our goal. And that is the challenge presented to those of us whose efforts hope to reach the mature and hard-fought pinnacle of success.
If you are like most of us, your goal is altruistic, your intent is benevolent and your actions are righteous. Make sure that your efforts are well-crafted, and success will find you.
Leave a Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.