Why a Ten-Year-Old is Giving Advice to Congress

“Why do Congressmen say such mean things about each other?  We’re not allowed to act like that in class.

We have rules about respecting each other. Do you think something like that might help you?”

Colyne heads up the Hill to Congress

He was only 10 years old, but his question made several Congressmen squirm.

His name is Colyne.  He’s from Gwinnett County, Georgia.  He, his mother and his older brother were part of a group of private citizens who went to Washington DC with me to meet with several members of Congress.

We had one goal: Get Congress to establish best practices for civil discourse.

I’ve utilized best practices to stop turf wars in other organizations, and I can promise you, it works.

Getting a group of bickering leaders to agree to guidelines like, “We’re going to attack problems, not people,” provides you with a framework for holding people accountable.

People agree to the guidelines thinking that it will make the “other side” sha pe up.  But once they’ve agreed to them, they have to adhere to the same principles themselves.

It works in business, it works in a classroom, and we believe it could make a big difference in Congress.

Colyne’s teacher might not be a CEO or Congresswoman, but like any good leader, she clearly understands the value of establishing guidelines for the way people treat each other.

Here are the Class Rules Colyne shared with members of Congress:

Colyne's reaction as his mom tries to explain government
  • Don’t say bad things about each other.
  • Listen when the other people talk.
  • Don’t mess with other people’s stuff.

Can you imagine the look on a Congressman’s face when a 4th grader innocently asks, “Do you think rules like this might help you all stop fighting and get more work done?”

How can they possibly justify NOT following principles like that?

Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

It’s funny how when you decide to do the right thing, the Universe has a way of helping you along.

Colyne meeting with Senate Staff

Here’s the back story, Colyne came to Congress as the result of a sales meeting and a Facebook group.  His mother runs a sales team.  After I did a program for her group, she took home a copy of my conflict resolution book, The Triangle of Truth, where Colyne read it.

Around the same time, people started a Facebook group – The Book That Will Fix Congress- and they got Penguin to donate a copy for every member of the House and Senate.

When we decided to hand deliver the books, Colyne and his mother offered to come along. Newspapers ran stories about it. People started calling their Congressmen and Senators.  More people came forward – Republicans and Democrats – offering to pay their own expenses to DC, because they desperately want Congress to stop fighting and start solving problems.

The week before we leave, The Washington Post picked The Triangle of Truth as a Top 5 Book for Leaders. Suddenly we’re able to get appointments with several offices.

Changing the world can be lonely work - Colyne walking the halls of Congress

Colyne and team were so effective that the 16 Republican and Democratic Congressmen who represent Georgia agreed to call a meeting to discuss establishing best practices for civil discourse.

If a 10-year-old and a group of private citizens from Georgia can get leaders from both sides of the aisle to come together to talk about civility, who knows what might happen next?

UPDATE: Colyne and the team are headed back to DC in June, after he finishes the 4th grade.

Photos by  Yael Massey



Business strategist Lisa Earle McLeod is the President of McLeod & More, Inc. an international consulting firm that specializes in sales, leadership, and conflict resolution.  Her latest book The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small was named a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book for Leaders. Copyright 2011 Lisa Earle McLeod.  All rights reserved.