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Illustration: Kurzon

How long is too long to wait for change? If you’re at a red traffic light for more than a few minutes, you’re probably wondering if it’s broken and contemplating an isolated break with a societal norm.

But what drives us to wait or to move on? I wrote about the change many predicted Donald Trump would make following his victory in the Republican primaries nearly five years ago. Surely, conventional wisdom dictated, he would pivot quickly from fiery agitator to energetic statesman. After waiting the duration of a campaign, a presidential term and then another campaign, I think it’s safe to say the wait is over. …


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The most anti-science, science-denying president of our lifetime was defeated by, you guessed it, science. While the election was close, it still has to rank as one of the biggest ironies in history.

Even so, seeing how tens of millions of people voted against their own self-interest is one of the most baffling and infuriating phenomena I know. It helps to prove that a belief can overpower a fact, how a lie can (shall I say it?) trump the truth.

The facts and allegations are painful to repeat but, briefly, Donald Trump failed to disclose taxes or foreign entanglements; destroyed immigrant families; encouraged white supremacists; belittled women; covered up ties to Russia; illegally used campaign funds; threatened allies; praised dictators; created economic hardship with a trade war; killed environmental protections; undermined funding for education and the arts; enriched himself and his family at taxpayer expense; threatened political adversaries; mocked disabled persons; disparaged soldiers; attacked the news media; rammed through lifetime appointments to the judiciary; advocated voter suppression and intimidation efforts, and lied to the public — according to fact checkers — approximately 25,000 times. …


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While the president was demanding a fourth debate with his challenger, an opinion piece in The New York Times suggested that debates be scrapped altogether. Yes, the debates have certainly devolved over the years but this is a classic “throw the baby out with the bathwater” reaction. Let’s fix them instead. Here are three changes to elevate the debates and increase their value to the public:

1. Ditch the audience. In her NYT piece, Elizabeth Drew wrote that debates were less about conveying a vision or a plan than they were about upstaging the opponent. “Points went to snappy comebacks and one-liners. Witty remarks drew laughs from the audience and got repeated for days and remembered for years,” she said. She’s not wrong, of course. But it’s the debate format that has helped to create the reality TV atmosphere. The candidates have been playing to the audience; they look for applause or a laugh. Let’s get serious and let’s remove the audience. The point might be made moot because of the pandemic this year but the editorial board of The Washington Post recently endorsed this idea, calling the debates “quip contests.” …


Larry Kramer, the playwright and AIDS activist, died yesterday at age 84. He left his mark in two different worlds — the arts and health care. He changed me, too.

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Photo: Catherine McGann/Getty Images

I was sad to read of his passing but this is not an obituary covering all the details of his dynamic life; it’s a brief reflection starting when we met in 1988. I was the chief representative to the HIV/AIDS and oncology patient communities at drug giant Hoffmann-La Roche and he was on the other side of a conference room table. …


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Like it or not, we don’t “get” a lot of things. Most importantly, we don’t get ourselves.

The Harvard Business Review recently re-posted an article by Tasha Eurich where five years of research showed “95% of people think they’re self-aware, [while] only 10 to 15% actually are.” It’s a consequential finding, despite all that’s been written on cognitive dissonance and self-awareness. Think about how many and how deeply personal and professional relationships are affected by our lack of personal insight.

A survey I conducted a few years ago on self-perceptions of meanness and niceness showed “respondents felt others are much meaner than they perceived themselves to be.” Twice as many people thought they were never mean versus those who said they were sometimes mean. In the workplace, “un-self-aware colleagues aren’t just frustrating; they can cut a team’s chances of success in half,” Eurich wrote. …


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It’s almost impossible to escape politics these days. And by politics I mean the kind that’s become less civil and more polarizing. It surrounds us through 24/7 news coverage, social media channels, and… our co-workers.

A New York Times article, “Edelman, Public Relations Giant, Drops Client Over Border Detention Centers,” is another reminder of the growing advocacy of a long list of stakeholders — including employees, customers, clients, students, investors, and donors — and the expectation that sides or positions are taken on issues. When entering this realm, organizations must make calculations on whether or not an issue has relevance and really matters to them, and the value of taking a side or not. Discussion points include who they might offend or flatter, what business could be driven away or won, which employees they might alienate or attract, and how it might all be communicated. …


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“The crisis drags on” is about the last thing an organization wants to hear. But that is what’s happening at one of the world’s most venerable companies. Unfortunately, the manner in which Boeing is communicating — or not — has become its own news story.

The all-too-familiar drip, drip, drip of bad news is a classic “Don’t” in crisis circles. New and shocking revelations in the past few days have added to the tragic mess, which started last October with the crash of Lion Air 610. Boeing’s decision to base a critical flight system on a single sensor and a report that defective parts were installed in hundreds of planes are keeping the still unfolding story front-and-center in the minds of investors, the FAA and sister agencies around the world, current and future aircraft customers, and the flying public. …


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If I read one more article about how to boost morale in the workplace simply by saying nice things to co-workers and subordinates, I might say something decidedly not nice. The message and the tone — what you say and how you say it — are, of course, important elements in the morale equation. No doubt. But words are the end, not the beginning, of the effort. We must start with an examination of the culture and values of the organization, and how the leadership implements them.

I won’t point a finger at the recently published piece that set me off. I was encouraged initially when I read the first point: conduct an assessment. Then, hopes were dashed when it was clear the research was not about values or culture or communication practices. It was about your attitude. Again, it’s an important point but not where to begin. Morale is complicated, not one-dimensional, and goes to the core of the organization and its leadership. …


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Some say Satya Nadella is Microsoft’s knight in shining armor. It turns out the metaphor is not so far-fetched.

While he may not know it, the Microsoft CEO is channeling a bit of King Arthur. And Redmond, Washington shows some hints of Camelot.

Simone Stolzoff profiled Nadella in a recent Quartz article, which was striking in the way it tracked some of the characteristics of King Arthur outlined in my book Camelot, Inc. Arthur, likely a composite figure stitched together over a few centuries, has uncanny resonance in today’s world of business and politics.

In the case of Mr. Nadella, whom I know only through articles and interviews, we see an unassuming ruler/CEO who commands a far-flung empire/company. Here are a few of the Arthurian traits seen in Mr. …


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For some industry watchers, it was only a matter of time. Former Fox star Megyn Kelly crashed at NBC. Media analyst Bill Carter said network executives might have been blinded by “glamour glare. That’s the effect that sometimes emanates from a glowing-hot on-air talent. It can lead to temporary loss of vision.” It’s been reported that Kelly’s position in NBC’s blindspot may cost up to $69 million.

After CNN posted “Megyn Kelly was never a fit for NBC” in a headline, I began to think about how one should counsel management. …

About

Paul Oestreicher

Strategic Communications; Corporate/Public Affairs; Issues, Crisis, Reputation Management, and Leader/Doer. Writer, advisor, and mentor. Author of Camelot, Inc.

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