Diplomacy … A Business Imperative!

I think that diplomacy is one of the most important qualities in a business person. Not only should we recognise we have it and that it’s a necessary business attribute, but that we will need to use it on a regular basis.

An honest approach is always a safe approach. At least if we know where we are with someone or a business, then neither party is wasting time and money on ‘nice’ polite conversations or pretentious relationships that we really don’t value. Usually such relationships give nothing back and only soak up a lot of resources and generate unnecessary pressures. Diplomacy used to no effect is probably dishonest!

In my opinion a great client is someone who was kind enough to trust me to do something for them in exchange for some of their money. I was thinking about this social aspect of a business relationship… how much people must trust you personally, if they trust you with their money. No need for diplomacy here, ‘trust’ does the job.

We do a lot of transactions every day which are, on the one hand, purely business and part of our economy, but on the other, there’s a social aspect to every transaction because it’s a recognition of professionalism, trust and respect from another human being who happens to be a client.

We all loose a client from time-to-time, at least I hope I’m not the only one who occasionally has to give way to a competitor. But I’m sure we’d be unlikely to find a business person who would deliberately upset a client and tell them ‘you will no longer be receiving my goods or services’. Special circumstances do exist where that might happen, but it’s not diplomatic and is likely to spoil a possible future relationship.

Mind you, it seems that telling a business partner something like that is a luxury that sometimes politicians give themselves, at our expense!
For example, in this issue we decided to run a cover-story on the long-suffering but still great and strong Australian Meat Industry.

Diplomacy didn’t seem to be an option when left-wing journos turned a couple of minutes-worth of footage into a disaster for the whole cattle economy and thousands of Australian families; families who had been growing cattle for years to sell to Indonesia. The whole industry, people’s lives and businesses were in ruins after this footage went to air on Australian TV as thousands of Australian animals were stopped from being shipped overseas.

Animal cruelty at abattoirs in Indonesia was the reason for this. Which certainly is a problem, no question. But instead of resolving the issue and going ahead with the sale of cattle, the resolution seemed unbelievably simple for those who overnight, managed to stir up a shrill public voice yelling ‘no’ meant an ‘absolute no’ – so stop the ships! Nobody wants animals to be cruelly treated, but was this an acceptable outcome for others?

In my view, and I don’t belong to a family of cattle growers, it was painful to think about something like this happening to any business. As a consequence of public opinion and the government knee-jerk reaction, we later heard from the media that in the midst of the fuss, animals in transit had started starving to death, because farmers didn’t have any resources to feed them. Some simply shot their cattle as they couldn’t see them suffer.

Here’s another one … not so long ago, Tony Abbott, who generally I respect, told Mr Putin to ‘back off’. Was it a direct ‘order’ from our ‘diplomatic’ friends in Washington DC? or another silly attempt by our PM to show how important and not very smart we are when it comes to Australian foreign policy responses?

The result of that ill-considered comment was that Australia immediately lost a multi-million dollar deal supplying meat to Russia. This was simply due to a complete lack of understanding by our PM’s advisers about the history of mankind and the history of Russia and Ukraine in particular. Spare a thought for the cattle businesses that copped a direct hit from that one remark! That situation could have been so different had a bit of thoughtful diplomacy been applied.

Government advisers should do their homework instead of thoughtlessly reacting to whatever media sensationalists enjoy throwing at them. Stupidity and failure to think through the consequences does start wars, it does cripple businesses, it ruins whole economies and kills otherwise good healthy people.

One well-known rule in business says: ‘If you’re not good enough and can’t do something yourself, then hire someone who can.’ My personal extension to this is: …’or just keep it quiet and go get a proper job.’ (Think carefully if the job ad is looking for a diplomat!)

Have a great day. Take care of yourselves and your clients.

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