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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

Are the Presidential Candidates in the Smart Zone?

It's finally Election Day and I have found myself glued to the television to watch debates (and even a few Saturday Night Live skits). Although I don't consider myself a political person, I find the current political climate fascinating. In fact, I voted early!

People in the Smart Zone connect with others. You will most likely vote for the candidate you feel is most relevant - who shares your needs, wants and interests.

The Smart Zone is the mental state for optimal performance using intellect, emotions, and behaviors. Sounds like something a psychologist might say - right? Let's take a look at how each candidate is IN or OUT of his Smart Zone using the model above.

  • Trust: The basis of being in the Smart Zone is trust. Do you trust the candidates? People will vote for who they trust the most. For example, it's important to address and right wrongs. If you saw McCain on Late Night with David Letterman he answered the question about why he canceled being on Dave's show to do an interview with Katie Couric by simply saying, "I screwed up."

  • Manage Perception: McCain wants to be viewed as a maverick and change agent. He has been perceived as having a temper and being mad. Obama wants to be perceived as a transformational leader. He has been perceived as slick and eloquent. Both perceptions can help and hurt each candidate.

  • Solution Oriented: Forward looking leaders focus on solutions, not problems. During the debates how did you feel when a candidate was presenting the facts about a problem (like healthcare) vs. presenting solutions to the problem? To be in the Smart Zone the candidates have to ask and answer "What" and "How" questions - not "Why" questions. "Why" questions focus on the problem. For example, instead of saying, "Why do we have the healthcare problem" candidates should say, "What are we going to do about the healthcare problem?"

  • Mental Theater: This is the drama we create in our heads so it seems an event really did happen. Both candidates have run negative ad campaigns and created negative drama about the other. When we only know part of a story our mind will try and fill in the blanks. This takes both candidates out of the Smart Zone.

  • Likeability: In the business world we say people leave bosses not companies. A leader's success depends on how he or she gets along with others. In fact, smiling when you are talking makes you likeable and memorable - a trait that Obama uses. Acting disrespectful of others has the opposite effect. It makes you unlikable. Both candidates have been accused of disrespecting the other. McCain even called Obama "that one" in one of the debates (which some viewed as disrespectful).

  • Manage Mood: Optimism is more useful for winning votes than pessimism. But a healthy dose of pessimism will bring out reality. During the last debate Obama took a more optimistic approach to changes he would make. McCain focused on the pessimistic realities of Obama's plans. It was a categorical difference in their approach.

  • Smart Zone Secret: Both McCain and Obama definitely know it! The Smart Zone secret is: take the focus off yourself. McCain and Obama have demonstrated behavior that shows their empathy for others and the desire to make life better for the American people.

Just for fun, and if you have about 10 minutes, watch a Saturday Night Live skit spoofing both candidates. And if you have a chance, check out my blog to see some of the fun one of my associates is having with Halloween and the election.

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