Two weeks ago, I wrote about the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. The new President has repeatedly mentioned how he found the book, Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, to be influential in how he was setting up his Cabinet and selecting other close advisors. I decided to give it a read and found it also wonderfully inspirational.
The book Team of Rivals was a NY Times best seller several years back. It has recently enjoyed a renaissance thanks to promotion and recommendation by the first reader himself, President Barack Obama. I really love history, so this gave me an excuse to read a book that I would ordinarily read for pleasure, but account for it in the column that says "professional development." (We have a little running joke around our office about those of us who read the business books and those who read the other stuff).
If you are not familiar with the book, it shows how President Abraham Lincoln, upon being elected President in 1860, insisted on surrounding himself with people who he had competed with during his political career. This included, placing in his Cabinet, the three other Republicans who had opposed him at the convention, and numerous Democrats and others from the various parties or factions of the two major parties of the times. His rationale, was that in order to preserve the Union, which was already on its way to civil war, he would need the best and brightest minds around him and furthermore, would have to reach out to all constituencies who opposed succession of the confederate states.
Time and space and your attention span do not allow me to go into all the things I have learned from this wonderful book. If you have read it or plan to, give me a call. I'd love to discuss it in great detail. I will, however, summarize the one overriding lesson of the book.
As customer advocates, we often talk about being leaders of positive change for our companies. Abraham Lincoln was a master of leading positive change. One of the most effective things we can do to lead change is invite those who we feel most threatened by, into the circle and find a common objective. In his case, it was initially the preservation of the Union, and shortly thereafter, the abolition of slavery.
While we are not trying to preserve the Union or abolish slavery, who among us in our companies would or could argue against serving our customers better and improving the performance of our businesses? If you feel like someone or some function inside your company is working against your efforts, schedule a meeting and agree on what you are trying to accomplish. I think you will make more progress if you create your own
"team of rivals."
This blog was first published in Customer Connection on February 3, 2009.