It's going to be an all-out media war as the election narrows down, and both sides are looking to inflame passion and anger. Being open about political views can be difficult for business leaders. You want to be true to your views and interests, but there is great fear about polarizing employees, business partners, and even clients if a contrary point of view is brought up.
Dirk Bak has plenty of expert experience to share walking the line between expressing passion and pushing dogmatic beliefs. Bak, a member of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), runs SDQ Janitorial, an employer of more than 475 employees in Minnesota. Bak is a social liberal who believes in moral agency and the right of people to choose for themselves. Yet Bak is also a fiscal conservative who feels that the government has gotten too big and needs to get back on track fiscally. A vocal Republican, Bak was Minnesota campaign chair for Mitt Romney in 2012. Despite his political activities, or because of them, Bak's business is flourishing.
Bak recognizes it may be hard to justify many of his strong beliefs to a varied group of employees and clients but has not been afraid of expressing his passion publicly. Bak has mastered the ability to maintain his business focus on neutrality while still being able to be true to his inherent beliefs.
Here are his tips on how to be honest politically without crippling your business.
1. Don't get emotional.
One of the truisms of successful business leaders is to keep emotional distance. Only objectivity allows you to accurately assess the dynamic and make appropriate adjustments. When combining business and politics, this still remains of vital importance, according to Bak. "Understand where and what your political hot buttons are. Stay away from that," he notes. "If you cannot stay away, Shut your mouth... If your emotions are flowing, you look and sound like an idiot".
2. Respect others' beliefs.
When people believe something passionately, they want others to feel the same way. Bak recommends that you avoid this pitfall to avoid unnecessary conflict. "When discussing views, understand you will not change the views of someone else nor will they change yours. Often these views are part of your ideological DNA," says Bak. "Seek to understand and seek to learn. Regardless, people are entitled to their beliefs and views."
3. Seek out common ground.
It might be hard to believe, but even Democrats and Republicans agree on some things, sometimes. If you are going to discuss politics openly, then seek out a way to connect with people on something you both agree on. Finding common political ground with certain employees or team members might be one way to build synergy or comfortability. "As you get to know people and how they think, you will develop an idea of where the common ground is," recommends Bak. "Start with that. Regardless of a divided house and senate, bills still get passed. There are plenty of examples of reaching across the aisle."
4. Enjoy the process.
When people think about political debate or discussion, particularly in a professional realm, they fear open hostility and building of tension. Bak recommends looking at these disagreements from a more entertaining light without looking for a battle. "As people get to know you, often they take pleasure in pushing your buttons. Classic examples are family members during the holidays. Facebook is another great place for that," says Bak. "Do not take offense. Play along with it."
5. Make sure you are situated in the right place.
"Red states are getting redder. Blue states are getting bluer. When all else fails and you cannot take it, the USA is a big place," notes Bak. If your current location does not match up with your political views, creating an uncomfortable situation for your business, then you should simply look for a city or state that is more aligned with your point-of-view.
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