So What IS the State of the Union?

There’s something fundamentally wrong with any State of the Union address: the expectations for it are way, way off.

And it’s unfair to pinpoint only the President’s annual address. It’s as bad, or worse, with a corporate “state of the company” presentation. Annual meetings with stockholders can blow away the disappointments that are often produced in one of these speeches.

The problem with the expectations is this: the speaker (be it President, CEO, etc.) is expected to a) justify his strategy, and b) make the equivalent of New Year’s Resolutions. Just read this article from the Heath brothers in this month’s Fast Company magazine to see what resolutions will get you. The other problem is what the audience is expected to do. Mostly, clap. Nod. Smile. Shake hands. Mingle. In a phrase, make everyone feel like it’s all OK.

State of the UnionOf course, in the case of politics, those are the same people scrutinizing the President’s every move. They armchair quarterback, jockey for position and play the game to suit their own gain the most. We see Nancy Pelosi in the background yuck-monkeying it up for a person she’s clearly made known she really can’t stand at the end of the day, and definitely doesn’t agree with.

Again, this applies to business just the same. When times are good, the speaker is rolling. When times are bad, the speaker guesses at why that’s happened, and promises that there is a plan in place to combat it. Employees stand and applaud when the pauses prompt them, and stakeholders do the same, until they can split up into their little groups and discuss what they really think over cognac and cigars.

What we rarely get is a real state of things. Calling it like it is. Defining reality.

Which is why most companies/governments have a hard time moving forward – they can’t accurately describe where they’re at.

Similar posts on Brett’s Blog:

  1. Honesty and Politics Can Mix
  2. Intention is Powerless

3 responses to “So What IS the State of the Union?

  1. I think I refered to this in my post on Barak and Hilary, but its certainly in other places on my blog. Its about making promises that are realistic.

    Richard Branson just told the employees at a UK bank he is trying to buy that he can’t guarantee their jobs. He’s honest and that’s what people buy into with the Virgin brand. I’ll bet he still gets the support of the employees for his bid.

    Your lies will always be found out and you’ll suffer because of them. Brands that make promises without committing themselves to delivery will ultimately fail.

  2. I think Dick slipped Nancy a mickey.

  3. Phildarb – I believe Seth Godin actually defines marketing as “making a promise and then keeping it.” It seems most problems with people, and especially in business, have to do with a lack honesty and communication.

    CWD – I think Dick needs a cane.

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