Use an Evidence-Based Approach to Choose Your Presidential Candidate

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Use an Evidence-Based Approach to Choose Your Presidential Candidate

The U.S. presidential race is much more than a partisan or popularity contest. We’re literally at a survival crossroads where voters’ decisions must be truly informed in order to choose a President who can best meet their personal goals and to protect their families’ and country’s futures from multiple threats.

But how can we do this most effectively? How can we avoid “Teflon candidates” who don’t accept responsibility for their own actions and let accountability roll off their backs?  Who will do whatever it takes to help us to achieve our goals?  What proven and straightforward approaches can we use to select the “right leader?”  How can the Baldrige Excellence Framework and other evidence-based best practices help us to decide?

This blog post describes a proven, practical, three-step approach supported by the Baldrige Excellence Framework and the “Six Building Blocks of Lasting Leadership.” The approach can be used to avoid voting for a charming candidate who lasts only one term and will be rejected four years later by the very same voters who selected him/her into office.  Simply put, this approach will help you sort through the rhetoric and decide, with confidence, which of the candidates is most likely to deliver what he/she promises.

In weighing our presidential candidate options, the safest choice is to utilize an evidence-based approach. In other words, a proven and straightforward way to obtain an accurate picture of job candidates, presidential or otherwise, is to evaluate their “head,” “heart,” and “feet.”

Head, Heart, FeetThe head represents what they need to know; the heart, their passions (e.g., how driven they are to be of service to others and help them achieve their collective goals); and the feet, their previously demonstrated actions (e.g., how they have developed productive relationships, worked across party lines, and/or collaborated with “competitors” in comparable situations). Significant evidence exists that the best predictor of candidates’ future behaviors in a given context is how they have behaved most frequently in similar situations.

Voters or “interviewers” can use this three-dimensional model effectively across contexts to help select the right President, as well as new hires for their own organizations, to avoid costly hiring mistakes.   In considering their “heads,” we need to decide what previous knowledge, formal education, and prior experiences candidates have acquired in order to be most successful in the job.  They don’t need to be expert in all areas but will need to delegate effectively, trust but verify, and establish multiple ways of ensuring that the information they send to others and receive back from them are communicated accurately.

“Heart” reflects people’s passions—what they are so strongly driven to do that they “cannot not do it” because that’s just part of who they are as people. It also may be helpful to reflect on what we mean when we talk about a candidate’s character or personality and the clear relevance that personality has to selecting our next President, or organizational leader for our own organizations.  We form our impressions of others’ character or personality based on their overt comments and behaviors over time.  This is not based on their inner thoughts…but on what they say and do.

By definition, personalities are relatively stable and predictable ways that over time, we have come to expect others we know and trust (or don’t trust) to respond in given sets of circumstances. For example, have they consistently delivered on promises they made to us, forthrightly and respectfully told us when they disagreed with our judgments (instead of letting us think that they supported our decision and subsequently disappointed us), and candidly and promptly acknowledged their own mistakes.  As another example, are they so competitive that they need to win at all costs?  Look for concrete examples when they have subordinated their own individual wants and needs to advocate for the common good.  Baldrige principles encourage us to demonstrate intelligent risk taking; this could be in the form of effective “give and take” and making carefully weighted concessions.  A critical takeaway from this blog is the 3Ps—”Personality Propels Performance.”

Baldrige Categories 1: Leadership, 4: Measurement, Analysis and Knowledge Management, and 5: Workforce provide specific guidance as to the criteria we can use to evaluate our presidential candidates. These criteria support the findings of The Synergy Organization’s national best practices research studies with the most successful and enduring presidents/CEOs (including Baldrige Award recipients);  these findings are identified as the “Six Building Blocks of Lasting Leadership.

The first of these building blocks is Relationships. The most effective leaders have learned that healthy and productive relationships require helping others.  They willingly and proactively reach out to others before they need them and offer help without expecting anything immediately in return.  Our country’s best leaders know that over the long term, the best way to ensure their own success is to ensure the success of those around them, while holding them accountable for performance.  Consider what your preferred candidate has done to develop trusting, mutually beneficial, long-term relationships with others.

Look at where candidates’ feet already have taken them. Have they walked their talk?  How often have they done what they promised?  How have they reacted when they failed to achieve their goals; did they blame others, take accountability, or find another way to achieve the desired result?  What have they done that most closely parallels what a successful President will be required to do?  Under what circumstances have they achieved these goals; were they passive participants who went along for the ride, or did they show great initiative and determination and overcome multiple challenges in the process?

Asking hypothetical questions of what they “would do in the future” is of limited value, as it’s not likely to yield truly predictive answers. Instead, strengthening highly targeted, behaviorally based interviews and reference checks with validated, pre-employment leadership assessments significantly improves your accuracy and the Results (Baldrige Category 7) you can reasonably expect from your successful candidate.