To avoid a worst-case financial scenario and rebuild the nation's faith in government, committee members will have to do something almost unheard of in the current political climate of extreme partisanship: achieve consensus.
As a Marine, I learned the value of teamwork and decisiveness in making difficult decisions. As a business adviser, I've seen corporate leaders and boards of directors make similar tough decisions in dire situations that require compromise, consistency, and consensus. For the committee, and all of us, it's time to leave polarized positions behind and do the really hard work of rebuilding a country by rebuilding consensus. Here's a way forward:
Resist the Win or Lose Mindset. Collaboration among rivals is an unnatural act. The instinct is to win at all costs. The committee must understand that neither side in the budget debate will walk away with everything it wants. The panel must find alternatives that make each side feel as if its goals and interests are protected.
Focus on the Big Picture. If every move was questioned, every plan second-guessed, nothing would be accomplished. Top performing companies know this, too. The best leaders are able to distinguish between major defining concepts and minor disagreements. The committee must balance smaller political goals against the nation's bigger budget and economic needs.
Find the Second Great Idea. Politicians, like business leaders, survive on bold visions and strong ideas. Once they find a great one, it's hard to let go. But the best leaders are able to look beyond Plan A. Agile strategists are able to also see the merits of Plan B or C. If the ultimate goal for the committee is a definitive plan, its members may have to leave the original ideas that got them elected and move on to the next best plan.
Listen. Speak. Repeat. Feedback is vital to success. Sometimes listening first to other perspectives, even when you disagree, can generate significant results. Not all business leaders actively listen. It requires more than hearing the words of others, but understanding the motivations behind the words. Therein lays the framework for group agreement.
Finding common ground in a sea of uncertainty is a prized skill. For the super-committee, there is no more important task. In this case, being a superman will involve the most difficult super power - the power to reach a consensus.
Bob Ciaruffoli is CEO of ParenteBeard, a Philadelphia-headquartered CPA and business advisory firm.