Business Guides

My Lesson From A Political Discussion

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Readers,

I have the honor of responding to your inquiries each and every week in this column. I am also fortunate to work as a coach and mentor to hundreds of advisors each year. I hope my wisdom and ideas are helpful.

I, too, run a business and need to make decisions every day on the best ways to approach people and to communicate. This week I learned a valuable lesson on delegation and communicating in a polarized political environment, and on being respectful of how people might interpret something. I thought I’d share my own experiences, as I am always learning and hopefully growing, too. While it’s painful to make mistakes, I accept them because they teach me things I might not have yet learned, or might have forgotten.

I’ll reveal something from my own business this week that you might find helpful as you navigate similar communication issues.

Background

I send communication tips via email to people who have run behavioral profiles (called “DISC”) from my firm. These are communication style prompts that teach people how to “read” others. I buy these clues from an outside vendor and I have a team member who writes little paragraphs and sends them out under my signature. I believe firmly in the need to delegate in a small firm, so I rely on people around me for many things.

This week the clues used a picture of the sitting president in order to depict a dominant type personality. I write about the importance of staying away from political discussions in today’s polarized environment, and this week I was reminded of what sage advice that is when I started receiving emails from clients saying how offended they were by being “compared” to the sitting president.

I opted to write an apology – not to make a political statement – but to acknowledge that the current president’s behaviors and approach could be considered as offensive to some people. As an example, one woman said, as a high-D on the DISC scale she understands someone can be direct, assertive and even a bully but she took issue with the fact (and she supplied quotes) that Trump has advocated for violence against those that disagree in the past.

Others wrote saying they knew they were bold and brash, but they believed they had “morals” and cared about their reputation so being compared to Trump was offensive.

Because I believe in staying away from political “third rails” at all costs, I wrote an apology so those people who were offended would recognize the email was not reviewed by me before it went out. Of course, given that Trump’s popularity is around 38%, this meant that probably a bit more than 38% of the recipients would be offended by the apology (probably a higher percentage of the population in the financial services industry). So, I was faced with the question, what to do in times where communication seems important but could create more of a firestorm? I opted to send it and here is what happened.

Read the full article here by Beverly Flaxington, Advisor Perspectives