Ten lessons from Reagan on building a brain trust
In his book, Quiggle uses Reagan’s example, as well as that of other prominent and influential business leaders, to highlight key skills for leaders to develop. Quiggle, who began his professional career in Ronald Reagan’s California post-presidency office and is now a successful entrepreneur, witnessed firsthand the traits, habits, and principles that made Reagan so effective.
Here, he shares 10 things to consider when building your own brain trust, Kitchen Cabinet, or whatever you choose to call it:
First, get over your desire to be right. According to Quiggle, Reagan chose to fill his Kitchen Cabinet with trusted advisors who were accomplished in their own rights, and whom he knew would be tough with him when necessary. In other words, they were not nodding, sycophantic yes-men. They were independent thinkers who weren’t afraid to speak up when they saw an issue differently from the president.
“Know up front that putting together your own Kitchen Cabinet won’t always be a comfortable experience,” Quiggle comments. “In the process of helping you and advising you, sometimes your brain trust will tell you that you’re wrong. They’ll disagree with you. They’ll have better ideas than you. And you (and your ego!) need to be okay with that! To put it bluntly, if you always want to be the smartest person in the room and are unwilling to surround yourself with people whose strengths are your weaknesses, you’ll be limited by your own capabilities…which might not be as sufficient to the task at hand as you think.”
Stock your cabinet with a variety of viewpoints. Say you’re a financial advisor, and you’ve just opened your own firm. Of course you’ll want to include current or former owners of successful financial services firms in your brain trust. They’ve walked the path on which you’re just embarking, and they can give you invaluable advice on how to navigate the obstacles you’ll be facing. But Quiggle cautions you not to limit your choices to older, wiser, within-your-industry types.
“In the example above, you might include someone with banking expertise, successful business owners in different fields, and someone who represents your target customer base,” he suggests. “The point is, you want your Kitchen Cabinet to represent a variety of different viewpoints and knowledge sets. If everyone advising you has similar experiences and opinions, they’ll be of limited use.”
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