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Why Should You Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer?

  The biggest January surprise was that this blog from November 2012 was, by a large margin, the most heavily trafficked blog of 2013. That’s based on my own personal website–I also post regularly on humancapitalleague, HRblognotions and Talentzoo. But this finding resulted in a number of personal conversations as well as some rethinking of my reading audience and their needs. Two things came to mind over the past few weeks. When I was seminary faculty, the initial assignment I gave my first year grad students was to write a half-page on each of their best friends, explaining what they liked about them. I’d go over the papers, send them back and ask them what having these friends says about their own character, values and objectives. Inevitably, they pointed out the similarities between their friends and themselves. There’s plenty of research suggesting that we tend to live in homogeneous neighborhoods and that’s merely a reflection of what my students’ assignment also revealed.But if I were teaching today, I’d add a second assignment in that basic class on the ministry. I’d ask them to write a half-page on the three acquaintances that they like least, explaining what about them they didn’t like and why…
My objective would be to facilitate the understanding for these ministerial students that there will always be a number of parishioners they’d dislike and they’d better learn to work with them. Or, as one of my more articulate senior students once asked in a class on conflict (“Church Fights 101”), “how do I deal with the SOB’s in my congregation?”
A second thing that has surfaced recently is a deeper knowledge of what Machiavelli was attempting to do in his masterwork, “The Prince.” Rather than teaching officials how to screw the people that got in their way, The Prince aims to teach the art of government regardless of where or when they live. These maxims add up to what became known centuries later as realpolitik. What remains unique about The Prince is the writer’s understanding that since humans are inherently incompatible, usefulness (practicality) is the only objective reality. And although Christians inveighed against Machiavelli for centuries, I’d remind today’s readers that on occasion Jesus promulgated a not too dissimilar maxim: “The children of this world are in this generation wiser than the children of light.” Luke-Acts, which brings this quote forward, indicates that believers are emphatically not blind to Christian problems with Rome (or whomever), but those are to be solved by negotiation with and not negation of the Pax Romana (government).- – – – – – Why Should You Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer?It wasn’t the Godfather’s Michael Corleone who first uttered this well-known dictum. Actually, it came from Machiavelli in “The Prince,” the definitive primer for how to be a dictator. You’d think that with my easy-going optimism, I’d never write a blog on this subject.  But, au contraire!As a manager or leader it is inevitable that we’ll want to add to our knowledge base, try to sell ideas, get people on board and even change the direction of our organization. One of the involved persons just might be your enemy. That’s my basic rationale for acting on Machiavelli’s instinct.In the business setting, I refer to “enemy” as a person you have to interact with, someone who’s competing for your resources, who doesn’t follow through on his commitments, whom you don’t trust, with whom the “chemistry” isn’t there, or who disagrees with your perspective from the ground up. These are also people whom you’ll need in order to get your own personal and organizational objectives met. As both a manager and a consultant, I’ve found a number of people who fit in that same box. In short, I’ve found Machiavelli very useful for my own success.But there are a number of exceedingly important reasons for keeping your enemies close:1.    You can learn a lot from people you dislike. Indeed, my best learning doesn’t always come from friends. Often it’s from opponents, adversaries or fence-sitters. They bring a different worldview, perspective and/or ideas on a subject of common interest. There are plenty of times when such a person can help to better my thinking and position on an issue.2.    You have to keep your enemies close to understand their perspective and interests. One of the persuasion strategies I learned from Bill Howell years ago was the importance of creating a highly representative “panel” of usually about six people who would represent the diversity of commitments or opinions on an issue. If I could frame my proposal in such a way to satisfy the self-interests of each of those six, I was well on the way toward success. That demand, of course, meant that each person had to be close enough to me to be well understood. Truthfully, I usually understood my enemies better than my friends.3.    When your enemies are close, it’s easier for your allies to work with you. Allies are often the least helpful in analyzing your ideas. Furthermore, your allies may have just as much difficulty with your enemy as you, and that’s part of the reason you’re friends. But your allies will respect you and find it easier to work with you if they know you really understand the lay of the land–and how to appeal to your enemy’s self-interest.Determining the motives of your enemy involves a significant amount of guesswork. One of the best ways to get to know that person is to listen to how he goes about persuading others. People want the world to be congruous with their expectations and in line with their predictions. So when they attempt to persuade others, they use tactics that would be persuasive to them. Observe them, listen to them and analyze what they say and how they say it. From that you can often figure out their interests and their values.4.      Finally, it needs to be said that you can’t keep your enemy close to you unless you know how to disagree agreeably, understand and share at least some of your enemy’s interests or values, are sometimes transparent with your differences and are willing to interact with that person in a social situation. In such settings it’s important to find out what that person wants that you can give them. Secondly, it’s just as important to figure out the resources you have to offer them in order that they’ll give you what you want. Don’t forget that some of the resources each of us has are information and contacts.In sum, if you dig deep enough, there are always a few interests and values you share with your enemies. Most of us like to talk about our differences, but in reality we are all far more alike than different. Inherently also, that means that you know how to really converse. But this also implies that you can listen and observe as though that person is the only other person on the planet. Machiavelli is front lobe stuff: keep your friends close and your enemies closer.Flickr photo: ischoold
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  Godfather
The biggest January surprise was that this blog from November 2012 was, by a large margin, the most heavily trafficked blog of 2013. That’s based on my own personal website–I also post regularly on HRblognotions and Talentzoo. But this finding resulted in a number of personal conversations as well as some rethinking of my reading audience and their needs. 

Two things came to mind over the past few weeks. When I was seminary faculty, the initial assignment I gave my first year grad students was to write a half-page on each of their best friends, explaining what they liked about them. I’d go over the papers, send them back and ask them what having these friends says about their own character, values and objectives. Inevitably, they pointed out the similarities between their friends and themselves. There’s plenty of research suggesting that we tend to live in homogeneous neighborhoods and that’s merely a reflection of what my students’ assignment also revealed.

But if I were teaching today, I’d add a second assignment in that basic class on the ministry. I’d ask them to write a half-page on the three acquaintances that they like least, explaining what about them they didn’t like and why. My objective would be to facilitate the understanding for these ministerial students that there will always be a number of parishioners they’d dislike and they’d better learn to work with them. Or, as one of my more articulate senior students once asked in a class on conflict (“Church Fights 101”), “how do I deal with the SOB’s in my congregation?”

A second thing that has surfaced recently is a deeper knowledge of what Machiavelli was attempting to do in his masterwork, “The Prince.” Rather than teaching officials how to screw the people that got in their way, The Prince aims to teach the art of government regardless of where or when they live. These maxims add up to what became known centuries later as realpolitik. What remains unique about The Prince is the writer’s understanding that since humans are inherently incompatible, usefulness (practicality) is the only objective reality. And although Christians inveighed against Machiavelli for centuries, I’d remind today’s readers that on occasion Jesus promulgated a not too dissimilar maxim: “The children of this world are in this generation wiser than the children of light.” Luke-Acts, which brings this quote forward, indicates that believers are emphatically not blind to Christian problems with Rome (or whomever), but those are to be solved by negotiation with and not negation of the Pax Romana (government).

– – – – – – 

Why Should You Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer?

It wasn’t the Godfather’s Michael Corleone who first uttered this well-known dictum. Actually, it came from Machiavelli in “The Prince,” the definitive primer for how to be a dictator. You’d think that with my easy-going optimism, I’d never write a blog on this subject.  But, au contraire!

As a manager or leader it is inevitable that we’ll want to add to our knowledge base, try to sell ideas, get people on board and even change the direction of our organization. One of the involved persons just might be your enemy. That’s my basic rationale for acting on Machiavelli’s instinct.

In the business setting, I refer to “enemy” as a person you have to interact with, someone who’s competing for your resources, who doesn’t follow through on his commitments, whom you don’t trust, with whom the “chemistry” isn’t there, or who disagrees with your perspective from the ground up. These are also people whom you’ll need in order to get your own personal and organizational objectives met. As both a manager and a consultant, I’ve found a number of people who fit in that same box. In short, I’ve found Machiavelli very useful for my own success.

But there are a number of exceedingly important reasons for keeping your enemies close:

1.    You can learn a lot from people you dislike. Indeed, my best learning doesn’t always come from friends. Often it’s from opponents, adversaries or fence-sitters. They bring a different worldview, perspective and/or ideas on a subject of common interest. There are plenty of times when such a person can help to better my thinking and position on an issue.

2.    You have to keep your enemies close to understand their perspective and interests. One of the persuasion strategies I learned from Bill Howell years ago was the importance of creating a highly representative “panel” of usually about six people who would represent the diversity of commitments or opinions on an issue. If I could frame my proposal in such a way to satisfy the self-interests of each of those six, I was well on the way toward success. That demand, of course, meant that each person had to be close enough to me to be well understood. Truthfully, I usually understood my enemies better than my friends.

3.    When your enemies are close, it’s easier for your allies to work with you. Allies are often the least helpful in analyzing your ideas. Furthermore, your allies may have just as much difficulty with your enemy as you, and that’s part of the reason you’re friends. But your allies will respect you and find it easier to work with you if they know you really understand the lay of the land–and how to appeal to your enemy’s self-interest.

Determining the motives of your enemy involves a significant amount of guesswork. One of the best ways to get to know that person is to listen to how he goes about persuading others. People want the world to be congruous with their expectations and in line with their predictions. So when they attempt to persuade others, they use tactics that would be persuasive to them. Observe them, listen to them and analyze what they say and how they say it. From that you can often figure out their interests and their values.

4.      Finally, it needs to be said that you can’t keep your enemy close to you unless you know how to disagree agreeably, understand and share at least some of your enemy’s interests or values, are sometimes transparent with your differences and are willing to interact with that person in a social situation. In such settings it’s important to find out what that person wants that you can give them. Secondly, it’s just as important to figure out the resources you have to offer them in order that they’ll give you what you want. Don’t forget that some of the resources each of us has are information and contacts.

In sum, if you dig deep enough, there are always a few interests and values you share with your enemies. Most of us like to talk about our differences, but in reality we are all far more alike than different. Inherently also, that means that you know how to really converse. But this also implies that you can listen and observe as though that person is the only other person on the planet. Machiavelli is front lobe stuff: keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Flickr photo: ischoold

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Leave a reply

It wasn’t the
Godfather’s Michael Corleone who first uttered this well-known dictum.
Actually, it came from Machiavelli
in “The Prince,” the definitive primer for how to be a
dictator. You’d think that with my easy-going optimism, I’d never write a blog
on this subject.  But, au contraire!As a manager or leader it is inevitable that we’ll want
to add to our knowledge base, try to sell ideas, get people on board and even
change the direction of our organization. One of the involved persons just
might be your enemy. That’s my basic rationale for acting on Machiavelli’s
instinct.In the business setting, I refer to “enemy” as a person
you have to interact with, someone who’s competing for your resources, who
doesn’t follow through on his commitments, whom you don’t trust, with whom the “chemistry”
isn’t there, or who disagrees with your perspective from the ground up. These
are also people whom you’ll need in order to get your own personal and
organizational objectives met. As both a manager and a consultant, I’ve found a
number of people who fit in that same box. In short, I’ve found Machiavelli
very useful for my own success.But there are a number of exceedingly important reasons for
keeping your enemies close:1.    You can
learn a lot from people you dislike. Indeed, my best learning doesn’t
always come from friends. Often it’s from opponents, adversaries or
fence-sitters. They bring a different worldview, perspective and/or ideas on a
subject of common interest. There are plenty of times when such a person can
help to better my thinking and position on an issue.2.    You have
to keep your enemies close to understand their perspective and interests. One of
the persuasion strategies I learned from Bill Howell years ago was the
importance of creating a highly representative “panel” of usually about six
people who would represent the diversity of commitments or opinions on an
issue. If I could frame my proposal in such a way to satisfy the self-interests
of each of those six, I was well on the way toward success. That demand, of
course, meant that each person had to be close enough to me to be well
understood. Truthfully, I usually understood my enemies better than my friends.3.    When your
enemies are close, it’s easier for your allies to work with you. Allies are
often the least helpful in analyzing your ideas. Furthermore, your allies may
have just as much difficulty with your enemy as you, and that’s part of the
reason you’re friends. But your allies will respect you and find it easier to
work with you if they know you really understand the lay of the land–and how
to appeal to your enemy’s self-interest.Determining the motives of your enemy involves a
significant amount of guesswork. One of the best ways to get to know that
person is to listen to how he goes about persuading others. People want the
world to be congruous with their expectations and in line with their
predictions. So when they attempt to persuade others, they use tactics that
would be persuasive to them. Observe them, listen to them and analyze what they
say and how they say it. From that you can often figure out their interests and
their values.Finally, it needs to be said that you can’t keep your
enemy close to you unless you know how to disagree agreeably, understand and
share at least some of your enemy’s interests or values, are sometimes
transparent with your differences and are willing to interact with that person
in a social situation. In such settings it’s important to find out what that
person wants that you can give them. Secondly, it’s just as important to figure
out the resources you have to offer them in order that they’ll give you what
you want. Don’t forget that some of the resources each of us has are
information and contacts.In sum, if you dig deep enough, there are always a few
interests and values you share with your enemies. Most of us like to talk about
our differences, but in reality we are all far more alike than different. Inherently
also, that means that you know how to really converse. But this also implies that
you can listen and observe as though that person is the only other person on
the planet. Machiavelli is front lobe stuff: keep your friends close and your
enemies closer.Flickr photo: unriobravo
Link to original post

0 Comments

Leave a reply

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