Diplomacy Training for Students
by Alan J Simpson
Washington, DC, April 11th, 2007 -- There is far too much emphasis on the technology and mechanism of international affairs and too little focus on the practical diplomacy, and the ability to "Close the Deal". My disdain for the legions of Etiquette Consultants who prey on the children of successful people with promises that by learning obsolete etiquette and protocol conventions they will rise to the heights of power is no secret. But there still needs to be a better understanding of the many cultures and situations an international executive, or diplomat will encounter, and the dynamics of domestic negotiations, and social networking.
Many new graduates are thrust into situations where they can make embarrassing mistakes, and come away empty handed. They need to learn a new set of protocol skills suitable for a rapidly changing world, a world driven by images, television, and the Internet.
It isn't enough to learn about etiquette at 1950's formal dinners, receptions and social gatherings of bored wives. Students need to learn a shifting business environment, a real time competitive intelligence environment, and about a world that has had enough of one version of etiquette and protocol being rammed down their throat. Nothing is more important than the position of women in this scenario. American liberal concepts may be Saudi Arabian criminal acts, and as the world becomes more and more pulled by religious extremism the correct etiquette can change in days, even hours.
It is important to understand the shifts in politics, and ethical demands on visitors, be they on business, or representing governments and NGO's. What is written in a book may be long out of date. What is taught by theoretical and remote Consultants may be dangerous if they have no practical knowledge. Emily Post didn't take into account the rise in Jihad and hatred of everything American.
In the 80+ countries I have visited little of the dangers were known in the USA and UK. Much was local in nature, and the Embassies rarely alerted business executives of the danger, especially if the country was supposed to be an Ally. Politicians are notorious for turning a blind eye to bad news and scenarios when they are "Inconvenient" to their policies or political doctrines.
Today more than ever the students need to learn more about the real world than the see in violent video games, biased TV news, and the skewed world around them. They need to master the techniques of television, and how to interface with the media, including photographers. Many large dinners and receptions are televised, again a dimension unknown to the formulators of many etiquette rules. Today there are once polite actions that are seen as vulgar, sexist and degrading. They are still taught as being the way to get ahead in polite society.
It doesn't really matter with the cloistered diplomatic and military world if they try and cling to life in the 1950's, or even the 1920's. It does matter if we create a labor force of frustrated, violent, argumentative individuals led by executives who can't Close a Deal. There is a limit to how much consumption a consumer society can absorb if it doesn't produce anything itself. The United States is living on credit, and consuming everything that the Asian world can send. This will eventually grind to a halt unless we can generate real income, and not just phantom profits from manipulation of stocks and bonds. The war in Iraq doesn't help either.
It is essential therefore that we arm the youth of today with every tool to create wealth, instead of giving them video games and the means to destroy life.
When we created the Center for Corporate Diplomacy we took many of the on-camera training programs used for politicians and corporate executives as part of the curriculum. Television is the most powerful medium ever invented for portraying good etiquette, and the most damaging if you make a fool of yourself. Television audiences love people to look stupid, but not if they do business with them. They don't like slick executives, and too "Flashy" dressers make them nervous.
When negotiating there are times when there is no compromise possible, and as the US Auto companies have found out, despite the Consultants encouraging meeting half way, that may eventually lead to tens of thousands of lost jobs and closed plants. Occasionally executives have to say NO! And despite what is taught, turning a vibrant business community into a Ghost Town isn't helped by nice buzz words, pizza parties, or handwritten thank you for your valuable service notes.
The chances are the young graduate will have to interface with modern India, China and Mexico. They need to understand their thinking. Their thinking of today, and plans for tomorrow, not how they were supposed to act in 1960. The Chinese have a highly developed intelligence network, and attend the best business schools to learn how Americans react, think and negotiate. They embrace Competitive Intelligence and know what buttons to press with each individual. Teaching our young executives how to color coordinate their clothes isn't really an effective defense.
I may appear to be going on a bit about lack of Diplomacy, but in the global marketplace it is so obvious, and the la la land training in Protocol and Business Etiquette is truly amazing. We better start bringing our young executives up to Corporate Warp Speed in order to earn enough to pay for our Retirement, Medicare and Social Security. For if the Dollar plunges and we can't trade our way out of the resulting Depression then learning how to send the Hostess a nice handwritten thank you note won't be much help. And with bullets flying around our streets and schools, it's hardly a comfort to know who should go first as we rush for the exits.
Corporate Diplomacy Training for Students, what a great idea.