Earlier this morning, I was thinking about the way I coach clients. My colleagues and I always preach the important of message AND delivery. Message matters, first and foremost. But the way in which the message is delivered has a huge impact on the way the message is received.
And then on my drive into the office, I was thinking about the way my wife and I parent. Again, message matters. We teach our children to think about what they say before they say it. And again, delivery also matters. We teach our children to think about how they will say what they want to say. And we practice what we preach with them. Before we discuss something important with them, we think about the message and the delivery.
I coach my clients to think before they speak, and to realize that they will hurt their credibility with colleagues and clients if they appear overly emotional, and if they react aggressively when they don’t like something. In fact, I am working with someone right now on how to project a calm, cool, thoughtful demeanor when faced with aggression.
My wife and I are working right now with our son about how to react in a mature way when something does not go the way he wants it to go. We had a discussion with him last week about how to react when someone does something he does not like.
I could go on and on and on. My approach to executive coaching and parenting is very similar.
And then I think about our President. This blog is rarely about politics… and on the few occasions that it delves into the political arena, I am never writing about substance or policy. I am usually writing about persona, delivery and public face.
Almost every time I hear or read something from our President, I cringe. Not because of the policy. I disagree with some of what he does, and I agree with some. But it is in the way he speaks, how he reacts, the things that cause him to stomp his feet that concerns me. The way in which we speak and handle situations creates a brand and a reputation. And I want my president to be someone who gathers information, thinks, consults, thinks, discusses, thinks some more, and then reacts. I don’t want a president who reacts immediately, and yes, petulantly. The immediate, emotional, petulant response always makes me question the leadership qualities of the person.
We are not even two months into the Trump administration. I did not vote for him, but I had high (perhaps naive) hopes that President Trump would distance himself from candidate Trump. And in less than two months, I have realized that my hopes were unrealistic.
If I were coaching President Trump, (or parenting him… funny visual, there) I would tell him to slow down. Stop reacting to things that have nothing to do with your presidency, like TV show ratings, your rivalry with Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Saturday Night Live. As a point of contrast, no one was on the receiving end of more lampooning from SNL than George W. Bush. The writers at SNL crushed him for eight years, made fun of his intelligence, the way he speaks, the decisions of his administration on a weekly basis, for eight years. And he never reacted. He never let us know if he watched, if he cared, what he thought. Because on the spectrum of things a president needs to care about, a Saturday Night Live sketch is pretty low on the list.
The president needs to focus on the things that matter to our country. The president has an enormous amount of information coming at him all day, every day. Show us that you look at things in calm, reasonable, rational ways. A president who reacts quickly and emotionally to everything he doesn’t like is a president who scares the s!&t out of me, and a lot of other people.
In other words, the way you communicate has a huge impact on the way you are perceived. And the way you are perceived has a huge impact on your ability to lead over the long term.
I promised you this post was not about the policies of President Trump… that is a topic not appropriate for this blog. It is about his communication style. And that communication style is a huge problem… for him, and for the country. The long term implications are significant and not good.
When you think about the way you lead your organization, communicate with your colleagues and customers, and even the way you parent… don’t be like President Trump.