All the President’s Mien

Murray Pratt Blog, Business Insights Leave a Comment

While driving to work this past week, I have really enjoyed listening to a feature on our local Sports Radio station. It is a Valentine’s Day contest where the listeners, 90% of them men, phone in and share their Valentine’s Day nightmare stories. The radio station has offered up a great prize – dinner, gifts, a Play – with the idea that some poor sod who made a gigantic mistake with his girl can somehow make it back up to her with this prize.

These stories have been uproariously funny, making one wonder if the male species in the human race is doomed to distinction for its inherent stupidity.

I especially liked the guy who took a favorite hockey jersey, that same one that his now ex-wife used to wear, re-gifted it to his new girlfriend. Only to run into his ex-wife at the hockey game who looked at ‘the other woman’ in her former jersey and said, “That looked a lot better on me.”

Don’t you ‘Reset’ sometime? Don’t all of us want a ‘Do Over’? The chance to hit the Reset button on something in our lives?

It’s very human to want that. You want to the chance to make it right. You want the chance to ‘roll back the tape’ of your life and start at the point where things went bad.

In business you find that a lot.

‘Boy, I sure wish I had handled that customer better.’ 

or

‘I think I should have taken another approach and not gotten so emotional’

Our trucking software company has gone through a big transformation over the past two years. To be honest, some of our customers felt bruised by some of things that we did. As the new President of the business, I know I can’t change that fact. Neither can I simply ‘sweep that under the carpet’ by offering a plaintive ‘that was then, this is now’ message.

But I know that we can listen better. Work more to understand what we could have done differently, done better. And I am sure some of the people we dealt with feel that same way. As we get a better handle and footing in our business, I know that more than ever, we have the ability to keep our focus on the customer and do what is in the long term interests of both parties.

In the same way I would want our business to look at the customers’ best interests, I would ask the same consideration of customers as well. Neither party is in the business of subsidizing the other, but rather creating a mutually beneficial relationship where our companies, our people, and their families can survive and thrive.

Today, of all days, made me think about the importance of ‘A Reset’. Today is the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday. Over the past few years, I have done a lot of reading on Lincoln, watched  Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary about 10 times and gone to a see a few movies on the man himself. I am fascinated by his leadership capabilities – his humility, his perseverance, his clarity of vision and purpose and the ability to back up his convictions with tangible actions.

Lincoln is known as the Great Emancipator, the president who ‘freed the slaves’. For that magnificent act alone, he should and will always be revered. But that profound decision, and how he arrived at it, is a much more complex and nuanced event involving tremendous compromise and political calculation than simply a clear cut moral decision.

What is very clear from the history books is that Lincoln’s primary goal, the one he was fixated upon, was the very survival of the United States. Not just the country in and of itself, but for what the country stood for in the world, and what it meant to mankind. Some people capture this concept in what they call ‘American Exceptionalism.’ That is, in its original birth, the country set a new course for mankind, not just for itself.

In his Gettysburg address Lincoln stated:

“That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. And that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” 

In order to preserve the benefits of what democracy could do for mankind, he knew that the United States must survive. He never wavered from that and did everything in his power to achieve it.

It was the ultimate of ‘Resets.’ A New Birth of Freedom for his country and for democracy.

It is something which all of us in our personal and business lives can learn from today on the 208th anniversary of his birth.

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