Vol. 22, No. 5,514 - The American Reporter - September 7, 2016

by Dr. Mario Mousso and Dr. Derek Newberry
American Reporter Correspondents
Philadelphia, Pa.
May 12, 2016
Campaign 2016

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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Donald Trump has had some rough spots in his campaign. He damaged his credibility early on as a candidate by making a string of confusing and ill-advised statements about punishing women who have an abortion and expressing scant concern about nuclear proliferation.

His campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, had been dogged by charges that he assaulted a Breitbart News reporter. Even worse was the shellacking Trump took in the Wisconsin primary, losing by a shocking double-digit margin.

Reports said the "Make America Great Again" campaign was in evident disarray, while Trump's team of advisors were working on a "reboot." As the presumptive Republican nominee, there is a bright spot in this story: The reboot.

After years of studying the art and mechanics of collaboration at the Wharton School of Business, Mr. Trump's alma mater, we concluded that the best performing teams do it all the time. As situations change, they change. In other words, they reboot. We have no special insight into Trump's nomination, but as teamwork experts, we do feel the candidate deserves credit on this key point.

Let's look more closely at what the man who wrote the book on deal-making can teach us about the art of teamwork - and especially the reboot.

Trump launched his campaign with the clear goal of broadcasting his message directly to voters. He all but ignored the traditional retail activities, such as meet-and-greets at churches and state fairs, rubber-chicken dinners, and gatherings with local politicians.

Delivering taunts, insults, and over-the-top promises at debates and large rallies. Trump generated over a billion dollars of free PR. His new convention manager, Paul Manafort, said the campaign model was "predicated on a historic approach to communicating with the public."

But as the gaffes mounted, by late March Trump's shoot-from-the-hip approach stopped delivering easy victories. What to do? That's right: time to reboot, and redirect energies.

Trump did - and fast. Because even with his "presumptive" nomination in hand, he still faces obstacles. Trump brought in Manafort, who has his own team of like-minded aides that will also join the campaign. Lewandowski has hired specialists who worked with Ron Paul and know how to win over delegates, one tough-talk conversation at a time.

Desperate moves? Recent media coverage might suggest that. We have a different perspective: The Trump campaign is like a team of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who raised money, launched a venture, recognized quickly when their business model was failing, and - to use a popular high-tech term - pivoted.

Successful teams at Facebook, Slack, Pinterest, and many other companies have had to "pivot" several times before they became winners. That's not easy to do for a startup or a presidential campaign team, and it often produces conflicts. Not surprisingly, Trump's meetings with his staff have been reported as highly contentious.

So how to have a successful reboot? When we advise executives about managing their teams, we emphasize a few guidelines - illustrated vividly by Trump's latest public moves.

Here are some pointers gleaned from our observations:

  • Always work toward a goal, but avoid becoming too attached to it (because situations change and you might have to adjust).
  • Define and redefine roles on your team as your work evolves, and seek to put the right people in those roles.
  • Have frank discussions - which will often be contentious - about what they need to do.
  • Be clear about how you want the members of your core team and related teams to work together.

As General Stanley McChrystal puts it, leaders need a "team of teams" to run an organization. Above all, remember that it is really hard work to align and re-align a group of people collaborating on achieving a common purpose.

Because managing a successful pivot is such hard work, most teams fail to deliver hoped-for results. Yet at the moment, we think Trump's campaign is increasing its chances of officially clinching victory by rebooting.

Of course, in politics as in business, despite the promises of overconfident leaders, there are no simple solutions and no guarantees. But by following a few guidelines, Trump can give himself the best shot at achieving what he might call "yuge" success.

Dr. Mario Mousso and Dr. Derek Newberry are the authors of Committed Teams: Three Steps to Inspiring Passion and Performance. Dr. Mousso teaches in the Executive Programs at Wharton School of Executive Education. Dr. Newberry is a lecturer at the Wharton School of Business. For more information, visit, www.committedteams.com or connect with the authors on Twitter at @Committed_Teams.

Copyright 2016 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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