I watched my Detroit Lions lose yesterday after another controversial last-second call by the refs. I expected Facebook this morning to be filled with Lions fans questioning the call and talking about how we got robbed once again by the refs (by the way, I think the ruling was correct, but I don’t like the rule or how it ended the game. That’s my stance.)
Instead all I found was post after post wondering who stood, who kneeled, who didn’t even show up for the National Anthem. After President Trump’s remarks in Alabama, this was the story crossing my newsfeed, with strong opinions on both sides of the issue. Everyone is taking a stand on this topic.
That raises an interesting point.
When is it okay as a business owner to take a political stand?
Some consultants will tell you NEVER. You cannot afford to alienate the 30% of the population that strongly identifies with the other party. They may be right. Sometimes it is best not to rock the boat or alienate anyone unnecessarily.
At the same time, however, you become more attractive to the 30% of the population that strongly identifies with your stance. There is something to be said for doing and saying things that solidify your relationship with your tribe.
The real issue, however, is that your customer tribe is yours because of your Core Values, not your political identity. My core values are Fun, Helpful, Educational, Nostalgic. It would be folly of me to believe that any one political party has a lock on any of those four values.
The only time you should take any type of political stance is when it is directly guided by one of your core values. When your stance is for (or against) something that has a profound impact on your core values, then your tribe will be standing arm in arm with you, regardless of party affiliation.
The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights grants you the right to free speech. It does not grant you the right to be free of all consequences. Taking stands earns points from those who agree with you and alienates those who disagree. When your stance is perfectly aligned and consistent with one of your core values, those whom you alienate will be people who likely did not share that value in the first place. Make sure you are okay with losing some people in the process before you step up to the mic.
PS Even when the stance lines up favorably, pick and choose those fights carefully. They take a lot of energy away from working on your business and can often backfire. The saddest thing to me about Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the National Anthem isn’t about respect or a lack thereof. It is that his actions haven’t had the effect he hoped of spurring a new round of discussion about racism and profiling. It has only fueled heated discourse on respect, entitlement, and patriotism.
PPS If you do find yourself taking a stand as a business or as a business leader, remember these three rules …
- Whenever possible, be positive. Rather than be against something, be for something else.
- Offer a solution. If you don’t like something, offer an alternative. Instead of looking like a whiner, you present yourself as an intelligent, thoughtful person who has given both sides of the issue a good, hard look and wants to see a positive outcome.
- Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” Sometimes you will end up on the wrong side of a fight. Better to apologize and move on than dig your heels deeper into the sand and make it worse. Admitting fault helps you win back those who were opposed.