Do as Obama would do

2 min read
11/04/23 4:21 PM

My team will roll their eyes, but I think I still have bragging rights over seeing President Obama speak at INBOUND 2022. 


For those of you who aren’t across this, let me get you up to date with my experience at the INBOUND conference in Boston last September. 


We all know and love Obama for the fact he’s an excellent communicator, but the message he was sharing just made the entire talk that much more impactful.


Sometimes, as leaders, or as a business, we get caught up in saying the right things, and saying them in the right way. 


We aren’t necessarily thinking about the space being held for these conversations, nor are we understanding the difference between talking and listening. 


Let’s get Obama in to explain this a little better..


“Executives get a seat at the table, and their junior staff and assistants sit on the perimeter to take notes. 


But Obama knew that these junior staff weren’t just taking notes; they were the ones feeding the memos to the higher-ups at the table—and probably knew more intel about the situation than their bosses. 

So, how’d he widen that scope of intel? Obama would look at those on the perimeter, and point to a junior staffer. “‘You,’” he’d start. “‘What did you think?’” 

”Initially, they'd be shocked because their assumption was they wouldn't speak in these meetings,” he recounts.  

Obama cites this representation as a no-brainer success in decision-making: “That's been documented. Studies have been shown.” 

If you follow our Cradle opinion pieces you’ll know we are big on listening and being human. And I’ll be honest, it was quite a cool feeling watching someone as world-leading as Obama preach the exact values that started Cradle. 

But even I had my values and understanding of ‘listening’ developed that day.

“The second thing,” Obama says, “is it gave everybody ownership into the decision so that when a decision went wrong, there wasn't a bunch of sniping and who was right and who was wrong.” 


Talking, listening, understanding and sharing the decision making could play a huge role when it comes to tending to customer frustrations. 

If businesses took a more collaborative approach to decision making and solving problems, maybe the game would change when it comes to the textbook: angry customer vs flustered customer service representative. Having a shared conversation, where customers' opinions are considered valuable information to work towards a better product or experience could transform our businesses as we know it. No piece of information is invaluable. 

As Obama said, if we want to build anything, be it community, culture, or crisis resolution, we must make room for pause and listen to one another. 

I always look forward to HubSpot’s INBOUND conference. On top of the special guests, exciting new technology and networking opportunities, the conversations are always the best part, and I’m always left overwhelmed, in the best possible way by the way some of our industry leaders are leading their teams. There’s always something to learn. 

As for this year’s conference? 

I’m not sure anything will top Obama.. But I’m sure the conversations will leave us all feeling pretty invigorated and we look forward to telling you all about it in September.

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