I know I keep writing that this screed isn’t about politics but you have to admit that politics is front and center right now and will be for the next 5 weeks. Then, hopefully, it will go back to being somewhat innocuous, sort of like the really ugly thing your kid made that you have to display but, as my Italian friends say “non troppo” – not too much. Fortunately, the politics of late give us a number of business lessons (you knew I’d get there).
Tonight’s VP debate gives us the lesson of managing expectations. It’s been interesting how both sides are giving themselves little or no chance to “win” or even to put on a good show. Suddenly, the other side is some combination of both Lincoln and Douglas. There are 52,000 Google citations of “Biden is a great debater” and 62,000 of “Palin is a great debater”. Most of those seem to be of the other side praising their opponent. I think there’s a fine line between humility and sandbagging. Neither of these VP candidates got where they are with neither ego nor the ability to express themselves, despite both of their very public screw ups lately.
The lesson here is to realistically manage expectations and to do so in a believable manner. To walk into your boss’s/client’s office and say that you’ll try to close the deal but it will be luck if it happens makes YOU look like an idiot. If you are really that talentless and just a vessel through which luck manifests itself, who needs you? Lay out the facts and do your best to..well…do your best.
As always, it’s never how people deal with things when everything is going smoothly. It will be interesting to see how it all goes and how the spin is delivered post debate. Anyone think there will be any humility at that point? I don’t, and that’s as big an error as the one going in.