Tag Archives: barack obama

You’re Naked

One of the things that can kill you in business is believing your own BS. As a former salesperson (we are really ever NOT salespeople?), that’s hard to admit, but let me explain what I mean. Let’s look at our products and services first and then let’s take a look at ourselves.

I know what I’m good at and what services I can provide. I also know my limitations. When I speak with potential clients, I’m very upfront about both of those things. It’s about setting expectations and not overpromising. If someone needs help, for example, with art, I’m not your guy. If they want help understanding UX, however, I can help. Need basic SEO work? I can do it. Need a lot of backend coding? Not from me, you don’t.

If you sell anything, it has limitations. Failing to acknowledge them leads to underdelivery and that leads to failure. If you can’t recognize and admit where the boundaries are, you’ve got a problem.

The same principle holds for us as managers. The higher up we go, the more we have people around us who are unwilling to criticize or challenge us. While our responsibility gets larger, our circles get smaller. In some cases, a leader makes it a point to eliminate anyone who contradicts their own view of themselves. I always felt this was inversely proportionate to the executive’s strength as a leader. I’ve worked for bosses who welcomed challenges to their opinions and for some who wouldn’t tolerate and dissent. Needless to say, the staff would kill for the former and abandoned the latter as soon as they got a chance.

I read this about former President Obama and his interactions with an unnamed musical artist on the basketball court:

When asked what he could learn about someone from playing basketball with him, Obama talked about self-awareness—singling out “a singer, a musical artist” whom he once played a pick-up game with, someone who was “ballin’” and came “with an entourage,” but utterly sucked on the court. “His shot was broke… he had no self-awareness and thought he was good,” Obama said. “He surrounded himself with people who told him he was good, even though he’s terrible.”

That’s my point exactly. We need people to tell us our shot stinks and that we’re naked, just like the little girl in The Emporer’s New Clothes. It makes us better managers and if we accept the feedback about our products or services, better salespeople. Who doesn’t want that?

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Debating Leadership

Like a lot of other people, I watched the presidential debate last week and I’m very much looking forward to the remaining few.  As you know we don’t do politics here but I think it’s safe to say that President Obama probably didn’t do very well in making his case.  The primary critique seems to have been that he didn’t aggressively push out his point of view and he didn’t state factual errors forcefully enough when his opponent made them.  Some on the left complain that this has been his problem for the last few years – all of the accomplishments for which the administration takes pride haven’t been promoted well enough, or at least loudly enough to drown out the criticism.  I, of course, took away a couple of business points which I’d like to share.

First, history shows that most incumbent presidents lose the first debate.  I suspect it has something to do with the office.  I don’t recall hearing of many meetings with any President in which people tell him he’s wrong and argue against what he wants to do.  After a few years of no one getting in your face, it must be a shock when someone does.

I’ve seen that in business too.  Some top folks do encourage honest, open debate from their staff but I’ve been around many who don’t.  “My way or the highway” seems to be the order of the day.  Real leaders like debate. What I think is ideal is a sort of benevolent monarchy in which the head person will make the call but will do so only after fact-finding and honest debate with an open mind .

Second, it’s nice to do anonymous good acts.  However, when your ability to stay in business depends on the good will of your customers (which is what an election is about), you need to make sure that everything you do is publicized loudly and amplified by those for whom the good work was done.  Letting people know what you’ve accomplished isn’t bragging – it’s a critical part of staying in business or employed.  If you’re in charge of a department, you need to let the higher-ups know of your group’s good work.  If you run a business, your customers should know how you’re helping them as well as others.  If you have a job, letting the boss know you’re helping the team is important even if it’s obvious.  Of course there’s an obnoxious way to do so as well as an acceptable way but that’s another post.

Did you watch?  Does this make sense?

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Debating The Second Screen

Tonight is the first of several debates in the current campaign for president and I’m very much looking forward to it. These things are great theater even if they’re usually not particularly informative. I liken them to trade shows – no one ever makes any huge news at them unless they make a mistake. The big stuff is saved for an event one can completely orchestrate and the debates (or trade shows) don’t qualify.

I think, however, that these events might be a bit different this time around and it has nothing to do with the candidates themselves. They will not answer the question asked but instead will put out whatever talking point tested well. They generally won’t get too specific about anything and they’ll probably spend more time on things that have very little to do with solving the challenges that face the country and more to do with the loud nonsense that seems to surround our elections. One thing will be very different, however, and that may make all the difference.

85 percent of tablet owners use the device while watching TV, according to one study and Nielsen says 45 percent of Americans use their tablet while watching TV daily.  Throw in smartphone use and suddenly there is a majority of people conversing and fact-checking in real time during the debates.  In addition, one hopes that there will be sentiment analysis pushed out by the major firms in that field as we go.  I wonder if either campaign is smart enough to be monitoring that during the debate and if either candidate will be told to adjust anything during a break? It’s sort of the digital version of the positive/negative lines CNN usually runs based on a panel twisting dials.

Lincoln knew you can’t fool all of the people all of the time and given that there will be real-time fact checking happening concurrently tonight, I don’t think these guys will even be able to fool all of the people some of the time.  Another example of how technology has changed media and politics for the better?  I think so.  What do you think?

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Filed under Thinking Aloud, What's Going On

Election Day

An image of the American Flag as hung vertically

I love Election Day, mostly because the incessant political ads stop hitting every screen I have, my snail-mail box, my telephone, and the radio. Hopefully these folks will clear the roadways of their campaign detritus as well.
Of course, I love it for other reasons tool, mostly the big one – the right to vote is the single biggest freedom we have – if we can’t vote, all of the other freedoms are imperiled.  Hopefully you’ve exercised that right and no complaining about results or policy if you haven’t.

Even though we don’t do politics here, let me also add that I am ashamed that someone working on behalf of either a party or candidate would engage in “voter suppression” activities.  They’re vile, un-American, and unfortunately they’re very real and going on all over today.  Why would anyone think they can claim a victory of any sort having done something to keep voters from expressing their will?  Which leads to today’s business point. Continue reading

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Filed under Thinking Aloud, What's Going On

Check It Out

Snopes logo

As usual we’re going to avoid politics today but I’m going to use a piece from a political site to make my point, if you don’t mind.
A political site picked up a story that a blogger did recently which was an analysis of presidential rumors on the site Snopes.com. the link is there for those of you that want to read the source material which reviews the number of rumors floating around on each president as well as the percentages of those proven to be true. The point isn’t the politics of this – it’s that someone took the time to find out. Continue reading

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Today’s post is going to be different in a few ways.  First, I’m going to be brief.   Second, I’m going to go a lot closer to that political thing we avoid here than usual.  Third, I’m not going to hide my distress about the topic. Continue reading

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Got Ya!

This is not a political blog but from time to time we do find lessons in the world of politics which apply to business.  I’m saying this up front since the topic from which I’m pulling a lesson today – the whole Obama birth certificate controversy – is totally political and raises strong feelings on both sides.  Yet within the heated arguments is a truth which holds for either side. Continue reading

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Filed under Huh?, Reality checks