Tuesday, March 04, 2003

How to Lose Friends and Not Influence People

George Bush is a Harvard MBA, and when he was first elected we heard a lot of spin about the advantages having a "CEO President" managing the country's business. In fact, his handling of the approach to war in Iraq, from the standpoint of getting business done, is shockingly inept. A successful CEO can't get the job done by constantly insisting that everyone do it his way. Imagine, if you were trying to write an order, and your only justification to customers as to why they should buy is "because I'm telling you that it's really, REALLY important that you buy this product!" That sort of approach is very unlikely to generate a sale. In fact, a successful business executive, trying to write that order, would focus on the needs of the person that he is selling to. What are the challenges that person is facing in his or her business? What benefit does my product provide that is relevant to that person's business? The most successful business deals and long-term business relationships are initiated by executives who are acutely aware of where the "win" is for all parties involved.

This is the sort of experience that I would have hoped our "CEO President" would bring to his presidency. Instead, he has managed to rally world opinion behind Saddam Hussein. Worse yet, the United States, in a recent international public opinion poll, is being viewed as a more serious threat than North Korea or Iraq. Shortly after the worldwide anti-war demonstrations, I listened to an NPR interview with Lord GEORGE ROBERTSON, the NATO Secretary-General. He is British, and was very clear in supporting the U.S. position while avoiding the sort of bullying rhetoric that we hear out of Washington. Lord Robertson's point was that the world must stand up to Saddam Hussein in order to protect the authority and integrity of the United Nations. As he put it: European leaders have got to explain that the reputation and the credibility of the United Nations is on the line. Resolution 1441 told Saddam to disarm and to prove to the inspectors that he had disarmed. So much more has to be done by European leaders to outline how much is at stake in this present confrontation...(they must) calmly explain to the Europeans how dangerous it would be if Saddam Hussein was to flout the will of the United Nations.

Now there is an argument that unites all of us. It is rooted in the common interest, and it does not assume that going to war is the only possible outcome. How come our Harvard MBA doesn't know how to build consensus like this? It's Business 101, in terms of getting what you need done.

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