Leadership Institute – We the People, Part II – Civility in Government

Following up on the prior Leadership post, the We the People seminar’s afternoon panel was very interesting. Recall that we had Chief Justice (CJ) Recktenwald, Senator Sam Slom, and former Deputy Chief of Staff, Andrew Aoki with Kirk Caldwell moderating. I have to admit being a political junkie that I found it interesting having Senator Sam Slom and Andrew Aoki there, as I did not know what to expect. I definitely think that Senator Slom presented the best case for civility (and humor) in government and of course why shouldn’t he? He has the honor of being the lone Republican in the Hawaii Senate, and on the national level is the only one in such a position.

The civility in government subject, with the panelists present, turned on what civility meant in the judiciary, politics/executive, and legislative branches. What follows are some of the quotes that I took with me from that afternoon and my thoughts.

Judiciary

“Lack of civility increases the cost of litigation.” From CJ, and I definitely think he is right because civility means that the modes of communication remain open, as soon as they break down the barriers go up, which we all know from a purely market system causes things to be more expensive.

He followed that quote with, “Lack of civility undermines, fundamentally, the judicial system.” The basic rationale is that citizens watch their attorneys behaving badly and if that is the case what does that say about the system as a whole?

Politics/Executive

Echoing CJ’s tone, Andrew Aoki agreed that in politics that the lack of civility creates a barrier to access politics. Basically, that it turns people off from participating in the process. I think especially here in Hawaii that is the case, we found in the Hanabusa-Djou race, as mainland money poured in, the tone of the message became nasty (by Hawaii standards) and a lot of people felt that did not have to be the case.

Finally, Andrew felt that it is “Easier to run on fear, then hope.” I think that his blanket statement sounds nice, but I found that it sometimes too easy to fall back on. I think with times being very tough it is always easy to want to give people hope, but the reality sometimes is some of the people’s fears are legitimate and credible. The problem is from a top-down perspective you have to weed out all the noise of what is fear-mongering and what needs be addressed. Once again it boils down to communication.

Andrew felt that there was more civility than not here in Hawaii. In fact, that someone managing here needs to deal with passive-aggressive nature tendencies and that you need to learn how to cooperate and be agreeable.

Legislative

Finally, Senator Sam Slom felt that civility is a part of your ethics. He felt that in recent times we have created all these educational programs on corporate, government, medical, etc . . . ethics, but really there is just ethics. It comes down to your core.

Finally, in the legislative arena, lack of civility leads to escalation and tension-building. It was definitely evident you have thread that balance of sticking to your opinion and focus on the issues, but do not burn bridges. He also emphasized respect the people you serve.

I will leave off with he said something that I think applies to anyone trying to deal with people and gain their trust and buy-in:

Do not over promise, but over deliver.

See you next time for the Write-Up on Corporate Hawaii!