BLG Leadership Insights Features

Tents of Social Protest

Ever since the democratic protest movement in Iran we have been hearing about the importance of new technology as a source for grounded democracy. There is a sense that social technology has created a new popular dialogue which may, in a very fundamental way, impact the way governments make decisions, operate, and make claims to reflect the interest of their people.

Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya were each dramatic examples of how a grounded movement can play a powerful and significant role that can, at least, challenge the direction of established governments. In each of these cases people wanted to be heard. They wanted their voice to matter and inevitably they wanted a sense that their leadership is delivering for them.

The events in Israel over the last two weeks, while not as dramatic as those in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, further show how a grounded social movement in this new age of social technology can challenge (or begin to challenge) the direction of government and social visions.

There’s a question as to whether the current events in Israel will amount to anything, but a dialogue which, in many ways, has been submerged for the last 25 years has now come to the surface. If this conversation continues Israel’s direction could be full of internal conflict.

For the last few weeks I’ve been walking down Roschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, a major promenade in Tel Aviv, observing the tents that have been erected in protest. These tents are occupied by young people who are protesting high housing prices–they are demanding that something be done about the inequity in real estate and rent costs. While the focus of the demonstration has been about the property prices you get the feeling as you walk among the protesters that there’s really another dialogue emerging—a dialogue about what direction the government should go. The issues of social justice, the issues of economic inequality, the issues of oligarchical control of the economy, and the issues of health reform are all being discussed.

More and more, Israel is a society in which the young and the middle class are becoming disillusioned. This spark, this sense of inequality, is starting first genuine dialogue in which social economic issues are coming to the forefront and it might lead to something…or it might lead to nothing.

Bibi Netanyahu, the micro-tactician of domestic politics, struggles with quick fixes. As all tactical leaders (as opposed to strategic leaders) he tries to put the genie back in the bottle with drama and band aides. The question now is going to be whether the genie is really out of the bottle, whether this spontaneous spark can find the leadership to move it forward. Whether this somewhat chaotic happening, which is now spreading throughout the country, can be translated into the world of institutional politics.

If it can then inevitably it will have implications for all aspects of Israeli society. It will inevitably lead to a genuine debate as to what can be accomplished in a world in which many decisions are zero-sum games.  It will lead to the first genuine social dialogue that has occurred in this society since 1976 when Menchem Begin challenged the old order. The question is: will leadership emerge from the tents on Roschild Boulevard?

BLG Leadership Insights Managerial Competence

Culture & Negotiations: 6 Rules To Follow and 5 Hazards to Avoid

I’ve spent the past few weeks in Israel where I’ve been training a group of leaders and working with people from different cultural backgrounds. I was struck by two things:

  • Culture is important.
  • People have a misunderstanding about how culture comes into play in negotiations.

Negotiations occur in a context, be it situational, personal, or cultural. When you are negotiating with a party from a different background, you need to understand their culture and how it may affect their view of the world and their behavior. You’ve got to understand where they are coming from….literally.

While personality, interests, and issues are important to anticipate, you also need to consider the culture of the individual you are negotiating with.

Consider the following the 6 points when anticipating culture’s impact on your next negotiation:

1. Cultural pride determines whether and how negotiations occur.

2. Culture determines not only what is negotiated, but also what is not negotiable.

3. Cultural pride and status might form a wall that’s impossible to climb.

4. Culture determines the importance of personal relationships–in some cultures it’s critical to test personal relationships before you get into the details of negotiations.

5. Culture influences the type of response you get.

6. Culture governs whether power games are important.

So, keep culture in mind.

What’s Culture?

Culture results from psycho-social factors that shape values, establish a sense of collective and a sense of ideology. Understanding culture requires the ability to interpret ethnicity, region, and nationalism. It’s knowing what factors influence certain groups.

But there’s a difference between understanding culture and using culture in order to achieve your goals.

So you think you understand me because you know something about me? Do you think you have the upper hand in negotiations because you know think you know something about my culture?

Not so fast.

Culture Only Goes So Far…

1. Culture is only a frame. Sensitivity to culture may eliminate obstacles to communication, but not necessarily give you the upper hand.

2. Negotiations may be smoother if you understand the culture, but understanding does not ensure a more favorable outcome. Knowing culture lifts the fog between you–not the differences.

3. You’re dealing with individuals. Be careful not to generalize.

4. Understand your own cultural context and how others from different cultural backgrounds may regard you.

5. Don’t bet your farm on your ability know it all. Don’t bet your farm because you know what all Russians think like or what all Japanese enjoy. Don’t bet your farm on being a cultural expert.

Remember, it’s one thing to appreciate culture so you can be sensitive to the context in which relationships emerge and continue; it’s quite another to use it to gain the upper hand.

BLG Leadership Insights Managerial Competence

Gardening and How Life Can Be Easier Without Comparative Bids

I desperately wanted a few lemon trees, a few orange trees, and maybe some olive trees to give my backyard a touch of biblical class.

However, I don’t know anything about gardening. So, I asked my local coffee shop owner, Dudu, who’s wise in the ways of the world, if he knew any gardeners. Dudu put his network to use and assured me he’d get back to me that night.

Meanwhile, my wife’s cousin recommended a gardener who came by in the afternoon and laid out a plan that called for 4 lemon trees, 2 orange trees, and a relatively old olive tree.

I was thrilled.

But by evening, Dudu had spoken to another gardener who had also came up with a plan for me. Now, all I had to do was take the two plans, compare prices, figure out which one would work best for me, and act accordingly.

What I needed to do was stimulate competition between the two bidders. But stirring up competition isn’t as easy as it sounds.

I started to feel bad since I felt committed to my wife’s cousin’s recommendation and I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to reveal to each gardener the others position and price. I was also quite incapable of comparing the quality of olive trees. And, lastly, I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Finally, the bids equaled out and price was no longer a factor in my decision.

So what did I gain from this experience? Some resentment from the gardener I didn’t choose, and a bit of frustration, anxiety, and guilt on my part.

Sometimes life’s a little easier without comparative bids.

BLG Leadership Insights

When Self-Interest Is An Excuse Not to Lead

In the last few days the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, maintained that he could not be involved in negotiations over the West Bank territories because he has a home on the West Bank and is thus a self-interested party. Mr. Lieberman’s lack of action can be characterized as taking a moral stand; however, beneath the surface, it’s a true failure of leadership.

Leaders who don’t have the capacity to understand the collective good and are not able to work toward it have no business to lead, especially if they are only thinking in terms of their self-interest. Indeed, the moral failure in the financial world stems from the inability of leaders to differentiate from individual self-interest and the collective good. In the realm of investment banking, many leaders thought that their self-interest and the collective good were one in the same. This delusion perpetuated moral failure and the financial collapse.