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Sniffle, Shimmy & Planned Spontaneity

Did you watch the first Presidential debate and find yourself “armchair quarterbacking” and “second guessing” the responses made by the two candidates? Beyond the sheer spectacle of watching two culturally iconic figures clash who bring vastly different personalities to the battle, there are some Advisor success lessons to be learned here that go beyond just pure entertainment value. Namely, when you get past the media coverage of Trump’s sniffles vs. Hillary’s shimmies, there is something to be said for what I call “prepared spontaneity”. Here’s what I mean:

Victory loves preparation. As you may recall, there was much pre-debate chatter among the “talking heads” on TV about how each candidate was preparing for the debate. The contrast could not have been more stark. Hillary Clinton was holed up in a hotel for four days like a college student cramming for finals (conjuring up visions of her days at Yale Law school with Bill, thick glasses and all). She proceeded to eat, sleep and breathe material via a total immersion exercise replete with consultants, “mock debates” and market research on how to best get under Trump’s skin. Donald Trump, other the other hand, ostensibly to play to his strength of “thinking on his feet”, “counter punching” etc…which had worked in the primaries, chose not to engage in the traditional debate prep as done by previous candidates. Without delving into a politically charged conversation about who would make a better President, I think that by just about any traditional debate performance measure, one can conclude that Hillary narrowly “won”. And I believe her competitive edge in the contest was a direct result of her simply being better prepared for it. But I also think that had Trump taken the time to do a similar immersion exercise rather than demonstrating hubris, he could have easily won the debate focusing on a theme of “insider” vs. “outsider” based on an electorate unhappy with the direction of the country and longing for real change. Have you ever given a “huuuge” presentation (as Trump would say) or had an important client meeting where afterwards you didn’t get the result you wanted because you really didn’t adequately prepare?

Style + Substance= Success. As a success coach who helps Advisors better communicate with clients and develop a compelling value proposition, I’ve always been intrigued with how the first televised debate of Nixon vs. Kennedy back in 1960 showed that radio listeners thought the exhausted, cadaverous looking Nixon had won, while TV viewers thought the tanned and rested Kennedy had prevailed. Clearly, Hillary had heeded some consultant’s advice. For example she chose to wear bright red. Could that have been to project someone of high energy, health and vitality to quell rumors of poor health?) And did you notice her smiling more than usual (though stopped short of laughing to avoid the infamous annoying ‘cackling’ sound) ? Was this a tactic to project more confidence, trustworthiness and warmth (who knows it might have even been “Bill” himself doling out the tips). On the Trump side did you notice the all too obvious pivot from calling his opponent “Hillary” to using the more respectful moniker “Secretary Clinton” instead? Was this an attempt to woo professional, suburban women who are an especially important demographic in the swing states vital to victory in November? In my coaching work, I’ll have clients video themselves making a presentation and provide feedback. While this can feel quite awkward its really the only way to see what clients and prospects see and make adjustments accordingly. Do you have something akin to the sniffles or the shimmies when under the spotlight? Its best to have that fixed before a big presentation not after.

Opportunities and Sunsets: Have you heard the saying that opportunities are like sunsets? They both appear and fade quickly so you have to take advantage. One measure of success in a debate is whether a candidate took advantage of an opportunity to deliver an effective “zinger” or “sound bite” when an opening appeared. Do you recall the famous Vice Presidential debate between Dan Quayle and Lloyd Benson where after Quayle compared his age to JFK’s he was told “I knew Jack Kennedy…Senator you’re no Jack Kennedy”? I believe one of the glaring weaknesses in Trump’s debate performance was that he missed multiple opportunities to draw a sharp contract based on topics where Hillary is vulnerable such as more effectively pointing out the failed foreign policies as Secretary of State, conflicts of interest at the Clinton Foundation, being part of the “do nothing Congress” that allows wealthy people like himself to pay less federal taxes etc…But instead he was put on the defensive and reprised his feud with Rosie O’Donnell and bragged how paying less taxes made him smart….all of which only served to reinforce the point that he may not have the judgment or temperament to be President. Are you ignoring opportunities all around you? One of the exercises I coach is to think about your commute and identify prospects you may pass by everyday but have never given a second thought of approaching about your services. One hallmark of successful people is they have an ability to recognize opportunities that others don’t see.

Whatever line of work you’re in, remember that proper planning and being better prepared will make you more effective when the moment arrives- thus the phrase “prepared spontaneity”. It may not help you cure the sniffles or prevent the shimmies, but it just might boost your overall client approval ratings.


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