Probably the most unedifying spectacle seen in our lifetime involving two rival politicians. Embarrassing, even cringe-making. What were they thinking of? But is there anything business leaders can learn from the clashes between the two presidential hopefuls. Well yes. Firstly, if this is a race to earn the respect of the American people and then their votes, just as business leaders need to earn the respect of their colleagues and then in effect their votes translated into positive action leading to profitable business outcomes you have to start off yourself demonstrating respect.
From the moment the two candidates emerged on stage last night respect went out of the window starting the non-existent handshake. There then followed the ping pong of claim and counter claim each couched in language designed to denigrate not only their opponent’s record and policies but, it seemed, their very souls. How can anyone be respected if they are demonstrably so disrespectful of others?
So, lesson one: Don’t trash the opposition. Heard something like that before? It’s one of the main tenets of the Salesman’s Handbook – never rubbish a competitor. Even when the customer does, resist the temptation to join in. For every utterance a business leader makes is a selling operation in one for or another. Audiences will tend to buy from those who seem to know what they’re talking about but before that they need to like them. Seriously, is either pugilist in the Clinton/Trump clash really likeable? And they don’t help their case by slagging each other off. We simply don’t like it.
Did I detect a collective sigh of relief when against the odds both combatants responded positively to a request to list something they respected about each other? Trump’s children, said Hillary; Clinton’s doggedness said Trump. There, that wasn’t so difficult was it?