What Makes Us Tick – and Ticked Off: July Newsletter

Dear Valued Associate,

I went to the airport the other day not to fly but to get my Global Entry and TSA card renewed – that’s the thing that gets me in and out of the U.S. a little faster and usually lets me bypass the full cavity strip search. The Customs and Border Patrol agent who did the interview and I got to talking about what we each did for a living and he confided that he was four years short of retirement and couldn’t wait to get the hell out of the federal system. He was a twenty-year military officer before sliding into this job a while back and compared the difference between the pride and brother/sisterhood of military culture that he’d left, to the soul-sucking (his words) culture of the federal system that he was just trying to endure. In our experience working with federal, state and even some local government clients, he’s not alone and it’s more than just sad.

Besides helping agencies, companies and communities work through their differences, we coach organizations to think different; differently than the way most government has devolved in how they treat the public – and each other. It isn’t fast and it ain’t easy for some bureaucrats, but we know that this different way of thinking and the different approach that we coach simply works. Bureaucracy grows roots and embeds in almost all big institutions, and almost always to the detriment of real people who have to navigate and deal with it. The chickens are coming home to roost; people hate the system – and, sadly, also the mostly good, committed people who work in it. The vultures and thieves know how to exploit that hatred. It’s gotta be fixed and we better start now.

Stay curious,



We need to better understand what motivates people and the social psychology of mistrust, why they get mad, and what to do about it. The principles are actually applicable to all kinds of internal and outside people situations that you’ll find yourself in.


What Makes Us Tick – and Ticked Off

Most government public meetings and presentations are based on some official standing in the front of a room and delivering facts and data to a room full of people who can quickly become mind-numb. Setting the stage and telling stories with pictures and graphics makes all the difference. Don’t just tell ‘em, show ‘em.


Lessons from a Snickers Commercial

Most meetings and hearings are naturally scheduled evenings when more people are available, which makes perfect sense most of the time. Some time ago it was decided that most government organizations can’t spend taxpayer dollars on even basic refreshments for people who come to these meetings – the ubiquitous cookies and water. Meet the hangry public.

While we’re on the subject of meetings, even though this story focuses on business gatherings, it has a lot to offer to the principles of how to plan public events.


Humble Pie

Government agencies are supposed to be the epitome of how a society organizes and authorizes things to be done for the common good, which, although necessary, easily gets out of hand, intimidates constituents, sometimes feels very arrogant and really ticks people off. So one of the dozens of things that we discuss in our Outrage courses is the usefulness of humility in relearning to deal with the public.


People are good enough, they’re smart enough, and doggone it, you oughta like ‘em.

One of the behavior changes that we talk about is giving affirmation and respect to people. And no, I don’t mean pandering to bad behavior or bad ideas, but giving people some respect for the way they feel and even maybe some empathy for the fact that the system runs over people even unintentionally. This is another story specifically about internal business, but I’m sure you’ll get the picture.


The Fact of the Matter

There’s an old lawyer axiom that says, If you don’t have the law, argue the facts. If you don’t have the facts argue the law. If you don’t have the law or the facts, just argue. You’ve probably noticed that truth and facts are having a tough time these days. Pew research has data to help explain what’s going on.


The Recipe for Trust

Warren Buffet said, “Trust is like the air we breathe – when it’s present, nobody really notices; when it’s absent, everybody notices.” The components of trust are important to recognize: think authenticityrigorous logic and empathy.

Most of us don’t trust social media, but most of us still use it. Are we nuts?

The truth is that we’re not very good at judging who or what to trust. We tend to buy into people who sorta sound like they know what they’re talking about. That’s how con men and grifters have always succeeded, and probably always will. Our unconscious bias is at work.


Public Outrage, Involvement and Group Facilitation Training

Learn how and why agencies and municipalities succeed or fail in their dealings with the public and moving issues forward. The Participation Company (TPC) facilitates, consults, coaches and trains public and private sector people about their community conflicts and public engagement programs. Our job is helping you do yours.

Open 2018 IAP2 ‘Public Participation Foundations‘ (5-day) classes:

·       Lakewood, CO – July 23-25 (Planning only)

·       Minneapolis, MN – July 30-August 3

·       Boulder, CO – August 1-2 (Techniques only)

·       Chicago, IL – September 24-28

·       Asheville, NC – October 29-Nov 2

Open 2018 IAP2 ‘Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation’ (2-day) classes:

·       Chicago, IL – October 18-19

IAP2 courses from The Participation Company are eligible for Certification Maintenance (CM) credits through The American Planning Association (APA)’s professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

Click here to join us and watch for more IAP2 and other original TPC courses coming up. We also work with our public and private sector clients to customize in-house training, coaching and facilitation for their specific challenges.

You’ll also find more original ponderings from Debra Duerr, Wendy Lowe, Doug Sarno, me, and other very stable geniuses at our blog.