It’s All About You? Never!

This blog was originally published on Forbes as It’s All About You? Never! on Friday, July 31, 2015.

During the recent NBA Championship series, when the Cleveland Cavaliers fell behind the Golden State Warriors 3 games to 2, their star, LeBron James, was asked by a reporter whether he felt pressure. King James, as he is known to his adoring fans, replied, “I feel confident because I’m the best player in the world. It’s that simple.”

The Warriors, playing with a deeper bench, went on to win the series, fulfilling the timeless sports adage, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.’”

Last month, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced his bid to be the Republican candidate for the presidential election, he spent the first third of his half-hour speech talking about himself. It was not his first time instance of self-centeredness. In This Town, a revealing book about Washington D.C. politics, author Mark Leibovich described Mr. Christie’s nominating speech for Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention in 2012: “Christie only expended 1,800 words and 16 minutes in his keynote address talking about New Jersey before spitting out the name of the nominee. Christie’s speech was dubbed the ‘Me Note Address.’”

Woefully, the “It’s all about me” phenomenon goes beyond sports and politics into other fields of communication: speeches with the narrow focus of an autobiography; salespeople who sell features rather than benefits; presenters who trot out the same corporate pitch to any and all audiences; companies which allow departments to operate as individual silos; and social conversations which race along on separate tracks that never converge.

The problem was best captured in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke. Although the film has faded from public memory, one of its lines of dialogue has endured as part of our cultural vocabulary: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

Governor Christie has apparently since seen the light. Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal reported:

Post-announcement, Mr. Christie seems to have caged the attack animal. He has given four content-filled speeches… [He] is the Republican Terminator not merely for surviving but for how he absorbs energy from an audience and rechannels it into a strong personal performance.

It may be too late, however. Mr. Christie has been trying to break away from the pack of 16 other Republican candidates by campaigning vigorously in New Hampshire, the first primary of the 2016 election. But a report in this week’s New York Times shows him in eighth place in the public opinion polls, trailing the leader Donald Trump, and then went on to offer the cause:

“I do think he has a very blunt personality,” said Matt Burrill, a town selectman from Newton. “There are going to be certain folks in New Hampshire where that will be a big plus, but others feel like that might not work on the national stage when we go to vote.”

Whether you are in politics, sports, business, sales or social communication, remember: it’s not about you, it’s all about your audience.

This blog was originally published on Forbes as It’s All About You? Never! on Friday, July 31, 2015.