“A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle.”
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed. It is the only thing that ever has.”
I was listening to a bunch of talking heads on tv speculating on a staff shake up in the Trump white house personnel.
One thing I heard caught my attention … “well, part of the president’s issue is that he has kind of a hodgepodge of personnel.”
And that thought is correct. And it made me think a little bit.
The truth is once you move past managing a group or running a mom & pop sized business every management team you manage will be a hodgepodge of people, skills, personalities and … well … loyalty. Not only is it impossible to hire in ‘your people’ in every slot … most good leaders do not want to do that.
All that said.
To be clear.
Trump is possibly one of the crappiest senior leaders I have ever seen and he appears to have no belief that words matter and has no understanding of the concept of ‘communication alignment’ <let alone any alignment> … however … he is what he is. And because he is what he is … inconsistencies included … the staff he surrounds himself matters a shitload with regard to overall effectiveness.
What do I mean?
Trump forces his staff to adjust in real time as he communicates, and thinks, in real time.
Trump has never worked in a large organization nor has he ever truly had to manage a larger group of people, let alone senior executives.
He has always been the spokesperson and the brand and the final word … surrounded by family who was more than happy to simply double and triple down on whatever dad said <and be loyal to even his craziest tactical maneuvering and craziest words and wordsmithing>.
Real senior executives do not work that way nor is it a particularly effective method outside of a mom & pop structure.
In a real business organization you don’t get to pick & choose everyone in your circle … most times it is a hodgepodge of skills, personalities and experience. And you know what? You learn to manage them effectively because that is what a leader does.
You adapt some of you to accommodate some of them <yeah … sure … envision Trump doing that … uhm … sure … ain’t gonna happen>.
Trump is being forced out of his mom & pop management model into a more traditional larger business management model <and he is going kicking & screaming>.
Most people learn this as soon as they move from group management to department management <you cannot fire everyone and rehire only your people> and absolutely learn this lesson as soon as you move into the C-level positions.
Another aspect is when you get a position you do not treat it as an “I won so you need to …” but rather “I now get to lead and I am going to have to …”
All that said.
You learn some management personnel tricks to help you out.
I always tried to bring one person with me wherever I went as I moved up. Depending on the structure of the organization I always wanted at least one person who could “translate” me to the hodgepodge team. This wasn’t necessarily done to dictate my desires & behaviors onto a team but rather to help them align to how I managed so they could adapt and move faster.
I manage nothing like Trump but let’s assume Trump is moving into the presidency … it almost becomes mandatory for effectiveness that he has a team aligned on “what to do when Trump does his crazy.” He need a management team that doesn’t argue about what to do he needs a management team that absorbs the blow and moves out doing what needs to be done as the true power brokers for getting shit done.
By the way … this is not about loyalty to Trump this is about loyalty to most effectively getting good shit done. I didn’t care if people bitched about me behind my back <I always assumed they did> what I cared about is that they respected the general idea and invested their energy in trying to figure out how to best effectively implement the idea rather than invest energy trying to defend anything they really would have preferred just bitching about behind my back.
I always preferred loyalty to “getting good smart shit done” and always believed I would ultimately earn some respect if I <Me> always remained loyal to the idea of “enabling good smart shit to get done.”
Before I finish this thought I will admit my preference was always to try an bring in two foundational team members in order to kind of create some pillars … but you can get away with one to align a hodgepodge of managers & executives.
In an organization the size of a presidency Trump needs a translator but more importantly he needs an aligned team with regard to what to do with him and his behavior <and not be arguing over it>.
Trump’s inclination will be with what he feels most comfortable with — family.
His next inclination will be with what makes him feel the best — the ones who unflinchingly try and power-broke the crazy <he would call them unflinching loyalists>.
Neither of those have anything to do with effective leadership nor do they have anything to do with effective ‘management of getting shit done.’
He has never been in a large organization nor has he managed a large group of people nor has he tried to get a large group of people aligned to agree & do some shit.
He naturally gravitates toward employees who don’t deliver bad news and those who deliver flattery.
They may feel good to have around but they are the absolute worst people to have on your management team. You only build a team like that if you have no interest in improving, no interest in any intellectual conflict <which is what actually sparks better ideas> and/or you are so insecure or arrogant <yes, you can be both> you don’t want any ideas other than your own.
Most often it is the senior leadership who challenges you that prompt new insights and help propel the group to success.
“You need people who have different points of view and aren’t afraid to argue. They are the kind of people who stop the organization from doing stupid things.”
Harvard Business Review
All leaders assume responsibility for a hodgepodge of senior managers. That’s what we do.
And we learn to set what expectations are and align on vision and encourage some flexibility & adapting and get going.
And we learn that some of what we do and what we think works a little better in one place than anther and that some people are better than we think at first blush and some people we really liked when we met them are worse than we thought.
And we learn that you don’t demand respect but rather earn it and loyalty is gained through respect.
I would imagine that engendering loyalty to Trump is hard in that up to this point loyalty most likely centered on fame & fortune. And most of us who have led in larger organizations understand that strong foundational loyalty is less about the tangible fame & fortune but rather respect. He is gonna have some problems with that.
I would imagine that effectiveness to Trump is blind support for him and what he says. And most of us who have led in larger organizations understand that effectiveness is less about support for what the leader says … but rather in structured response to a leader’s guidance & thoughts. I never wanted people to do what I said … I wanted people to do what needed to be done. He is gonna have some problems with that.
I would imagine that alignment to Trump is familial. And most of us who have led in a larger organization want the exact same thing … but we know we have a hodgepodge team who is ‘the family’ and we deal with it.
Would I shake up the Trump administration? Yeah. I surely would.
And I would do it almost exactly opposite of how I envision he is likely to do it.
He doesn’t understand there is a campaign team and now he needs an effective doing team. He bludgeoned us with his dull insights on the campaign trail and now he needs to focus more on action.
What would I do with his cadre of white men?
I, personally, would make Kushner my chief of staff. He has no fucking clue how to do the job but he knows the Trumpster better than anyone in the world.
Give him some deputies who have a shitload of government experience. Send Ivanka off to write a real book. And build a staff of Republican zealots who know how to get shit done. Trust the Kushner kid to translate what the Donald J crazy means to everyone.
Bannon can stay but he just needs to focus on feeding the Trump crazy and let Kushner kid deal with the crazy output.
Others <just off the top of my head>. I love Wilbur Ross. Mnuchin almost seems overwhelmed-giddy by being in the spotlight. I would find a sane version of Mulvaney to take his job. I would tell Tillerson to start hiring like a mad man and tell him he can fire whoever he doesn’t need once he actually has some staff to do some shit. Just get out of Mattis, McMaster and Kelly’s way. I can’t get rid of Sessions even though I think he is crazy <I think he thinks he lives in the 1950’s> but because he actually translates Trump crazy better than anyone other than maybe that little pit bull Lewandowski. I would wake up Carson, Perry, and all the other Cabinet members we haven’t heard a peep out of and ask them if they would like to participate in this circus.
I imagine my real point is that to be an effective leader of a hodgepodge group it is more important that THEY can work together than YOU like them.
Because if they can work together well than there is a better chance that the organization will not do stupid shit even if you make a stupid decision, your crazy will come to life as not-so-crazy pragmatism and knee-jerk spontaneous crazy asshat tweets simply get absorbed into seamless actions which make the tweets look a little less spontaneous, a little less knee jerk, a little less crazy … but still asshat because that is who you are.
And that is the value of a non-arguing hodgepodge group. They tend to mute the mistakes and crazy and amplify the actual good ideas and thoughts you may actually have.
A non-aligned hodgepodge managerial team simply exacerbates the problem — your crazy looks crazier, your spontaneous looks more spontaneous <see: unhinged> and your asshatedness looks more asshatted.
If I were a management consultant for Trump <I would shoot myself> I would look at him as a lost cause … he is what he is. He is a flower <with thorns> and I would turn my attention to the environment the flower is growing in.
If I were a management consultant for Trump <I would shoot myself> I would find a team that maybe wasn’t on the “Trump train” but rather find competent people who can do shit that I want done <and let the chief of staff … who is on the Trump Train … get them doing Trump train shit>.
If I were a management consultant for Trump <I would shoot myself> I would turn to the Kushner kid and say “you wanted in … you are in. You are the Trump whisperer. Make shit happen.”
Let me be clear.
Trump will shake up his staff and maybe cabinet members and he will fuck it up. He has no idea how to manage a business organization other than in a mom & pop style and he has no innate leadership skills and his management instincts suck.
And he has no clue how to build an effective team <someone should tell him there is not enough room up his ass for all the people he actually needs to run a country let alone a viably larger sized organization>.
Oh. And he is a narcissistic asshat who believes no one knows better than he does.
In the end.
As I stated in my Trump 100 day piece … he did nothing in his first 100 days that would suggest the next 100 days <and foreseeable 100 day increments> would be any smoother, efficient or effective. I am 99% confident he will shake up his staff and management team and I cannot envision it proceeding smoothly, efficiently or effectively. Why? Because he has no clue what he is doing.