The government shutdown, which has closed national parks, disrupted disability benefits applications, and furloughed about 800,000 federal employees, stems from the fact that President Obama is a terrible schmoozer, according to management guru and former GE chief Jack Welch.
In an article written with his wife Suzy on LinkedIn today, Welch says leaders in business and politics must learn to schmooze early and often. And not just the “ho-ho-ho kind of social schmoozing you do with your customers and your team and your boss,” he says. More importantly, he believes leaders must learn to cozy up to their foes. He writes:
You have to schmooze with your known “adversaries” too, say, for instance, your union, or the group of employees who hate your new strategy and want the old one back. The resistors that exist in every organisation. The perennial naysayers. Smart and annoying. Them.
Because if you don’t schmooze with friend and foe alike as a leader, unpleasant or wildly inefficient as it may seem, one day a crisis will come and, without thriving relationships and ongoing dialogue, it will shut you down, be it in the grand corridors of Capitol Hill or over in the three cramped rooms you call headquarters.
Welch says he used this strategy at GE to ease tension with the unions, which plagued the company with strikes through the 1960s and ’70s. He built a better relationship over time, he says, through regular meetings with union leaders, transparency, and respect.
At the World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall in New York yesterday, Welch also made the point that while Republicans are primarily fielding blame for the shutdown, it is just as much Obama’s fault for not managing the relationship better.
“Both sides in Washington deserve a real punch in the nose based on the fact that there’s no relationship,” Welch said. “You’ve got to work with them and compromise. You can’t call the people you’ve got to negotiate with names in public! It’s a bad idea.”
While Welch didn’t seem that fazed by the shutdown, saying it had virtually no impact on the business world, he is concerned about future debates in Washington. “The next one on the debt ceiling is serious baseball,” he said. “I suggest that the Congress and the President have a different relationship.”
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