Business lessons from Barack

1. Have a core message"Yes we can" had the benefit of being astoundingly simple as well as refreshingly positive. Your strategy for the business should be similarly brief and uplifting: can you summarise it in a sentence?

2. Tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear If there’s bad news to be told, tell it. Candour will be respected, if not applauded; any sense of evasion, you’re dead.  Obama’s inauguration speechwriters recognised this trend. Few flights of rhetorical fancy plus plenty of plain speaking equals authentic communication.

3. Reveal your personal story  The credit crunch has exposed the often murky link between the decisions taken at top level and the bread-and-butter consequences for the man on the street. Starting from now, people will take much more interest in the credentials of those who wield power. Where did you come from? What do you believe in? People (literally) bought the Obama life story, because he wrote two best-selling volumes about it before getting anywhere near the Presidential race. Self-disclosure hurts some people, but beware: having the luxury of being judged purely on what you do is history. Get used to being judged on who you are.

4. Welcome discordant voicesIf one man had all the answers, RBS’s Fred Goodwin wouldn’t be on long-term gardening leave right now. Obama has deliberately surrounded himself with difficult, demanding colleagues. Definitely not the recipe for an easy life, but essential if your decision-making style is going to be considered as opposed to knee-jerk.

5. Nurture your grass-rootsObama’s victory was achieved by thousands of (online) foot-soldiers, most of whom had never been involved in a political campaign in their lives. His team carefully nurtured this public army. Campaign chief David Plouffe kept them regularly updated via personalised webcasts – and the result was more money and manpower than his opponent. How often do you make a real effort to engage with your front-line staff? Your administrative staff? Your temporary staff? These people are used to life in the margins. Make them feel centre-stage and astonishing energy can be unleashed.

Related articles:Barack Obama enters officeBarack Obama and entrepreneurs

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