Change Work December 2014

Happy Christmas to all our leaders

In a recent opinion poll, 68% of Russians chose President Vladimir Putin as their "Man of the Year". I must congratulate him on this ringing endorsement, although the choice was limited to serving politicians so that probably takes the gloss off it. Indeed, politicians as a group seem to be held in very low esteem virtually everywhere these days.

To help them to get back onto the right track, and to recover their reputations, I'm addressing my annual Christmas wish-list to all our representatives and leaders. I'm not charging anything for this - call it my gift to them!

My Christmas Letter To Politicians

Dear Representatives of the People,

Here are a few ideas that I'd like to see you take on board to make all our Christmases complete!

  1. Earn our trust
    When did it become the norm to expect our elected representatives to lie to us? Whether you really do or you don't there needs to be a bit less blaming everybody else and a bit more "standing by what I said".
  2. It's not all about you!
    When we first began paying salaries to Members of Parliament it seemed like a good idea to open up politics to people who weren't independently wealthy. Now though, public service seems to have become a kind of internship for the real career in consultancy and directorships that comes afterwards. Let's focus on making things better for everyone.
  3. Make the system less self-serving
    I know you can only act within the bounds of political possibility but you often give the impression of only being concerned with politics (i.e. what affects your own prospects) rather than the real problems of the country and the world. You also give the impression that your timeframe for policy is very short: the length of the current term of office or even less. It would be really encouraging to see plans that look decades ahead and, just as important, that integrate the different departments of government.
  4. Reduce the influence of money
    The party system gives donors too much influence. Remember that you're there to serve the rest of us. All of us.
  5. Encourage us to be tolerant
    Some of you are very quick to jump on the latest bandwagon, often fueled by prejudice. I'd like to hear more balanced analysis and to see you settting the example of understanding and respecting different points of view.
  6. Use your political skills for the greater good
    Understanding "what's in it for them" is an influencing skill that leads to win-win solutions, so don't use it as a tool for manipulation.
  7. Treat us like intelligent adults
    We can take bad news. We can understand complex issues, if we can be bothered to make the effort to think about them. And we'll only do that if we believe that our interest will make some sort of difference to what you decide to do.
  8. Apply the law rigorously and equally
    We need to believe that we all have the same rights. As soon as it's accepted that there are different degrees of accountability or of protection under the law then the moral argument for respecting the law evaporates. And of course, we want to see you obeying the law scrupulously.
  9. Give us the sense of a journey and lead us on it
    We all want prosperity and security, and many people have neither. But to those of us who are relatively safe and well-off they aren't inspiring aims. So what do we stand for? Justice? Equality? Sustainability? Getting filthy rich? We need to know.
  10. Inspire us to be better!
    Things can be better than they are. We can behave better than we do. Feelings of hopelessness are spreading so please focus your attention (and ours) on the positive things we can do.

So there it is politicians, just a few easy changes you can make to your approach and everyone will love you again - or at least not hate you so much. And perhaps they'd turn out to vote in greater numbers than lately.

If all this seems far-fetched, well, it is Christmas and anything's possible!

Is this only about politics? If you're a leader in any organisation or team, I'd bet that at least some of the issues in my list are relevant to your role as well. Dare you ask your team for their Christmas wish-list?