Swimming Against the Tide & the Genius of Donald Trump

Swimming Against the Tide & the Genius of Donald Trump

Swim Against Tide Let me share a story.

 During 2016 I have hosted 3 round-table discussions on the one topic: ‘Setting a Vision – who does it, does it work, what are your stories?’ They’ve been attended by business leaders ranging from micro businesses, SME’s and corporates. On each occasion when the group was prompted to come up with an example of an energising vision, to my surprise the SAME example popped up in the 3 separate discussions: “Make America Great Again”. Not one local (Australian) example. Just those 4 simple words.

As the world contemplates the results of the US presidential election soap opera saga, I have read and watched at least a dozen opinion pieces as to why, how and where Donald Trump won it and Hillary Clinton lost it. Depending on the source and political proclivity the opinion, statistics and anecdotes provide many different takes on why every pollster got their prediction wrong.

Amongst the handful of theories we can all draw our own conclusions. It all makes for great debate and no doubt there’ll be plenty of books to follow that cash in one of the biggest stories of modern politics.

But what can business leaders learn from Trump’s success? In previous blogs I’ve spoken on the need to engage employees and the keys to setting the context for it; we’ve also covered the emotional context for when we choose to change. To my reckoning, there’s a link between these topics and why Trump won – he painted a picture with those 4 simple words that engaged people and tapped into their emotion: Make America Great Again.

That vision, whether it’s a textbook strategy or not, became the vision that focused his campaign rhetoric. Again, I’m not judging his politics here. What “Make America Great Again” did was link the fact that in many parts of their expansive land, local economies had hit the proverbial wall and nobody was speaking on behalf of them at a national level. They were stuck in a rut and energetically, economically and emotionally going backwards. Just like we ALL do during the natural growth stages of business.

Elections always throw up intriguing battles in the marketing and advertising stakes. How do political parties tap into the sentiment of a nation then best convey what they want you to vote for? Let’s compare. The Clinton campaign was a mix of nebulous slogans: “Hillary for America”, “I’m with Her” and the clever, but seemingly pointless “Love Trumps Hate”. The Trump campaign painted one consistent picture “Make America Great Again”.

One campaign was built on slogans, the other was built on a vision that could be questioned, talked-to, argued, debated and explained. Put yourself in the shoes of a worried mother or father in middle-America, read those slogans and contemplate what you’re being asked to vote for. Only one gives a sense of energy or that you’re part of a movement.

Every business will go through times when it becomes imperative to define a vision that will energise and mobilise the whole team. Like any business owner or leadership team who set the vision for where they want to take their organisation, Trump will need to back up his rhetoric with actions that support achieving it or risk everything. It’s a team sport, but you MUST tap into the emotion of the team first!

If nothing else, whatever side of politics you sit on, don’t let the lesson of Trump’s success be lost on you – Everyone said he couldn’t and wouldn’t succeed. The entire planet was seemingly in Hillary Clinton’s corner. We just underestimated the personal passion behind his vision and what it meant to him first, and then to the people who voted for change.

Chris Pezzimenti