But this post isn't about politics other than using two amazing politicians as an example. The seldom-told secret of how either of these two made it to power really rests in a rare dynamic within their campaigns. It is something managers could do well to learn and replicate.
- They empower someone in their inner circle to tell them the brutal truth, no matter what the topic.
- They act immediately to counter or capitalize on that truth.
After Barack Obama's upset win in Iowa, Hillary's staff told her she came across to voters and cold and aloof. A week later in New Hampshire...tears for the camera and a landslide win from higher voter turnout, especially from women. Several weeks later, beaten badly on Super Tuesday, the campaign again delivered the bad news that young women were voting overwhelmingly for Obama, who himself was running a weak campaign with white, working class, rust-belt voters. From that came the rebirth of Hillary as "Rosie the Riveter: Champion of the Working Class" and big wins in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky that have kept her campaign on life support.
These amazing feats, and "Clinton spin" cannot be described accurately as anything less than amazing, all started with brutal candor from supportive insiders. Imagine this was your job; you get to go to your boss and say, "Sir, we've heard that you've had several extramarital affairs. We need to know the details about these women so we can research them and respond to future rumors". Or, in the Hillary example, "Ma'am, the workforce feels that you're a cold, uncaring elitist. We need a strategy to warm your image up a bit".
How many of you in staff positions would have the backbone for that job? Conversely, how many of you who manage people have someone on staff to perform this same service for you? Make no mistake, this is a service and an important one.
If you want to manage your personal corporate image, or the rumor mill on any topic, you must have someone who can speak the brutal truth to you while still having your back. If you don't have someone like this already, find someone loyal and give them permission to be truthful; brutally truthful if necessary. If you're a staff member, work your way into this type of position with your boss, or find someone for whom you can work who will value this service.
I have two people like this on staff and I include them in those times when I count my blessings.