Trump Abandons a Basic Element of Good Management

The US president has reduced the White House press briefings to once a month, and those conversations could go to zero soon. An article about the Die-out of Press Briefings says Trump told his Press Secretary not to bother with briefings anymore. That’s a mistake.

I remember when my boss, in a job I held just out of college, refused to have meetings with his staff. “Meetings are a waste of time,” he said. None of us knew what he learned at the executive meetings he went to once a month, or what he knew about our internal customers in the Underwriting Department. He praised us for “knowing our jobs”, but we didn’t feel in touch with the company we worked for. There was no “bigger picture” than the stacks of things-to-do on our desks. A briefing – giving information and instructions – would have been helpful.

If US managers in corporations, non-profits, and governments gave up their weekly meetings or their regular briefing conversations, they would notice a loss of energy and interest in their team members. They would lose the most effective means of sustaining a relationship with their people, their customers, and the rest of the outside world: communication. This president will too.

Conversations can be designed to be productive and effective – we have identified four ways to do that, as you may already know. When we don’t have a dialogue with other people about the ideas and activities we want to initiate, we miss a chance to get their feedback – including their questions, ideas, and concerns. When we fail to follow up with people to let them know what is happening, and talk about what is working (and what isn’t), we lose their attention and commitment.

It’s not about giving a pep talk, though sometimes that is useful. It’s about reminding people about what we are working on and how things are going. It’s about reporting on actions taken and results produced, addressing setbacks or changes in plans, and underlining the importance of next steps to be taken. Without press briefings, we’ll just have to make up what’s happening in the White House. But we have kind of been doing that all along, right?

6 replies
  1. David Walker
    David Walker says:

    I can’t tell if you are taking a shot at President Trump, or writing a blog about the importance of briefings. I am going to assume it’s the latter. You are better than the first one Laurie.

  2. Andria Williams
    Andria Williams says:

    Happy New Year Fords!! I now love you even more for addressing this important issue. My desire is that our president attend a series of your trainings. I think you should at least send him a signed copy of The Four Conversations and then make yourselves available for private consulting for him first then the WH staff. As we know, repetition is important to change behavior. Oh, excuse me, was I dreaming? Thanks for the post 🙂

  3. DS
    DS says:

    Is it possibly that he sees these as being obsolete and replaced by the news that is quickest to the world via Twitter? Since he’s a rabid twitter user, perhaps he’s looking to that, or another method, as the best way to communicate more rapidly and directly – without intermediaries to interpret – with the American people. I don’t think the questions are getting back to him (or perhaps his comment is “no comment” and we can’t see it as we could before) so that inter-activeness is missing with the established press. I avoid all this as much as possible, so I can’t say how much he’s interactive with other interest groups via Twitter who might use that as a lobbying tool themselves. It definitely provides the one with the account with more ability to control who can respond to a Tweet. Just providing food for thought. Do not take anything here as a basis of my political opinions.

  4. Laurie Ford
    Laurie Ford says:

    Thanks, David. I meant to point to the importance of briefings and staff meetings for managers. I think “governance” is quite different, but I know the press is worried about not having the White House briefings. It probably makes their job more difficult, not being able to interact and ask questions in real time.

  5. Laurie Ford
    Laurie Ford says:

    Hi Andria! Glad you caught yourself dreaming 🙂 and getting me off the hook for a challenging educational task. Hope all is well with you – we’ve been in deep snowdrifts here.

  6. Laurie Ford
    Laurie Ford says:

    Good point, Diane – Twitter is real-time. The thing that missing is a personal presence for the interchange. That might work in government, but it doesn’t work well for managers and executives. I think even Zoom would be more appropriate to support the experience of being with a person – and probably to improve the quality of the conversation. For myself, I value the press (of all flavors) for being my go-between with governmental offices of all kinds. Their briefings keep me up to date (they’re paying full attention 24-7, and can see the details as well as the bigger picture), as I have other things using my time. Thanks for the “food for thought” – I’m going to look at the role of Twitter as it “provides the one with the account with more ability to control who can respond to a Tweet”. I hadn’t thought of that before!

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