Leadership

Avoid this. It's the key reason McCain lost the election

The U.S. presidential election doesn't take place till next week, but John M. McKee already knows why John McCain lost -- he made the same mistake many leaders do. Here's what Obama did but McCain blew.

What are the four things Barack Obama talks about all time? Whether or not you'll vote for him, it's likely that you could answer that question.*

Now, consider John McCain's messaging -- what are the four most important messages that he's hammered home over the election? This one's not as easy for most people.

And that's a big reason for him losing the election.

Consider this: Many people regard John McCain positively. On some subjects -- particularly defense and experience -- he's often rated more highly than his opponent. In polls, people often regard him more "open" and "less elitist" than Obama. Good characteristics that often create a real bond between a leader and his/her followers. It seems he's "emotionally connected" with millions of individuals; another good thing.

But he's not regarded as being particularly consistent. The messages he hits during debates or in interviews seemed to change from one week to another. I suspect he does this because he's trying to react to the "hot button issues" being faced by the electorate. It's probably intended to show that he can relate to those people in the real world by addressing what they are feeling at any given time. Organizational leaders make the same mistake, telling their teams about all the things that need to be done.

It's a flawed strategy. As a leader, it is important that the "audience" -- whether they are employees, shareholders, or voters -- clearly knows what you stand for and what the priorities are. When they do, they're more likely to support you when it comes down to the heavy lifting, and they'll deliver what's asked of them.

But, if they don't know what you think is most important, they'll fumble. Despite a possibly strong desire to help you succeed, they won't know how to do what's needed. And you'll fail. Just like John McCain.

In many studies, including those 360 Degree Reviews used in many organizations, very effective managers are generally rated the highest on the issue of consistency. And, not co-incidentally, those who are most clear about what they think is important are most likely to get those things accomplished. Their teams know what to do and when to do it. Key goals are accomplished. While other leaders may be smarter or nicer, they don't have the same power behind them.

The evidence on this is clear -- when you make your priorities and vision abundantly clear you succeed.

In John McCain's case, he was very clear on defense issues. He made that point effectively and, as a consequence, he's rated as the best guy for Commander in Chief. But he didn't make his case as clearly about the economy, health care, unemployment, or the environment. And each of those has shown strong levels of importance with the voters. Also, he seemed to change direction on few other key issues such as offshore drilling and tax programs, while, at the same time, providing evidence that he was prepared to move off one of his "core issues" surrounding negative campaigning. While perhaps appropriate tactically, those shifts in priorities and positions made it less clear what exactly he cared most deeply about. That lack of clarity lessens passion in one's followers.

Obama sounded a bit like a broken record on the issues he wanted to focus on. Kind of boring and distant to some people. But, as a result, almost everyone -- supporters or opponents -- knew his stands on *health care, the economy, taxes, and even defense. His supporters were very motivated. They were prepared to move mountains to win.

Learn this lesson well. Consistency is a critical tool for any leader's success. It pays better returns on your career momentum than being smart or plugged-in with the brass. Often, consistency is even better than having great results in your past. When your team can say clearly what you stand for, what the organization is focused on, and what goals are most critical, they will deliver the goods. You'll have a better career as a result.

john

Leadership Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

65 comments
walter.perry
walter.perry

John, why in heavens name would you muddy a terrific topic, "consistency of message in successful management" with a such a hot buttom issue as the 2008 presidential election? And making matters worst by making a prediction? You have willfully missed a great opportunity to discuss a excellent management and leadership topic. This is like asking the question, "when did you stop beating your wife?" No matter how you response you appear guilty of the offense. Why don't you revisit the consistency of message topic "only" after the election?

adornoe
adornoe

But he???s not regarded as being particularly consistent. The messages he hits during debates or in interviews seemed to change from one week to another. I suspect he does this because he???s trying to react to the ???hot button issues??? being faced by the electorate. It???s probably intended to show that he can relate to those people in the real world by addressing what they are feeling at any given time. Organizational leaders make the same mistake, telling their teams about all the things that need to be done. Exactly the same thing could be said of Obama, and it would be more correct to say it about Obama than about McCain. The bias in this towards Obama is so apparent in this piece of garbage. So, where is the consistency in Obama's message regarding who is going to get a tax cut? Is it the people earning $250,000 or less, or is it those earning $200,000 or less, or is it $120,000 or less? Then, there is the Obama who has thrown just about all of his former friends and associates under the bus. At first, he was proud of those associations, including the reverend Wright, and Pflagler, then, when he begins to feel the heat, he disassociates himself from those "friends" and throws them under the bus. Then there are Obama's associations with people who hate America, such as, Ayers and Khalidi. And now, he wants to pretend that those were in the past and that they don't matter? Where's the consistency in that? How about a consistent and believable message on foreign policy? The surge in Iraq worked and Obama can't bring himself to admit it? Where's the consistency of character when it comes to that? How about his history? He is without a doubt the most liberal senator in the senate, and now, for political reasons and for election purposes, he has changed his mind on many issues. He is supposedly running as a middle-of-the-road type, while his history, in the senate and before says that he's very far left. Where's the consistency in that? Obama is the one who voted 94 times to either raise taxes or to prevent cuts in taxes, and now, you are going to believe that he's a tax cutter? There's no consistency at all in that. If anyone actually believes that Obama is going to cut taxes, then I'm pretty sure that I'll be very successful in selling to that someone the Brooklyn bridge at a discount. There are probably thousands of things that I could go on and on about Obama's inconsistencies, but, I can't write a book in this post. Bottom line is, there were probably much better examples of people to choose from to make a good example for "consistency". Obama is very far from being that person; in fact, he should be the very last person to choose for that example. Anybody with at least a second grade education can tell that the writer of the article above was in it to show his favorite candidate in a good light, and to do so, that writer chose to pretend that we out here are ignorant of the facts.

martinharvey80
martinharvey80

Politics has no place in IT Leadership. Writers who drag politics into IT Leadership discussion posts as a blatant attempt to increase their readership levels deserve all the lack of support they get. The approach taken in this blog article is too cynical for me. My response is - Avoid this, It's the key reason McKee lost my readership.

alvisa
alvisa

You will find that the Golden child will find a way to OUTSOURCE the Commander in Chief role of president. Imagine that,, Community organizer to the highest ranking military role in one day. We are in for dangerous times all for the sake of the feel-good factor. Please research your candidate and make an informed decision, don't be selfish dont vote for yourself, think of your children's future. It's THAT SERIOUS.

HypnoToad
HypnoToad

I have been an undecided voter. I've knocked both, I've supported both, and weighed the pertinent factors after discarding the fringe issues both sides agree on. I've now decided. I am voting McCain. Your presumptive arrogance doesn't anyone, least of all yourself. Or, perhaps, Obama.

jgarrett
jgarrett

McKee, do you live with your head in the sand? how could you NOT know what Senator McCain stands for? Really? Seriously? Are you just out of college & know nothing about McCain? have you not read about him over the years? have you not listened to him or read about him in this election cycle? even if all you knew was what he spoke in the past year, it would still be clear. No, should Senator Obama win this, it will be for one reason and one alone: the media created him & trumpeted him. he was their girlfriend. all they did was talk about "The One." It wasn't his ideas (if anything, Obama obfuscated his ideas so people could not see his socialist agenda--he didn't make his TRUE ideas more clearly known than McCain,) his experience (which he has less of than Governor Palin), or his accomplishments (or lack of). No, the lesson leaders need to learn from this election is: make sure your true message is communicated & that the medium used to communicate it doesn't change the message. Have the mdia in your backpocket. They are the kingmakers (so they think.)

JimInPA
JimInPA

and it's only October 31st... I'm going to reserve any really comment until next Wednesday. All I'm really going to say right now is this column disappoints me tremendously. Where's the mark as spam button?

EM1109
EM1109

I think it is premature to call McCain the loser. Remember in 2004, Kerry had a lead similiar to Obama's and we know how that worked out. Just ask the people of Ohio.

richard.wilson
richard.wilson

Obama: "Only people making above 300k a year will get tax increases." Obama: "Only people making above 250k a year will get tax increases." Obama: "Only people making above 200k a year will get tax increases." Biden: "Only people making above 150k a year will get tax increases." Obama: "Only people making above 200k a year will get tax increases." The truth: When Obama and the Dems let the Bush tax cuts fall off in 2010, ALL GET A TAX INCREASE NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU MAKE!

DBA-MI
DBA-MI

Make the biggest promises that can't be kept. The average person will be happy and will soon forget the promises made anyways. Pander to the mob. Tell them anything you think that they want to hear. Be consistent in all of this and you will go far.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

It's very rare that the Vice President isn't running.The Internet can be hacked.AT&T response letters tell me basically not to trust anybody.Is the press hacked?

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

...optimistic or an attempt at a reverse-jinx. Of course, they already made plans to have upwards of a million people descend upon Grant Park on Tuesday to hear the acceptance speech. Cart, meet the horse. He'll be right behind you!!

maxwell edison
maxwell edison

John, I'm sure you'll post a retraction just like the Chicago Tribune did in 1948. Actually, the Tribune didn't formally retract it, since only a few hundred papers were printed with the error. They corrected themselves in a second edition of the paper. We'll anxiously await your second edition on November 5th.

adornoe
adornoe

Why don't you revisit the consistency of message topic "only" after the election? When it comes to the subject of "consistency", the worst field possible to choose to make the case would be politics. When it comes to politics, there is not much consistency of message(s) from the candidates, no matter what the political persuasion. The only logical (or stupid) reason for using McCain as the subject of this discussion was to very bluntly attack McCain and to clearly endorse the poster's favorite candidate, Obama. The thread starter was very simply being political and the article had very little to do with the subject of "consistency". It was a simple and blunt message of endorsement for Obama, and a repudiation of McCain.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...people expect more of you than to just vote "present".

DaemonSlayer
DaemonSlayer

Research is the key definately... If you vote for yourself in this you are no better than the Enron execs, or the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac execs either. THINK of your family, and friends before you think of yourself. Then think of your neighbors, co-workers, and the rest of America. VOTE for the best one that will actually help all in the present and future. Whether that be Dem, Rep, Libertarian, Green, Constitutional, Independant, or other.

SilverBullet
SilverBullet

Research is the key in technology as it is in politics. I will vote to support my children and their future (my grandchildren)!

JamesRL
JamesRL

I haven't made up my mind, I don't live in the US, so no "decision" to be made. But if I was deciding, I don't think one posting on a technical website, not endorsed by anyone's campaign would be enough to make my decision. Every quote and clip I've heard from Obama lately says, its not oevr till its over, and he is absolutely correct in that. Its not Obama's people who are telling people its over - if they do, voters might stay home. Its others. James

Litehouse
Litehouse

Why oh why oh why is techrepublic putting this crap up? This is at LEAST the second so called "article" I've read on here saying that McCain has already lost. Frankly it's pissing me off. Stick to the facts and quit with the OVER OBVIOUS politiking on this supposed technical site. The articles authors lose.

jdclyde
jdclyde

I wouldn't expect that kind of crap to push an article.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...and not in the details that actually matter. They know the eyes of the infamous "undecided" voter glass-over when you get to the arcane matters of any deal.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...accuse anyone who questions your ascendency as being a racist or bigot. It?s only important that no one actually shout that the emperor has no clothes until after November 4th.

Tig2
Tig2

I think he opted for retirement instead of trying for another four years in the big house. I know- usually the VP will run. Not this time, I guess.

GSG
GSG

OK, I was going to go into some long rant about the authors' powers of prognostication (my big word of the day that makes me feel self-important just saying/typing it) and how if McCain wins he'll look quite foolish. It makes me wonder if he wrote two articles, one for McCain and one for Obama, and accidentally posted one of the ahead of the scheduled release date.

Tig2
Tig2

My initial reaction on reading the title of the post was on the lines of, "Can I borrow your crystal ball?" I think that we will know the outcome somewhere around Wednesday. OK- possibly Tuesday night. I will be watching Eli Stone and will pick up the headlines with the morning news.

Gordon.Hope-Murray
Gordon.Hope-Murray

Mccains campain is in panic stations mode at the moment, and the various factions are throwing each other under the bus trying to salvage what they can for 2012. Palin's certainly positioning herself for it, and that's a major cause of the breakdown in message disclipline, I can't believe she openly admitted that they might not win this election. Campaign 101, NEVER EVER admit you might not win, the McCain camp must have gone absolutely ballistic, the breakaway of big conservatives like Christopher Buckly of all people to endorse Obama is Highly damaging, because the republican brand is that it is always on the same page and never varies it's positions. Of course it could be that the talk radio guys are right and McCain's losing because he wasn't conservative enough.

DaemonSlayer
DaemonSlayer

It is put up under orders from the execs of TR, and TR's execs get the orders from it's parent company, CBS. When the bosses say do it, just like when the bosses tell us IT people to do something, whether right or wrong, it's do it or be canned. (Unless you are lucky and can convince them of the error of their ways, and that is not even likely.)

JimInPA
JimInPA

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Disgraceful. edit - typo

SysAdminII
SysAdminII

The only thing government has done consistent is make a debacle of the economy, taxes, SS, etc.regardless of political party. But that is not the matter here.

Gordon.Hope-Murray
Gordon.Hope-Murray

Might be due the the fact that Cheney's approval ratings are lower than child abuse, and his fudging of The vice president's Legal position (is he or is he not a member of the executive branch? Cheney tends to vaccilate depending on which is most convenient) His power came from his invisibility. He would be completely unable to function as he has if he were president.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

...will be titled "Why Obama Lost: Avoid these management pitfalls", and it will go into some of the following: Complacency (took the foot off the pedal when momentum was building) Deception (originally signing pledge to use public campaign funds, etc, etc) Choosing Your Allies (Biden has had some interesting things to say along the way; not to mention political affiliations while in Chicago) Swami Saigman predicts!! ;)

maxwell edison
maxwell edison

.....going bowling with a couple dozen teenagers.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...and Obama was identified as a Marxist long before his accidental "spread the wealth around" comment to Joe the Plumber. His most obvious "tell" was earlier this year when he was confronted with the fact that raising capital gains taxes would actually reduce tax revenues, and he responded that he?d do it anyway in the name of "fairness". To Obama, the purpose of the tax code is not for the efficient collection of revenue for the purposes of running the government, but a means of controlling the economy in the name of "fairness". That is Marxism. I don?t know what you are smoking with your comparison of Obama to the '50s. That?s not saying much. Ironically enough, it was "liberal" icon JFK that as part of his agenda lowered taxes to rectify the highly regressive tax regime that have evolved through the "50s since WWII. Huckabee was also promoting the "fair tax", which put him just to the left of Ron Paul.

Gordon.Hope-Murray
Gordon.Hope-Murray

Do you actually know what a marxist is? his tax policy more accurately represents Teddy Roosevelts. His Tax policy is less progressive than the one in america's supposed golden age in the 50's Was Eisenhauer a Marxist? By your definition he was not only a Marxist, he was a Stalinist. Mccain the most Liberal? Wasn't Huckabee the one suggesting import tariffs and protection for blue collar workers, and Other Populist policies and not just more lobbyist fuelled wet dreams? Didn't Guiliani Cross dress? Fred thompson was such a Lazy Liberal he couldn't be bothered to actually run a campaign. More than that would any of them have had the balls to appoint Palin as VP?

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

Remember, just as the media chose and has actively campained for Obama, they did the same for McCain in the primaries. McCain was clearly the most liberal of the Republican candidates. The "maverick" label was bestowed upon him by the media not so much because he is one, but because he's carried the water for liberal and media positions like "campain finance reform". McCain's problem is that in reality, he's more a socialist than "conservative", just as Obama is more Marxist than merely "liberal".

HypnoToad
HypnoToad

Ratings brings in people, sponsors, and as such money.

jdclyde
jdclyde

no, I am not surprised. After all, I have seen Obama ads run on TR, but have never seen any McCain ads. Who would they have more incentive to support?

Gordon.Hope-Murray
Gordon.Hope-Murray

It wants to be free, the BBC is not the only voice Britain has, but it pursued the lying our prime minister engaged in with much more vigour than your "liberal" media did Bush's lying. All you have to do is want to learn about us. Make the best use of you vote. Democracy is important. BTW. from out side the US most people think the US media skews hard right. As you would expect for a market where most media is owned by G.E., Disney, an Australian fascist, Time Warner and Sumner Redstone. These are inherently conservative organisations, and if you think they don't control editorial policy you'd have to be kidding me. http://www.neatorama.com/2008/07/07/who-owns-what-on-television/

pellegr1
pellegr1

Do you think we here in the states know as much as you do about your government?, we probably don't because we only get what the BBC wants to tell us. Our news media censors our news so if that is your source of information, you are being misinformed. The news media in this country thinks they are the fourth branch of government, the Liberal branch and they lie like rugs to spread their Liberal influence. So, lets wait until November 4th before saying who won.

jdclyde
jdclyde

the clueless and weak minded fools will come out saying that, for the third election in a row.

jdclyde
jdclyde

I fully expect race riots when Obama loses that will make LA look like recess.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

...this is going to be one whirlwind election night. In Illinois, there have been up to 2 hour waits for casting early votes. Additionally, I've heard reports about a multitude of problems with voting technology across the country. I have a bet going with my brother-in-law over whether or not a riot or some sort breaks out on election night. I say yes, he says no. Should be interesting, to say the least!

JamesRL
JamesRL

As a long time politician I know that polls are one thing, and other factors weight in. Voting means getting off your butt, and taking the time to line up and cast a ballot. A rainy day influences the outcome. A good ground campaign affects the outcome. A complacent group that thinks Obama has it in athe bag and stays home, affects the outcome. McCain doesn't have to beat Obama everywhere, or even in the majority of states, he just needs to win in some of the key larger states. I've seen elections change course in the last few days. One wrong ad, one wrong speech can stop things in their tracks. Obama will try to run safe, stay away from attack (as a front runner shoudl do), and try to motivate his people into not falling into complacency. McCains core are a little more motivated at this point, and McCain has to risk something. His core will come out. There is a large undecided group that may come out if motivated one way or the other. James

jdclyde
jdclyde

when the polls have been wrong, have they ever been wrong in favor of the Republican? The numbers always are higher for Democrats than the actual results, and this time will be no different. I would have thought the media would have learned their lesson about trying to call an election early....

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

Are the only nights my new girlfriend and I don't have either her child or my child around as we're both divorced with kids. I really hope my boss isn't posting here or she'll understand why I've been calling in sick the past four wednesday mornings. :) I'll be googling the results later... I do agree with the author in one aspect. As much as I want to like McCain he and his campaign have done a poor job explaining his mission objectives and focused too much on the Obama bashing.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I have music rehersals on Tuesday nights till about 9:45 EST. I found from the Canadian election, also on a Tuesday, that by the time I get home, I will have missed all the initial prognostication and time wasting, and get to see some "real" results come in. Personally, if I were betting, I'd take Obama, but I have seen some scenarios where because of the vagaries of the electoral college, it could easily go the other way. If McCain takes Penn, Ohio, Florida, then don't stay up for California, its all over. James

Tig2
Tig2

Anything but watch the returns. Bowling with teenagers sounds like a good time. I'll go vote in the morning and then do everything in my power to forget about the whole thing until the morning news.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Tuesdays are when NASCAR releases official result for the last race and the entry list for the next one. I update my fantasy racing league scores and set up the web site for the following weekend, whilst I listen to Eli Gold's interview drivers on the radio.