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Politics continues to be in the news. It seems like there’s no escape. We’ve decided not to run from it here—applying a leadership orientation to what occurred just two or so weeks ago on January 20th. We shouldn’t ignore the truly remarkable of what occurred on that Friday. In what separates the United States from most other nations, we enjoyed another peaceful transition of power as a new President was sworn in and another was swept away in Air Force One. Again, we’re too smart to get drug into a political debate. But the inauguration did incite us to think a touch deeper on a phenomenon that occurs with all of our clients—the changing of command or the move into a new job. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. We’ve seen leaders take both avenues. We offer some observations and suggestions below.

The First 90 Days. There’s a psychological phenomenon called the primacy effect. What this says, basically, is that people, employees, and subordinates will remember what happens first. New leaders ignore this at their own peril. Make no mistake, the cadence and trajectory of a new leader and his or her organization is established during those first 90 days. We are amazed at how little incoming leaders reflect on their new role. We recommend that incoming leaders build a plan for their first 90 days. This could include specific short-term goals, structural or organizational improvements, and/or process and procedural enhancements. An essential resource that we recommend for all transitioning leaders is the article—The First 90 Days.

Myth 1: Take Your Time. For years, the conventional wisdom was that incoming leaders should take their time. That they should tread slowly, observe, and listen. That maxim no longer holds. Most of the organizations that we work with face environmental turbulence, regulatory imperatives, and changing market conditions. There is no luxury of time; the industries that we operate in are anything but patient. Leaders need to come in, act, and move. There’s no room for slow, plodding, leaders; stakeholders will expect them to be decisive. That’s why having a plan is job number one. By the way, this shouldn’t be confused with acting brashly or haphazardly.

Myth 2: Don’t ever say anything bad about the leader you replaced. This one, we know, will get us some emails. So, please allow us to qualify this claim. First, we’ve never seen this not happen. In other words, incoming leaders most often will say something negative about their predecessors. And, guess what? The outgoing leaders will almost always critique the new leader coming in. We have no patience for fantasyland; we must deal with the world of reality. We don’t care so much if it will happen. Rather, at ELP, we are more concerned with the who and the how. Who is this message communicated to, and how is it communicated? There’s nothing worse than an incoming leader critiquing the former leader, publicly, and, especially, in front of subordinates. In the military, we call this behavior unbecoming. We recommend sharing any frustrations with the previous regime to a spouse, to a close friend outside work, to an executive coach, or, perhaps, to a very, very, very trusted internal or external mentor. Also, if a leader is going to speak badly about something in the rear-view mirror, we strongly suggest that the leader depersonalize it. In other words, direct the frustration at a process. Procedure, or technology. Demeaning the previous leader publicly and personally hardly ever harms him or her; it only harms you.

Build the Team. This one, we know, will get us some emails. Jim Harbaugh is the controversial and energetic football coach at the University of Michigan. His successes are stellar and improbable. Consider this fact in light of his successes; three of his assistant coaches make upwards of a $1 million. Great coaches and gifted leaders accept the following as gospel—for me, for the organization to be successful, I must build a winning team. This is job number one—to assemble the team or to place people in the right positions to fit your style and to be successful. Between the three principal ELP partners, we are fast approaching 150 collective years of leadership experience and observations. Time and again, we’ve seen the truly best leaders make immediate organizational changes, installing those that he or she can trust, marginalizing or dismissing those that won’t play, and placing people in the right positions to optimize their skill sets. To be sure, there’s only one good time to do this. and it is early in a leader’s new command schedule. Waiting two years to make these changes is backwards, too late, and just flat-out dangerous.

We can’t tell you how often leadership changes go off the rails. One senior leader once said to us that how a leader enters and exits holds the key to leader legitimacy. At ELP, we can help smooth the transition. Reach out to Robin Bichy at robin@elpadvantage.com to learn more about our transitioning leader program.

Two industries that do particularly well in January, without fail, tend to be gyms and weight loss/nutrition centers. We once had a good friend who worked at GNC. GNC, of course, is the staple found at each and every mall—offering and promoting nutritional supplements and the like. He said that more people come in January than all other months combined! The reason? The avalanche of New Year’s Resolutions focusing on health, in general, and weight-loss, in particular. Spoiler alert! New Year’s Resolutions fail at an alarming rate. Even conservative estimates suggest people fail to achieve their New Year’s Resolutions at a staggering 90% clip.

At ELP, we’re kinda good at helping others achieve goals. After all, our One Page Plans are all about goals and goal setting. So, please count this as both personal and professional coaching as we offer three surefire ways to up our chances of achieving our New Year’s Resolutions.

Addition Thru Subtraction. We know this begins with the noblest of intentions and the highest of hopes, but the seeds of destruction to achieving our goals for the New Year begin with something as simple as the number we choose. You see, at the beginning of any period in the goal setting process, we often overestimate our discipline and our capacity. As a result, we sign up for more goals than we can possibly handle. In our own institutional research, we found that leaders who had fewer goals on their One Page Plans actually performed better and achieved them on a more regular basis! Nobody needs a Nobel Prize to figure the mechanics out. With fewer, but more important, goals, we can better marshal resources. Also, we can focus better with two goals as opposed to six. For these reasons, we suggest limiting our New Year’s Resolutions to two or three critically important goals.

Private vs. Public Good. To us, it is amazing that we don’t unlock more the power of social relationships to help us achieve our goals. Indeed, by just making them public enhances our chances of goal success. A very good friend of ours was about to go on the Atkins diet several years back. He did the unthinkable. He shared his goal to shed 20 pounds with his friends, his sisters, his parents, and, even, his Facebook friends. We thought he was crazy as we stood back and watched…and waited. He didn’t lose his 20 pounds—he lost almost 30! When we asked him how he did it, we were waiting to hear him swear lifelong allegiance to the Atkins diet, but he didn’t. He said that the biggest motivator was the public embarrassment and the mutual accountability by the very act of sharing (or broadcasting, in his case) his goals. We’ll never forget his quote and have actually employed this reasoning in some of our coaching/leadership lesson plans, “It is amazing how easy we’ll break a promise to ourselves, but nobody wants to break a promise to another…to let someone down.” So, consider sharing your New Year’s Resolution with a couple of close friends who may just hold you accountable for achieving that goal. At the very least, you may feel that you’re letting them down by not delivering on your promise.

Break Up The Goals! The maxim—eat an elephant one bite at a time—couldn’t be more true as we put our designs on our 2017 New Year’s Resolutions. Two of the more seminal scholars on goal setting of the last 50 years—Professors Locke and Latham—have demonstrated that goal setting and goal achievement work better when we bust up our goals into smaller parts. So, instead of saying that you’d like to lose 50 pounds by the end of 2017, the better way to do is to shrink both the time horizon and the goal itself. Donning our ELP coaching hats, we’d push for a more time-appropriate goal—to lose 5 pounds by January 31st. There are several psychological tricks at play here. First, human beings are woefully poor at prediction beyond several weeks. In other words, many of us can’t imagine 12 months out. Also, we know the Secret of Small Wins. Once January is in the bag and you’ve lost 6 pounds (not 5), you’ve developed cognitive and spiritual momentum. The next step, then, is to launch into February’s goal. Without fail, the best chance to achieve a yearly goal is to break the time period into months or quarters. Before you know it, you’ve strung together an annual accomplishment. You’ve got it—goal setting is an iterative process.

So, let’s recap. Choose fewer goals—ones that are critically important to you. Next, tell some people about your goals. Use shame or guilt or negative emotions for positive effect. Finally, shrink the time goal into manageable time horizons with realistic goal metrics.

Our turn to brag—across the globe, we are among the best at goal setting. If you want more than just a newsletter here, reach out to Robin Bichy at robin@elpadvantage.com to learn more.

Sorry. If you think we’re dumb enough to pick a political point of view on this shocking election cycle, we’re not. Just because we won’t pick a side publicly, though, doesn’t mean that we aren’t fascinated about the Trump victory. After 30 days of soak time, we’ve dissected this event and offer some leadership and managerial lessons as it relates to the Trump Triumph and the Clinton Collapse. To be clear, we’re not choosing one over the other. Rather, we are spotlighting some colossal learnings that have emerged from this surprise victory.

The Dominant Logic Isn’t So Dominant. The day after the election it was widely reported that a staggering 113 out of 115 different national polls in the four days leading up to the election picked Hillary Clinton, some by a considerable margin, to be our next President. We travel a lot at ELP, and we often stack up our Wall Street Journals and read them in bursts. Three days after the election, over that weekend, we got caught up on our WSJs. Specifically, we read the issues from October 10th thru October 24th. Even the fiscally conservative WSJ was picking or assuming Hillary would be our next President. Believe it or not, there was also talk in that very paper about Republicans conceding both the House and the Senate. To be clear. Crystal clear. Everybody was wrong.

The Lesson? ELP operates in dangerous confines—in high risk/high hazard organizations. We consult for organizations where being wrong means environmental, industrial, or radiological tragedy. The lesson here, especially when the stakes are the highest, is to get that Devil’s Advocate. Seek hard for disconfirming information. Clearly, too many people did not do that here.

Limitations of Data and Big Data. Hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, were spent on polling and predicting our next President. Superstar predictors from previous elections, such as Nate Silver, swung and missed. Big time. Imagine this. In the day and age when Amazon can predict when we’ll want something even BEFORE we want it or where IBM’s Watson can scan terabytes of data in tenths of a second to predict health outcomes or equipment failures, data, numbers, analytics, and number crunching all left us down and out. It disappointed. We won’t comment on the winner or the loser of this election. However, we will take a stand and say the Biggest Loser in this election was the business of prediction.

The Lesson? Hedge funds employ doctorates in Mathematics and generate unimaginably complex trading models. By the way, some of those same trading models disappointed in terms of predicting the housing crisis. Our lesson is that the human element still matters—more than you think. Getting down, getting out, leaving the office, walking the plant, field time, getting a grip on really what ground truth is—that’s all the human element. A regression or correlation coefficient will never be able to tell us that. Again, the lesson is to use numbers and make data driven decisions, but those decisions should always be informed by the human element. Those that focus on metrics, solely, do so at their own risk.

The Public is Always Different than the Private. In many ways, the Trump win was a victory for Psychology over the field of Sociology. Sociology focuses on how people organize and how we interact in groups—both small and large. Where Sociology is often the domain of the public, Psychology is the discipline of the private. Shockingly, in public settings and in public polling and across social media, people either lobbied or said they’d support Hilary Clinton. While Trump supporters were boisterous at the rallies, in response to media questioning or polling, they were quiet, reserved, and, perhaps, coy. Indeed, some point to this as the damning procedural failure. The inputs were biased or slanted. The polls reported those likely to vote. Even more striking, in the one or two out of the millions that predicted a surprise Trump victory, a ‘curtain effect’ was described. Specifically, when the curtain closed around a voter and public shaming and humiliation were removed from the equation, more people would vote Trump. Remarkably, that seemed to be exactly the case.

The Lesson? Some executives we know just love Town Hall meetings. We’re a touch more muted here. In public, people act differently. They don’t want to ask the stupid question, they don’t want to extend the meeting, and many just fear the social stigma of disagreement or being wrong. Privacy matters. The secret ballot has its advantages. The secret ballot = truth. A public proclamation can be political. A private proclamation is personal, is authentic. Leaders, in our opinions, shouldn’t shy away from the more intimate, deep, one-on-one conversations. That’s where ground truth can be found.

YES SIR/MA’AM!!!!! We are speaking both from what we’ve read in the press along with some inside baseball here. Through some very trustworthy connections (and also reported by some media outlets), we know that Hillary (or her campaign) spent $15 million for a campaign victory party at New York City’s Javits Center. There was even to be a ‘lights-out’ fireworks celebration that was quietly pulled. Our sources also tell us that what the media reported was, indeed, true—she had no concession speech prepared. Nobody spends $15 million and fails to pen a concession speech if he/she believes there’s any chance at losing. She believed, without fail, that she’d be the 45th President of the United States.

The Lesson? We feel, at ELP, that this is particularly damning. What this tells us is that everyone close to Secretary of State Clinton told her what she wanted to hear. The notion that the ‘emperor has no clothes’ applies here. The best executives are strong and humble (and wary) enough to surround themselves with people who will challenge assumptions, push back, and argue against orthodoxy. Without it, executives create an echo chamber where only the good news gets heard.

Advisors and political consultants failed and failed miserably during this political season. At ELP, we’re better than that. If you want expertise, guidance, and courageous feedback, we’re the best in the business. Email Robin Bichy at robin@elpadvantage.com to learn how we help your campaign!