If Elected, What Emmanuel Macron Might Learn From Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

If Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump are very different in personality, background and politics, I do believe that there are some important similarities between the two men. Let me be absolutely clear, Macron is no Trump. Trump is a genuine populist and maverick. Macron is a highly manufactured independent. However, Macron has managed to get to where he has with a few principles that, I believe, are very similar to Trump’s. And, if elected, Macron would do well to learn from Trump’s first 100 days.

Brand Trump and Brand Macron – birds of a feather?

Macron TrumpI know it sounds a bit provocative, but Trump and Macron do share several common points. At a superficial level, coming into the election, neither Macron nor Trump had ever previously held elected office. Moreover, neither really belonged to a party. Trump only became begrudgingly the Republican candidate. Macron, who split from the Socialist party, for his part will naturally morph his En Marche “movement” into a new political party. But, more importantly, both Trump and Macron absolutely embody their ‘movement.’ There is no feasible replacement. They have both succeeded thus far by creating the cult of the individual. Brand Trump and Brand EM (En Marche = Emmanuel Macron) embody their base. Yet, just as great brands are all about trust, both Trump and Macron [will] have their work cut out in moving from “BIG” words to significant action to create a trusting clientele (in the form of the voting public).

1/ Pragmatism versus a Programme

Andrew_JacksonAs has now been widely covered, Donald Trump is very much in the mold of Andrew Jackson. His politics are being called Jacksonian. He is not an ideologue, but an unabashed pragmatist, which is a common trait for businesspeople. As cited in the right wing National Review, “Not since Richard Nixon have we had a president… less committed, or beholden, to a fixed ideological program.” He’s a pragmatist, believing that he knows how to call the best shot as the situation arises. As such, we’ve seen Trump change course and policy frequently in these first 100 days according to what he believes is best at time of decision making. In large part, this is because he has also found out the realities of what it is to be president of the US.

“I’m like a smart person.” – Donald Trump
[Fox News]*

Macron, for his part, is also labelled as a pragmatist. In an RFI interview, Jean Arthuis, founder of the Centrist Alliance, said that “He is pragmatic, for the free markets, pedagogical and an experimenter” (« Emmanuel Macron est pragmatique, libéral, pédagogue, expérimentateur »). Macron himself said in an RTL interview: “We don’t care about the programme. What counts is the vision.”

It is the left-leaning LeMonde that published the explicit article entitled, “Emmanuel Macron, the man without a programme” (“Emmanuel Macron, l’homme sans programme“). As was noted in that LeMonde article, Macron has pinned his hopes on “winning the centre by betting more on trust [in him] than on his programme” (“L’ancien ministre espère l’emporter au centre en pariant davantage sur la « confiance » que sur des propositions.”) In 1995, Macron himself said to the Journal de Dimanche: “It’s a mistake to believe that a programme is at the heart of an electoral campaign.” In the same interview, he refers to politics as “mystical” and “magical.” Further, he published an article in which he wrote, that “Neither speech nor action can be part of a [political] programme that we’d propose for an election or to which we might hold ourselves in the course of a five-year term.”  (« Le discours comme l’action politique ne peuvent plus s’inscrire dans un programme qu’on proposerait au vote et qu’on appliquerait durant les cinq années du mandat (2). » Of course, both Macron and pre-elected Trump had some stump ideas. However, both would wish to rely on a “make it” as it happens approach and not be held to a list of policies.

The UNINTENDED consequence of a lack of a programme :

Circles of Allies

For Trump, the consequence of having a “pragmatic” approach has been that no one in his own team knows where he stands. For anyone to do a job while reporting into someone, it’s highly destabilising not to know what your boss believes or wants. Moreover, in an attempt to coalesce legislative support, it is difficult for other democratically elected politicians to galvanise support in their own constituency around a leader without a programme. As much as presidents get elected based on their personality and brand image, ongoing voting at the legislative level will tend to be about specific initiatives that are transcribed as being beneficial on a personal and/or local level. In this regard, messaging — or “narrative” as the media savvy people call it — becomes very important. In order for the president’s administration to get through to the outer layers, having a programme and a “party line” serves an important purpose. But if that message is in constant flux, no amount of “spin” will clear things up.

2/ Changing of the guard

Both Trump and Macron share a second common pitch: they say they are the men who will bring in a changing of the guard compared to the old institutional, familiar faces in government. As Trump put it, he wants to “drain the swamp” by removing the cronies. Macron, similarly positions himself as anti-establishment and has pledged to have a government filled with new faces. The types and profiles with whom they surround themselves is/will be, of course, very different. For example, as opposed to Trump, Macron has stated that he wants 50% of his candidates for the legislatives to be women, which de facto means new faces considering that, today, only 15% of those elected in France are women. For Macron, who went to the elitist ENA school, worked for Rothschild and then was Economy Minister for two years in Hollande’s oh-so-institutional government, it is a quantum leap of faith to believe he will be able to do without the rearguard old guard that was responsible for getting him to where he is. Macron is a not a self-made man.

THE CONSEQUENCE OF REMOVING THE OLD GUARD

As Trump has experienced, Macron could hit a serious roadblock with such a spring cleaning in that, ultimately, the experience of those cronies is exactly what helps push through (or quash) initiatives. Beyond the elected officials, there are the civil servants and it takes experience and the forging of relationships to know how to move through such labyrinthian networks. When you don’t have them onside, the going can get tough. If Trump finds the bureaucracy too much in the US, Macron’s task will be even more daunting since slightly more than 56% of French GDP goes toward government spending (vs 36% in the US). (Source)

For Trump, in his first 100 days, he has had to backtrack on a number of “bold” initiatives. The installed base of power — including people within his own party — has brought its might to bear. George Ajjan, a Republican strategist, was cited in the Guardian: “[Trump’s] transition team draws heavily on the GOP beltway establishment, which should not surprise anyone, because even Trump needs people who know how to move papers from one desk to another if he’s to ‘Make America Great Again.’ One other thing that Trump does, which I applaud, is to call on people outside of the immediate ring of advisors. “He frequently turns to outside friends and former business colleagues for advice and positive reinforcement.” [Source Reuters] It’s only too easy to get closed off in an ivory tower.

Whereas it may seem like a great idea to bring in new blood, the reality is that the establishment has its purpose. More pertinently, the civil servants know how to block initiatives, especially ones that attempt to remove the ‘institutional’ benefits of the elite block in power. Macron will need to find a fine balance of old and new in his mix, pulling from both the left and right. And, caveat emptor, if Macron goes too far right, in an effort to unwrap the ‘social’ blanket that protects the masses, the raucous crowds will undoubtedly manifest themselves in the streets.

3/ The president to everyone?

As do all newly elected presidents, both Trump and Macron have claimed that they are/will be the president for all its country’s citizens. For the large part, we all know this is hubris. For Macron and Trump, the challenge of getting unity is diametrically opposed. Macron must find a path, torn between two sides. Trump is a right wing populist, far removed from the left. And, yet, they both want to rally the entire country.

broken chain macron trumpTrump has said that he is there to represent all Americans: “This will prove to be a great time in the lives of ALL Americans. We will unite and we will win, win, win!” Macron’s slogan is “France must be an opportunity for all.” Here is where both will face the same problem. It is hard to reconcile the “break-from-the-past” route, eliminating the “institutional” power-brokers to create real change without pissing off a lot of people along the way. If Macron wants to succeed in renovating France (assuming he actually wins on May 7), he will first need to win legislative support, which will be anything other than obvious. Then, even if he were to gain legislative support, it is not to say that he will be able to push through an aggressive agenda. Just like Trump, whose majority in Congress is outright, Macron may find that the locally elected politicians will not agree (sufficiently) with his ongoing pragmatism.

THE QUANDARY OF BOLD ACTION & BROAD APPEAL

While Macron’s policies and “vision” are different from Trump’s, connected to his more socialist background and the French context, the lessons from Trump’s first 100 days suggest that Macron should quickly address how to get a strong and supportive team behind him. As his movement “En Marche” suggests, Macron will need to create significant and concrete momentum early on in his presidency in order to assuage the naysayers. Trump’s bluster and rapid-fire presidential executive orders fell foul of the system (including the judicial check). For Macron, he will need to find a way to get actions through and implemented quickly while there is positive shine on his star. In my opinion, having a solid and clear programme will be part of that. Knowing how to work with the establishment and the installed civil servants will be also part of that. Otherwise, unexpected events will inevitably occur that will blow the agenda off course, bringing disappointment if not dismay, and an almost predictable mid-term blowback in the next round of legislative elections.

The answer is blowing in the wind….

As obvious as Macron is the better choice for France (vs Le Pen), it is yet hard to see how he will be able to shepherd real change in France given his deep links to François Hollande. Will the winds blow favourably or will the storm clouds drown out the clamour for change?

There will be three key dates to watch out for:

  1. Rendez-vous on May 7 at 8pm CEST to see if Macron is crowned president
  2. The June 11-18 legislative elections will be pivotal. Will Macron get a decisive majority or have to live in cohabitation?
  3. How many new policies will be enacted by October 2017 (i.e. in the first 100 days with the legislative backing)?

If Macron wins on May 7, his real 5-year mission could be to prove that his system — and the ‘establishment’ — is worthy enough to avoid a Le Pen victory at the next turnstyle in 2022.

* http://www.foxnews.com/transcript/2016/12/11/exclusive-donald-trump-on-cabinet-picks-transition-process.html]

How To Make A Poster Image That Works? A Look At The 11 French Presidential Election Candidates

Round 1 of the French presidential elections was historic in one regard, in that it saw two non-mainstream candidates — Macron and Le Pen — get through to the final round (May 7). In other regards, however, it just felt like yet another French election campaign and result. And, I wonder if we will not end up with another five years much of the same, regardless. With my marketing eye, I tried to figure out how the marketing messages might have helped or hindered in this first round.

French presidential elections — a question of personality

Above all else, one has to agree that the French presidential elections — with 11 candidates presented at the first round — are all about individual personalities, much more so than the political parties or even their programmes. In a strictly controlled environment where all 11 candidates are supposed to get exactly the same amount of media coverage, it’s inevitably hard for the electorate to really separate out who says what. So, I wanted to take a look at the marketing work done through the candidates’ posters that were constantly displayed together in batches of 11. See here a short description of each of the candidates.

Marketing via the poster

Just by looking at them, is there one that attracts your eye most? Typically, I’d have to believe it’s the bright red Poitou. But is there anything else that strikes you about these 11 (put in the order 1 to 11 that was prescribed by the official draw)? There was one thing that really struck me.

poster french presidential election candidates

Yes, I looked at those who chose to look left or right or straight on and who was consistent in that regard. I also looked at the de rigueur blue tie (or none). But, the big thing for me was that, of the 11, only 3 offered a proper smile. The other 8 have a neutral or stern look. Not exactly winners of the charisma awards. Of course, the Presidency is a serious position to be vying for, but it’s as if the requisite grumpy passport photo (an obligation in France) was used. Only Mélenchon decided to show us that he needs his glasses!

The colour spectrum

In terms of aligning their message with the French tricolour flag, there were two bona fide leftists in red (Trotskyist, anti-capitalist). Three chose a plain white background, but the majority (six) took to the “reassuring” blue background, including the firebrand candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was backed by the Communist Party. Both Le Pen and Dupont-Aignan (Stand Up France) used a left-to-right graduated blue background, moving toward a somber/stormy right. Mélenchon decided to use a cloudy graduated background (bottom-to-top).

poster french presidential election candidates 2

With five of the 11 candidates having presented themselves in the 2012 elections, you would have thought these might have improved with experience. But, in reality, most of these candidates know from the beginning that theirs is a lost cause, just a way to pollute and/or dilute the airwaves for the main candidates. The bottom seven candidates (including the “major” Socialist Party) pulled in a grand total of 15.1% of the first round vote.

Slogans – How effective?

Following the ‘prescribed’ order above in the first image, and maintaining the punctuation, the eleven candidates squared off in an attempt to own a space in a crowded field. Five decided to keep the word France in their slogan. Two of the slogans (The time has come and A historic choice) astonishingly say absolutely nothing. Five of the slogans convey energy or strength. The far left targeted the business/financial world.

poster french presidential election candidates 3

Overall, I was left to feel perplexed by the communication choices and messages. How does one make head or tail or the choices? Clearly the centrist Macron managed to capture the middle road in all aspects. His slogan was an all inclusive: France must be a chance/opportunity for all. It was also the longest.

Running Down The Middle – Please Everyone?

Noting that his movement was called En Marche (aka Move Ahead), Emmanuel Macron who obviously embodies it all, will have a titanesque challenge to rally the country (much less the legislative body) behind him, bridge the hefty cleavages and manage real change without breaking rank with both the right and left that surround him and without whose support he will go nowhere. Is it possible to run down the middle, attempting to placate everyone and yet get something accomplished? Let’s just, first, make sure he gets past the next hurdle on May 7. Then rendez vous in 2022.

Your reactions and predictions?

America First, Me Too – Where’s Europe?

Unless you have been living in a cave, you will have noticed that many countries have responded to Donald Trump’s America First pronouncement with a rather tongue-in-cheek Me Second video. It all began with this one from The Netherlands, by the Dutch comedy show called Sunday with Lubach (Zondag met Lubach).

First, one has to laud the speedy reaction of the Dutch team. This was put up 3 days after the inauguration (Jan 20). At time of posting, it has had over 22 million views (in less than 3 weeks). Kudos!

America First, Me Too

Inspired by the Dutch initiative, there have been many copy cat videos coming from (in alphabetical order) Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iran (two versions with the second one making the distinction between Iraq and Iran), Italy, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira Island, Moldova, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Having swept through them all, it’s worth nothing that virtually all of these videos have a minimum of 500,000 views each. A good publicity stint, if nothing else. However, they certainly also do speak to the level of outrage.

There’s even been a more fanciful video made by the ever-welcoming Mars planet.

Where’s Russia?

In one the major ironies, I don’t see a China Second or Russia Second video. Why? Censorship? Or perhaps because they both believe they are first? No doubt, everyone seems to be pulling the sheet cover over themselves.

Where’s Europe?

But, there is something else that struck me about the list (of copy cats) above. Over half of the countries come from Europe. But no one represents Europe. When I wrote about Brexit in the past, I mentioned that the project of Europe is in dire trouble because there is no united vision of Europe. The affiliations are at best national (and regrettably tending toward increasing nationalism). If Europe were strong, we’d have an America First, Europe Second video, no?

It would have to go along the lines:

Here is a quick introduction to Europe. Europe is great. We love history. We love diversity. We love building walls, both physical and imagined….

Sadly, the constituent countries of Europe are so embroiled in their own problems, that no one is taking care of Europe. Any takers out there to do the Europe Second video?

Brexited… Now What Should Europe Do?

Brexit Europe VisionAfter the surprising BREXIT vote by the people of the United Kingdom last Thursday, we have since certainly all been involved in heated debates regarding this topic. Amongst my Parisian friends, the conversation kept coming back to the English. And like in the “Journal du Dimanche”, the first two pages of a dedicated BREXIT segment were entirely focused on the UK.

The reactions on the continent have revolved around: the British are going to suffer; they are crazy; they do not understand the consequences; they are racist … But, I think, in these expressions, Europeans are mistaken in their conclusion. It would be better not to act as a jilted lover.

I personally feel more European than French (naturalized citizen). And, I think that Europe has a unique opportunity in this moment and must act resolutely.

Another friend opined that she was scared of what it meant. Here, I want to say that we need to move from fear into action.

In this context, I felt the urge to pen my point of view.

My advice to pro-Europeans: do not focus on the UK and the impact on them. Certainly, the reasons that motivated the vote are distressing; certainly, the UK may see the pound weakened and their economy struggle … but the real issue is:

 What to make of Europe?

brexit chinese-symbol-for-crisisAs the Chinese* would say: in any crisis, there is danger and opportunity. The requirement on the European side is not to draw up the best retribution possible against the Brits, but instead to focus its energies to find its own way and take care of itself. Angela Merkel rightly said: “Do not make fast conclusions about the British decision…”

Europe needs to understand – in a deeper way – why the Brexit vote happened. Sure, it was the 50+ year-old lesser educated English person who voted LEAVE in a bid to restore British sovereignty. But, in reality, the problem is that the British have not found enough reason to belong to Europe. Nicolas Sarkozy, for whatever he may be worth, is right in saying, “The British are gone: it’s their choice. We must now act fast and strong. “(JDD p6).

The risks

The three biggest risks BREXIT poses for Europe are:

  1. A wave of nationalism takes over Europe (e.g. France, Austria, the Netherlands…), driven by fear of immigration and a need to regain lost national pride. We should keep a beady eye on the presidential elections in France and Germany next year. And one should not forget the risk (and the need for a robust response by Europe and the US) of the resurgent near-despotic Russian nationalism.
  2. The European economy does not reboot, leaving an unhealthy level of unemployment, the younger generations in a precarious position and a stagnant intra-European movement of population. Note: the destabilizing effects of a non-harmonized tax system and uncoordinated state expenditures render the Euro currency totally flawed.
  3. That the people in European countries feel increasingly trapped in a Europe in which they do not recognize themselves; and, do not find a net benefit versus the apparent cost. So we’re bound to see other European countries embark on their own EXIT. We are already talking about similar votes in several countries. This all points to the fact that a strong anti-European sentiment existed well before the vote in the UK.

The stakes are high and the risks are real. But, it is important to stress that they existed before the BREXIT vote. In fact, these topics were fully discussed before; but, the 28 members at the table were nowhere near finding a solution, stuck in endemic bureaucracy and consensual decision-making. The problem is that nobody (in Brussels, in particular) has ever felt enough urgency. It’s like running a business with an over-populated Executive Committee. An ExCom of 28 27 people is just unmanageable.

The Opportunities

The opportunities for Europe – or even unintended consequences – are:

  1. To define the vision (aka its NORTH) of Europe, something that could be made easier without the presence and the nit-picky point of view of the English. Firstly, one would have to imagine a future in which Europe has a definite place in the world, and with which members can identify themselves. Secondly, we should agree on the de facto shared values. To date, neither the vision nor the common values are clear.

    brexit ideal europe

    The Ideal House by Claude Nicolas Ledoux, 1770

  2. To address how to mobilize the European economy from the inside – instead of focusing how to repulse or ensnare the new entrants (e.g. Google, Facebook and Alibaba); to encourage entrepreneurship and the free movement of people between countries; and to collaborate on strategic projects (not just Airbus). N.B. High taxation and bureaucracy are not favorable conditions for business.
  3. With a well-defined North, Brussels must be prepared and able to make tough decisions. For example: to clean Europe of members who do not play by the rules. Consensus – as a process – is not friendly with making difficult decisions.
  4. Not forgetting that if Europe acts appropriately, Scotland and Northern Ireland could decide to join the EU …

In the vision of the Europe of tomorrow, there is a need to identify one or more values that are held in common.* This must be an ideal and/or a behavioural trait that is shared de facto by the people living there. Europe needs to take decisive and joint action that demonstrates a clear ambition and that unites. One would need to streamline the decision-making in Brussels to become fleeter of foot. Will there ever be an alignment of tax policies and, even more complicated, over the role of the state (e.g., level of expenditures) within each country?

REDEFINING EUROPE

Although many repudiate the idea, Europe would perhaps need a real orchestral conductor. Is there an appetite on the part of citizens (and their governments) to give up more power and sovereignty to a meta-structure, with a European president? But, even imagining it were accepted, would there be a person up to the task? Angela Merkel would present the best (only?) option.

Many questions and concerns. But these issues should have been debated and resolved much earlier. Now, it’s time to take the bull by the horns.

WHAT IF BREXIT WERE THE RIGHT DECISION … FOR EUROPE?

Brexit or Breaks It

If, as a result of the UK’s decision, Europe undertakes radical changes that will ensure the future of Europe, BREXIT would have had a happy unexpected intention: Europe will have received the necessary kick in the butt to provoke the change. But, if Europe implodes, this would indicate that the UK had good reason to withdraw. Perhaps, the UK’s departure will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but, in my opinion, the proverbial camel was already heavily overloaded.

Either way, I maintain that Brexiting was the right decision, even if the reasoning that underpinned this vote were unfortunate.

As a first (small) act of the new Europe: At the time of Euro 2016, I would propose to create a European team for each sport (not just golf)!

Europe: Now’s the time for us to act together!

* Although the United States are far from exemplary on many points, there exists a common shared value – across the 50 states – a fundamental belief: every individual has the right to build his/her own future. This kind of shared value binds and transcends all the American people. May the EU find its own!

 

*My friend, Takuya san, pointed out that the ideogram I had originally posted was wrong (it meant “storm wind”). So, I have replaced it with the correct characters! Arigato Takuya san!

PS Here was the post I wrote before the Brexit vote.

Is There A Win-Win Case In The Brexit Vote?

brexit euro 2016Isn’t it ironic that the BREXIT vote is happening in the midst of Euro 2016? With good fortune (or planning?), there are no matches on Thursday 23rd. I am not particularly fond of football, but I feel like such tournaments are the best way to get out our atavistic nationalistic tendencies. May they remain there.

I have lived two-thirds of my life in Europe. I love Europe. I love Europe for its diversity of food and language; for its culture and history; for its proximity; for having the Alps and the Mediterranean; and much more. And, yet for Europe, I believe a BREXIT Leave vote will be best. Here’s why.

BREXIT – Business Angle: Short or Long-Term?

Taking the viewpoint of businesses in the Brexit debate, I have to state that there is little incentive for the UK to bust out of Europe. Businesses in general, and the stock market, in particular, do not like uncertainty. However, those vying to Remain based on financial matters, are doing so with no better assurances than those clamouring to leave. The difference is that the Remain camp is focusing on the negative shorter-term impact, while the other (leave) camp is more concerned about the longer-term impact.

Brexit Euro 2016

Obviously, no one knows for sure what would happen if Brexit goes through, except to say that it will cause a distinct amount of chaos. We know that there will be a major impact with the mobilisation of resources to reorganise (adjusting the legal and constitutional framework, redefining European political and trade relationships…). Another major thorny issue: what to do with the 3 million EU nationals living, working and/or studying in the UK, or the 2 million UK nationals spread throughout the EU?

Remain = Status Quo

Yet, to remain is to accept the status quo. Things I personally appreciate about the EU include the ability to travel without having to change monies or get visas and/or my passport stamped every time I cross a border. As a French national, I have the opportunity to settle wherever I would wish in Europe. Last but not least: the general peace Europe has enjoyed, regardless of the gross misfortune of the radical Islamic terrorism.

The one thing of which we do have a better understanding is if Europe stays as is, i.e. the UK votes to remain. Pretty much everyone everywhere knows that Europe is sickly. Even on the Remain camp, there are many who agree. What does the future hold with Europe continuing with the status quo?

Europe is ill

Europe is suffering on many layers, not least of which is its economic health. The European economy is systemically handicapped. The list of illnesses range from the systemic to the temporary to the cultural. The list of problems includes (but not limited to):

  1. the lack of fiscal harmony
  2. the hideously bureaucratic (and consensual) decision-making process in Brussels
  3. the lack of a harmonised vision of Europe across the 28 member countries of the EU
  4. the legacy feelings of entitlement
  5. the continuing divisions within the countries (Catalonia in Spain, Flemish in Belgium, Scotland in Britain, and an enormous laundry list of other active separatist or autonomy movements in Europe courtesy of Wikipedia)
  6. the risk of further pollutive immigration from the IS ranks

A chief argument for the Remain camp is that it will be easier to change from within… But, change hasn’t exactly been easy to forge in the past (especially over the first sixteen years since the introduction of the Euro). The UK’s half-wedded status has perhaps not helped them or Europe in this regard. Why will remaining in the EU mean that change will come any faster or better considering the poor record?

Vote for Radical Change?

My personal opinion underlying my position on the Brexit vote is that Europe needs to find a way to heal, and to do so quickly. I don’t believe gradual change will be good enough. In a democratic and consensual process, any change has been laborious to push through. Europe needs a real wake-up call to understand that staying as is will be like the proverbial frog in the (gradually) boiling pot. If a Brexit Leave vote will be painful for Europe, it will certainly be more painful for the UK, at least shorter term. But short of a Brexit, I do not see how or why Europe will take the necessary and hard decisions that need to happen to fix it. For this reason,

It won’t be pretty, but it would provide the best chance of forcing Europe’s hand to bring about necessary radical reform. Staying “within” will mean that any such change will come only with major compromises that bring Europe down to its lowest common denominator. Given the obvious stresses that the immigration issue will continue to provoke, much less the continuing slide of the European continuing faced against much more competitive players, Europe in its current incarnation seems destined to hit the wall.

I thus support Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

Your thoughts and reactions are welcome.

#ParisAttacks Aftershocks – And The Urge to Find Meaning

Paris Republique MeaningfulnessI think it is finally dawning on all of us that we are living in a radical new era. It seems that little by little, methodically interspersed with several months and country by country, we find a new date to mark on the calendar as a day of memorial, of grief and of spine-chilling angst. This Wikipedia entry — documenting all types of terrorist actions in 2015 alone — shows how frequent the acts of violence have become. In 2015, we may be living in times when there has never been more progress in medicine, technology and science. There may be great ambitions to send manned missions to Mars and the other side of the moon.There may not be a world war as history books tend to write about them. However, I am sure I am not alone in feeling that there is also good reason to review what we all doing, ponder why we are doing it and, pressingly, how we are spending our time and resources at work.

In contemplating November 13’s tragic events in Paris, I came away with three thoughts.

  1. It is evermore critical to do things that are meaningful. Did anyone else notice how hard it was to get any work done in the aftermath? Granted it was the weekend, but everything non essential seemed to be stripped away. Unless our activity has a deeper purpose, one can literally feel the reservoir of energy running out. I am sure that many people around the world who have trudged into work this Monday morning are scrubbing their brows.
  2. As much as we might now know that change is every day — evermore so recently than ever in the past — that doesn’t make the change any easier. If we all have to gear up for systematic perturbations, that heightens the need for a strong, shared and meaningful NORTH heading. This is true for us as individuals. It is true for us as entrepreneurs, business leaders and employees. And, of course, most emphatically for our society. With all these changing winds, we need a strong compass to help guide us in our professional and personal lives.
  3. Lastly, on a rather more banal level, I could not help but feel upset at the mundane tweets and messages that floated out on Friday evening and over the weekend thanks to a cue of pre-programmed communications using one or other marketing automation service (Buffer, Hootsuite, etc.). I thought I’d made sure all of mine were closed, but I still missed one tweet. Marketing automation is possibly a necessary evil for business, but when you pre-program all your communications, you lose the context and can end up with some awful mistakes – that come off as total callousness.

Your thoughts and reactions are welcome.

 

President Hollande – There’s a Hole in your Trustworthiness

The latest scandal in France with President Hollande, regarding his First Lady-cum-Second-Girlfriend-cum-Three’s a Party, has brought to the forefront the divide between personal and professional life. In France, the refrain is frequent: what’s personal is private. It’s considered the French touch, a cultural heritage. In an environment where trust is lacking and in a technologically enabled era where transparency is basically a conduit to trust, President Hollande’s secret tryst has made a mockery of the Office of the President.

Trustworthiness in leadership

In evaluating President Hollande’s management of his personal relationship, I think it absolutely matters in terms of gauging his trustworthiness. Not that ‘cheating’ is criminal, but it is certainly not encouraged at school, nor is it admirable or the basis for any solid long-term relationship. Moreover, for his team, it unquestionably has an impact on how they must view him and his sense of fidelity. In an ‘All Boy’s Club,’ maybe that type of behavior will be hammed up in the locker room. But, for a team including women, that has a sense of pride and from whom the leader is looking for total heart and soul commitment, this type of cheating will inevitably have a bearing. Even if it is not officially said to be important, the behavior speaks volumes.


I can only believe that this video above is not legitimate. Surely, with so few views, it’s a fake. But it certainly feels the part!

A Hole in Hollande’s Trustworthiness

I do make parallels between how Hollande managed this affair and what attitudes business leaders need to adopt in order to garner greater trust and to inspire and motivate the workers (or citizens) to follow the vision. In the army, if a soldier doesn’t trust his commander, he won’t feel good about taking the boss’ orders. I tend to believe the same is true of any leader. Sure, one might execute obediently, but the extra step, the extra energy will not be there. I would argue that the President of France has a gaping hole in his trustworthiness. It was there before the Gayet scandal erupted. Now, he has the trust of his very own team to recuperate before even thinking about the trust the population might have put in him.

Trust is intangible but relies on actions

Similarly, in business, engaged employees who live and work around their leader, for at least 8 up to 12 hours a day, need to feel that their leader is trustworthy. In such close quarters, I would also argue that employees will — at least subconsciously — also take note of his/her personal ethics. It’s not possible to separate the two, especially as it regards trustworthiness. If France has made a conscious decision to want to separate private and professional, it comes — at least in part — from its heritage of not wanting the King’s riches and decadence to be generally known by the masses. The French upper crust invoke the code “to live happily, it is better to live hidden.” This is just not a way to garner trust; especially in an era of widening transparency.

Voting for Whollande

For François Hollande, he has shown us throughout his career an inability to commit. What is true in his private life is also true in his public (political) life. Is it not obviously consistent? The natural extrapolation would be that if he treats his First Ladyfriend with such trickery and arctic coldness that he might operate the same way at times with his own team? And, for the electorate, it’s all very well “saying” you don’t care about his private life; then, why did Closer, the magazine that revealed the affair, sell out in the first day? Why has television been galavanting on about the ongoing tryst? Is it not because what is personal is the singular backbone of personality? Politicians, much like CEOs, are mediatic figures. They must accept to live in the limelight. I would argue that they must bring their whole person with them. And, it so happens in a world where digital media helps reveal and spread news, being transparent and demonstrating consistent integrity are the right way to go to build trust, a trust which in polls around the world is so lacking for politicians, business executives and marketers alike.

Ironically, now that Hollande is shifting from Socialist to Social Democrat, personally I am grateful for this latest switch; but will it last?

Daft Punk, The Myndset Digital Marketing & Brand StrategyBTW, is it not beautifully coincidental that the helmeted Daft Punk is a French band that just scooped the Grammy Award for its album? They clearly have the wind in the backs….

P.S. I participated in a “debate” on France 24 television following the press conference at which Hollande was grilled about the Closer revelations.  In case you are interested, here are the YouTube recordings (in two parts): Part 1 and Part 2.

Your thoughts?

Sense of Balance – Astounding criminal justice inconsistencies

I love Eddie Izzard. Do you?

Eddie Izzard, on The Myndset Brand StrategyIn one of his absolutely best skits, dressed in his executive transvestite garb, in Dressed to Kill, Izzard says that we all know how to name and punish someone who murders one or several people.  We have monikers such as a serial killer and mass murderer.  However, Izzard points out that we come up blank when it comes to labelling individuals who murder over a hundred thousand people (read: Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot…).

Murder and the penal system is a tricky and sensitive topic. Not an easy dinner table conversation, by any standard. It is not a topic that leaves one neutral.  Perhaps because of the level of sensitivity, it seems that the world has no sense of balance or center of gravity in the affair.

Around the world, it is astounding to see the range of standards for dealing with criminals. There is the autocratic, unmerciful, unsupervised version in certain radical states (China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen are purportedly the top 4 in meting out the death penalty, followed unceremoniously by the US)*.  As of May 2012, the death penalty is legal in 33 states in the US. Then, according to various laws, some countries will hand out sentences of “life imprisonment” – with life being some fanciful number, well below 100 years.

It seems curious when you can have, in the “developed” world, such discrepancies in sentences.  Murder can be far less punishable than financial embezzlement.  Here are a sampling of different cases:

  • The 74-year-old Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years (and $17B in forfeiture) after his titanic Ponzi scheme came apart. [USA]
  • The 31-year-old Jerome Kerviel was sentenced to pay $6.7B in fines and 5 years in prison (plus 2 years suspended) for his derivatives trading errors at Société Générale, despite the fact that the gains were not his personally to realize. [France]
  • A death sentence (that was successful only on the second electrocution attempt) for the apparently falsely accused 18-year-old Willie Francis (see my friend, Gilbert King’s book, The Execution of Willie Francis).  [USA]  Of course, there are many more such cases around the world – see Wikipedia’s entry for wrongful executions.
  • An elaborate 11-year stalemate in Guantánamo for the 5 masterminds of the September 11 terrorist attacks.  Only recently, the Pentagon has declared that the charges “could carry the death penalty.”  [USA]
  • In the UK, this week, an armed robber, Yohan Clarke, 33, was jailed for 22 years for shooting, but not killing, someone in the stomach.  Source: Evening Standard.  [UK]
  • And now, there is a pending punishment for Anders Breivik in Norway, for killing 77 people in two separate attacks: 21 years in prison with possible five-year extensions for as long as he is considered a danger to society.  21 years, really? That is, basically, 4 months per victim.  Source: Telegraph [Norway]
Eddie Izzard Executive Transvestite, The Myndset Brand Strategy

Dressed To Kill

Of course, as Izzard points out, there was house arrest for Pol Pot (aged 72), responsible for 1.7 million deaths in Cambodia, during a 3-year stint.

What is a life worth?  What is life imprisonment, if it is not until the end of your life?

I am beginning to doubt that their system is any less crazy than any Western so-called civilized system?  Who has it right?

It is all rather confusing, if not demoralizing, when you start to see such discrepancies in terms of punishment.  You almost think there must be some form of arbitrage going on among criminal circles.  Better to kill in certain countries and not get caught doing financial misdeeds in others.  What are your thoughts?  Please drop in your opinion!

*The list’s top 10 is rounded out by Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria and Somalia — not very good company, eh?

The unfair weather knell of democratic politics

Water rain - The Myndset Brand StrategyWe are in changing times (once again) and I must say that the picture reminds me of the grey and rainy may day (ie. help!) we are having in London (au Secours #RadioLondres), on this Monday, May 7, 2012.

As of today, we now have:

  • Hollande in France, voted in by 51.7%
  • Samaris of the New Democracy party in Greece with 18.9% vote, introducing  a very new form of democracy
  • Putin of United Russia with 64% of the vote as the returning President in Russia, ushering back in an echo of Russian democracy
  • …not to mention the weekend’s local/regional elections in the UK, Germany and Italy, where the incumbents were regularly whipped or wiped out of office.

A major year for elections

These elections alone have been rather momentous.  And, ahead, there are many more parliamentary and presidential elections to which to look forward including Egypt in end of May, India (in July) and USA (in November)… [You can view the entire list of elections in the world in this Wikipedia entry.]

It was a busy week of voting for me, too.  I voted in the mayoral election in London as well as the Presidential election in France (via “procuration”).  I will also cast my vote in the US elections.

For what purpose?

But, with all these elections, it leads me to pose two questions:

  1. how much do people expect the world to change thanks to politicians?
  2. how much productivity is negatively impacted in a country during the year of elections?
On the first point, I have long been a proponent of the Ayn Rand determinist school of thought, so I would much rather take matters into my own hands, whenever possible.  If you are in business, then I think there is no better state of mind.  I am more likely to believe that democratically elected politicians can negatively impact business, rather than positively.
On the second question, if voters spent their time on constructive debate and pundits (and the media) provided more reasoned and well-researched arguments, perhaps an election would be grounds for real debate and progress.  But, between media airwaves that are spent on unsightly negative political (and personal) attacks, flaring emotions in bar rooms and pubs and vapid political debates, there seems to be too much wasted breath (and time) during political campaigns.

The political cycle

The problem with democratically elected officials is that, by definition, they must over promise to get elected.  Yet, with clockwork predictability, unexpected events occur and plans are derailed.  By mid term, the electorate systematically becomes impatient and sanctions their elected leader, making the last half of the term a lame duck.  The arc of democracy consists of high expectations and dashed hopes.  Would that we all got down to the business of taking responsibility for ourselves rather than waiting for Godot.

Wave that [French] flag!

Is France doing some media marketing?

It seems that this week, France has managed to capture the bulk of the headlines in the press in the international section.  And there is a captivating, if not liberating theme!

  1. The liberation of the two French France Television journalists, cameraman Stéphane Taponier and reporter Hervé Ghesquière, after 18 months (547 days) in captivity at the hands of the Taliban
  2. The captivation of the world’s media with DSK scandal in NYC and his potential incarceration
  3. The nomination of Mrs. Christine Lagarde (N.B. her name = The Keeper), current Minister of Economy, as the first woman at the head of the IMF {BRAVA!}
  4. And, finally, Tsonga’s cuffing of the Feds in SW19.  A brilliant come from behind.  Roger looks like a prisoner of ghost’s past!

Is it just because I live here in France that I think that the French marketing machine was on overdrive?  If France were a brand, is this a good way to be top of mind on the world’s stage?  Your thoughts?