The world has changed greatly in the past 10 years, 100 years, and in the past 1000 years But one thing that has not changed is the concept of the “emperor’s new clothes”. The whole premise of the Hans Christian Anderson parable is that there wasn’t anyone willing to tell the emperor the truth until finally the whole town cried out, “But he hasn’t got anything on!”
It was said about Jeb Bush after he suspended his presidential campaign, that “the problem, many donors say they believe, is that there wasn’t anyone on the team who both recognized his shortcomings and was willing to point them out to the principal himself.
Most people don’t like to hear negative feedback. There is only one thing worse than hearing something negative. That is not hearing negative feedback. When you start working out, working out is a pain. Eventually the only thing worse than working out is not working out.
Recently I observed two first time candidates for the U.S. Senate. A decade apart they are both new to the process. One was a little newer than the other yet both new. Their styles could not have been more different although they shared the common goal: to get elected.
Candidate #1 had an anecdotal style. She used her background as an activist as her resume. Her qualifications were her real life stories and real life experiences.
Candidate #2 had a strong legislative style. He knew facts and figures, policies and particulars. He gave us no real life stories or experiences.
If my crystal ball worked and I could see the future, this is what I think I would see: If
Candidate #1 listened to feedback; she will have added policy ideas to her anecdotal and activist resume. If Candidate #2 listened to feedback he will have added some humanness to his policy wonk style. Someone has to be the honest mirror before the voters become the honest mirror.
The lessons we could all learn are three-fold:
We need to be both human and rational, results driven at times and warm and fuzzy at other times.
You have to talk in the language of your audience, which is about 3rd grade.
Campaign donors or your own staffs do not necessarily constitute an honest mirror. We all can benefit from honest feedback. There really is no such thing as positive feedback and negative feedback. All feedback is gold.
After 9/11 then NYC Mayor Giuliani had a very different style from then U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton. Giuliani went or said he went to every policeman and fireman’s funeral. Hillary Clinton went to none or few. Giuliani said he felt obligated to honor every fallen hero by attending their funeral. He also called out Senator Clinton for not attending the funerals. She explained it this way. She said she could best honor the fallen heroes by working as senator on policies and compensation for their families.
They both did their part. If you were in 3rd grade, which one would be more understandable to you?