Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Advice from the field: You are not alone

Leeanne October 3, 2021

Lessons from the White House: Valerie Jarrett aka "The Obama Whisperer"

When working with President Barak Obama in some cases, speaking up meant persuading the president and holding him accountable. Valerie Jarrett’s closeness to Obama, his respect for her, and her comfort level in pushing back at times helped earn her the name “The Obama Whisperer.”

In many respects, the White House is like a large corporation with the president as the CEO. Jarrett says that, as in a company, the role of Obama’s White House team was to help advise the president to make sure he made informed decisions possible. As she knew him so well, sometimes it fell to her to make the hard asks and challenge his thinking.

One example occurred in the first year of the Obama administration. Jarrett noticed that women in the White House, including those in senior leadership positions, were reluctant to voice their views in meetings. These meetings were often heated and confrontational, and women were not wading into the fray. She also noticed that these same women spoke their minds when Obama was in the room, as he encouraged them to participate. But when he wasn’t in the room, they tended to shrink back, and the men dominated the discussion.

So she spoke to Obama about what she saw. To his credit, he understood that it was his responsibility to shape the workplace culture and ensure that every voice was heard. When he asked her advice on how he could change these dynamics, she suggested that he host a dinner for these women i the White House family residence–which was less intimidating than the Oval Office.

” I think the fact that he stepped right in and said to the women, ‘Share with me what’s going on here and I want to be a part of the solution made all the difference,'” Jarret says. “The other thing he said at the dinner was, ‘Look, I know it’s hard to speak up. I know we all have pride and sometimes we can all get shut down [by others in the meeting.] You can’t afford to take it personally. I need you to speak up. I need your voice in the decision making process. I will make better decisions with the benefit of what you have to offer.’ That was an incredibly empowering thing to say to the women in the White House.”

Which of the following components of Relationship Management do you see reflected above?

Influence

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Persuading Others

What is your influencing style?
Rationalizing
Assserting
Negotiating
Inspiring
Bridging
Find out more on these styles below.

Inspirational leadership

Providing a vision that motivates others.

Definition of Vision:
the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom

Developing others

Providing feedback and building skills and knowledge.

Who relies on you for feedback in order to develop professionally?

Who gives you feedback in a manner you would like to emulate.

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Which of these components do you feel are your strengths?
Which are your weaknesses?

How can you improve these seven aspects of relationship management?