Financial and human resources will continue to be at a premium in the foreseeable future. Therefore the executive leader needs to use all available resources to meet the organization’s mission. Building coalitions with other organizations and utilizing effective communications are necessary competencies during these economically lean times.
The Federal SES (Senior Executive Services) guidelines define coalition building as the ability to influence and negotiate. Influence and negotiation requires a person who has the ability to persuade others and to build consensus; to establish cooperation from others to accomplish desired goals and to facilitate “win-win” situations (January, 1998). This definition embraces several of Covey’s principles, such as, “begin with the end in mind,” “think win-win” and “seek first to understand then be understood.” Simply put, the leader must envision what he or she wants out of a mutual agreement and that the desired outcome will result a win-win resolution. A successful outcome can only happen if the executives “seek first to understand.” This will require the executive leaders to genuinely listen to each other and to instinctually know that if genuinely listened to they will have the opportunity “to be understood.” If these competencies are genuinely practiced, more often than not, the negotiating executives will facilitate collaborations and form partnerships that align with each executive organization’s mission and bottom line.
Another competency necessary for building coalitions and moving an agenda forward is “political savvy.” This will require executive awareness of “politics” both in the executive’s organization and in the community at large. In other words, the executive must approach each problem situation with a keen understanding of the politics in his or her organization as well as the political reality of the community at large. Political savvy requires sensitivity to timing. No matter that something is the right thing to do, it must not be hurried; there is a right moment for implementation. It is my impression that President Obama is doing this with “the don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as it relates to gays serving in the military. Although the president intends to change the current policy; he has not yet acted. I believe the president will fulfill his promise, but he is waiting for the right time. Just like the president, all executives must be able “to identify the internal and external politics that impact the work of the organization….approach each problem situation with a clear perception of organizational and political reality…and recognize the impact of alternative courses of action” (Guide to SES Qualifications, p. 36, January, 1998).
Although rarely mentioned as a tool for effective coalition building, marketing and promoting of the organization’s services is invaluable. Many governmental and nonprofit organizations often see this as an unnecessary waste of limited resources because the people they serve will come anyway. However, I have learned that marketing and promoting are keys to building coalitions. When other organizational leaders are aware of your organization’s accomplishments they will want to be part of the success. In my experience, marketing and promoting your organizational services builds influence, collaboration and resources. Often, the resource gained comes in the form cash money because the community is excited to contribute to your organization’s mission, but more importantly to your organization’s success.
The second competency to discuss is effective communication. Without good communication skills, both oral and written an executive will have a difficult time articulating the needs of the organization and the wonderful things it does for its customer and the community. The executive must be aware of his or her communication strengths:
- are you better and more persuasive as a public speaker, or
- are you more persuasive with the pen?
Regardless of the communication format, the executive must be comfortable and use personal style to his or her advantage. Communication, especially written communication, must be convincing, well organized and expressed in a clear concise manner. Effective oral communication will require the speaker to facilitate dialogue, to be an effective listener, to come across as genuine and to clearly articulate and to clarify information.
To be effective and successful the executive must be an effective communicator and have the willingness and the competency to build coalitions. The executive cannot do this alone. It is imperative that the leaders’ lieutenants are also skilled communicators and competent at collaborating and coalition building. As I said at the beginning of this post; collaboration with others in this economy may be the only way an organization can survive and thus, the organization leadership team must do their part.