A non political hyper analysis of the first US Presidential debate, 2016


I kept the alarm, but still woke up 10 minutes late, to watch the Presidential debates from the other end of the Atlantic.

I tweeted, made some observations and here is a television viewer’s take on the most watched debate.

90 minutes. On stage, behind the podium, in front of the audience and the moderator. Scrutiny is an understatement.

90-minutes. Millions watching and hyper analysing every word, gesture and expression.

90 minutes. No commercial breaks. No camera cuts. Just a split screen, zoomed in on the made up faces.

The preparation and homework that must have gone in is unimaginable. After all, the stakes are tied to the most powerful job in the world.

Expression. Eye contact. Gestures. Tone. Pitch. Blink. Flicker. Cough. Sip. Sniffle.

Yeah, the briefing documents must have had notes running into pages for each item.

One almost felt sorry for them. Here we were perched on the sofa with tea and an array of sandwiches, looking forward to 90-minutes of undiluted entertainment.

A chance to play God. And an endless investigation of the key issues.

In addition to no commercial breaks, there were no bio breaks either. They must have been off water, at least two hours before getting on stage.

Still, Donald sipped. And the trolls went berserk with his drinking.

Then the face needed to be arranged exactly in the manner that the campaign managers had told them to.

What to show? How to hide? There’s no place to go, when you are in the limelight.

Smile! Hillary did plenty of that, poor woman, giving in to the criticism that she doesn’t.

Don’t smirk or shake your head. But Trump went ahead and did just that after fifteen minutes of polished restraint. His campaign manager must have sent a text message to his colleague – smh.

He sniffled a bit too and got written about it. Wondering how that comes in the way of Presidency though…

In addition to sniffling, was there shuffling? Who could tell? The podium covered it well. Thank God! You can’t be seen shuffling if you are running for the President’s office.

Don’t cough. You are allowed to choke, preferably on a pretzel and after you become President. But don’t cough. If you cough, you will be written off. She didn’t.

But she did her famous shoulder shimmy, just once. And the trolls went to town with the now famous shimmy GIF.

What to wear? Bright? Sober? Pleasant? Feminine? Humane?

Hillary pulled off the bright red jacket brilliantly, along with the expertly coiffed hair.

Just how many hours were spent selecting the colour and cut? How much analysis and psychological connections of subliminal derivations of colour must have been done.

Looks like it worked. She looked sensational. And Trump saw Red. That explains why he interrupted Hillary 25 times in 26 minutes.

The carefully selected blue silk tie stood out pretty well against Trump’s crisp white shirt. It seemed to have a calming effect on Hillary.

She won this round, in my estimate. Not hands down. Or not because she was brilliant. Mostly, because he was being himself. A brat.



Leadership Lessons from Master Chef Australia

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I have been watching Master Chef Australia for about five years now and it never fails to touch a chord. It is much more than a cooking reality show. While it does celebrate food, flavor, culinary skills, technique and presentation, it also packs in more lessons.

Watch how Gary, Matt and George don their roles as coaches and mentors and provide unmistakable lessons for leadership.

When the participants are cooking and racing against time, the trio steps in to provide that bit of valuable advice or to flag-off a potential cooking disaster. It is always done professionally and is always about the skill, technique, ingredient, speed and never about the person.
Take-Away for leaders:
Don’t wait till appraisal time to provide inputs or comments. Be involved, observe carefully and ensure you don’t set your team up for failure.

This is leadership in action! Watch every tasting ceremony and see how sensitivity, compassion and objectivity become the core values of an ‘appraisal’ or ‘review’. When the participant places the dish for the ultimate test of tasting, the judges’ body language and expression is neither condescending nor critical. The first remark, whatever the outcome would be, is always positive like –“Wow! That looks good”.

When the stakes are high, especially in an elimination round, every tasting is preceded with a personal conversation – “what’s driving you?”, “how did you do today?”, “is something bothering you?”. There’s so much empathy that is demonstrated, especially with the participant who has struggled the most or whose dish is showing problems.

We see expert, incisive knowledge as the basis of observations and comments. Even though the viewers aren’t tasting the dish, we know exactly what went right or awry with the flavour, technique or ingredient. No personal biases come in the way.

Take-Away for leaders:
Demonstrate deep domain knowledge and let objectivity and fairness ride supreme. This way the candidate is completely enrolled in your evaluation and respects the decision. And don’t fake the personal conversation. Insincerity is always detected.

The judges clearly spell out reasons for their score and you can’t fault their verdict.  The good points are unfailingly highlighted, along with the poor ones. In a close tie, the ultimate parameters are flavor and balance. Presentation, hard work, team spirit all get their due. But when its down to the last crumb and every dish is a visual treat, then it is all about the core value – how did the food taste.

Take-Away for leaders:
Let your employee know exactly the reason behind your scores and always align performance to the ultimate objective or core value of the role/project.

This is when the participant with the lowest score gets eliminated from the show. And how! The best moments are showcased, strengths and achievements are celebrated and the participant is reminded of his/her goal or dream.

What’s beautiful is that much after the elimination, the last frame tells the viewers about the participant’s current journey and success – “We wish you well”, “We know you’ll do well” “We’ll look out for you”.


About the author:

Azra Fathima is a communication expert. In her own words –

“I architect highly coherent strategies that help organisations and teams to move from an idea to a successful, repeatable and sustainable outcome.

While leading strategic and global marketing (focus on US, UK and India) in multinational companies across technology and related industries, I have also instituted landmark initiatives and strategic properties that are supported with robust implementation plans. These have helped organisations to make quantum leaps in their stated objectives.

My core competencies include communication; writing; organisational strategy; marketing strategy; brand transformation; messaging; content strategy; content management, demand generation and high operational efficiency.

I love writing and am featured among HuffPost’s signature lineup of contributors for their blog page.”

For more, please read here – https://in.linkedin.com/in/azrafathima