Chris Westfall

By Chris Westfall

Politics, Obstruction and REAL Leadership

Politics, Obstruction and REAL Leadership 150 150 Chris Westfall

Doesn’t it seem like our political leaders specialize in obstruction, when that might just be the last thing anyone really needs?

Street SceneNo matter which side of the aisle you’re on, it seems that stopping things is the main focus of our representatives in Washington these days. Look, I’m not a political guy, but when it comes to leadership, shutting down the dialogue is the last thing you need. Seems to me that there’s a real misunderstanding going on.

Changing the conversation is about helping people to get to “yes”, not the opposite. Obstructing others from getting what they want might classify as political leadership – but, in business, those kinds of politics can kill your career.

Look for openings, not obstruction, if you want to create new results.

As Sam Shepard said to his friend, rockstar Patti Smith:

“When you hit a wall, kick it down.” – Sam Shepard, Author, Playwright and Actor

What would happen if you helped people to find doors, instead of blocking them with walls?

As you go through the week, take time to consider the folks that matter most to you: your stakeholders, your team and your customers.

What would change for you if you started to look at everyone around you … as your client?

What happens if the people around you became your clients as well? In my new book, Leadership Language, I talk about the value in seeing the people around you as clients – seeing that the service you provide is the key to the impact you create. It’s easy to see that your customers are those you serve – after all, that’s why they call it ‘customer service’.


I talked about how to create greater influence for your internal clients, in my latest article on Forbes – check it out right here: “How to Get Buy-In for Your Ideas”.


Common Ground, Uncommon Results

The idea of internal customers (or clients) is nothing new. But focusing on how you can help people to get where they want to go – instead of shutting them down – can be a powerful place for your attention.

If you find yourself being frustrated by other people, and other agendas, here are some useful questions that can make a difference:

  • What would have to change, outside of the people involved, for this situation to improve?
  • What assumptions are you making, about the people and processes involved, that are leading to your frustration?

When it’s time for a difficult conversation, ask yourself: what is the focus that’s going to be most useful? Is obstruction really the answer?

Then, get out of the “he said-she said” mode. Focus your team (and your client) on that thing that matters most.

Leadership Language Cover Mock-up

Coming from Wiley – Fall 2018

I’m not suggesting that you turn into Santa Claus, or start granting wishes. Sometimes what people want and what can realistically be delivered are two different things. That’s when you’ve got to ask yourself, “What’s this conversation really about?”

And, as a follow up: What does this conversation need to be about? Maybe the dialogue needs to be shut down. Incorrect initiatives must be stopped. A new beginning often starts with a fresh ending.

But understand where that decision is really coming from.

Is obstruction the kind of impact that you want to create?

Obstructing the Possibilities

Block the shot. Or take the shot. The choice is yours. (Decisions like that are why you’re in the C-Suite).  But why you choose your shot is what matters.

Can you influence your team and the clients that matter most to you, by obstruction? What good comes from the absence of dialogue? What’s the real impact of shutting down the conversation?

There’s no need for a vote; new solutions don’t come from obstruction. Open up the conversation, if you want to discover new results.

Look in the direction of ‘yes’ – and guide your clients to the solution that fits, for everyone involved. Take time to look at your assumptions. In my experience, you will discover what changes when those assumptions aren’t written in stone. Because trying to block someone isn’t the best way to lead them to a new solution.

About the Author

Chris Westfall is the publisher of seven books, recognized as the US NATIONAL ELEVATOR PITCH CHAMPION. A keynote speaker to Fortune 100 companies and high-growth businesses across multiple sectors, he provides performance coaching for leaders and their teams. He’s appeared on CNN, ABC NEWS, NBC TV, and in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Fortune and many other media publications. Find out more on his website and follow him on twitter.

Share This