What business can learn from the communication around the formation of the coalition government

For five days the country waited, every utterance, every bit of body language, every tiny piece of information was jumped on by swarms of journalists desperate to get some indication on who will lead the nation. Finally we got a result, a Conservative Liberal collation government. Is this the right choice? Possibly, as the saying goes ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ so if we are to have a coalition government the fewer parties involved could be crucial in the decision making process. But the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats do have some major differences, so time will be the deciding factor.

The whole affair got me thinking about what I was witnessing, yes it is an unprecedented situation, but were there lessons to be learnt from a business perspective? When chatting with friends and watching the news reports I was struck by how, for the first few days, the media, the public and businesses were happy. We all understood that negotiations in forming a coalition government were important and they took time. However on the fourth day there was a noticeable shift. Suddenly there seemed to be a feeling of uncertainty and worry. There were instances of senior journalists getting frustrated with their interviewees, business leaders started to say a decision needed to be made quickly to ensure confidence and the general public were getting restless.

Why the sudden shift? Because of the sensitivity surrounding the negotiations there was a lack of information. This lack of information bred uncertainty and worry. Because we were being kept out of the loop we didn’t know what was going on and this resulted in a feeling of losing control.

There is need for a degree of secrecy over sensitive issues, but when it closely affects us all and we all have a personal interest in the outcome, this secrecy can not be allowed to go on too long. The same is true for business. If you think of the electorate as your team, the last thing you want is your team to feel like they are being kept in the dark for too long.

Major decisions need to be made quickly and confidently. They then need to be communicated clearly and openly. Information needs to be given to the team in a regular, frank and honest manner. Be it in politics or business, if you lose the confidence of your team it is very hard to regain it again. No one likes not ‘being in the know’ especially if the decisions being made will affect them directly.

So the need for closed door discussions are sometimes needed, but those doors cannot be kept closed for long, they need to be thrown open and a clear message needs to be given. If not those on the outside will grow wary and distrustful of those on the inside.

I end with a quote by Henry Boye, which after the last five days I think is quite apt: ‘The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people half way’

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