What LBJ can teach you about the most valuable commodity.
January 23, 2013
Early in Lyndon Johnson’s senate career, he lobbied for the title of Senate Majority Whip. The more seasoned senators chuckled.
Senate Majority Whip wasn’t a post senators lobbied for. You were drafted to be the Whip. You were sentenced to be the Whip.
The Whip gig was about pushing paper, scheduling the endless bills, communicating with the 96 (at that time) senators, and spending long days on the Senate floor. For many senators, this was the worst DC had to offer.
For LBJ, it was an opportunity.
The Whip title put him close to the action.
It provided Access to Information.
As Whip, LBJ knew when each bill would be introduced. He knew how long it would be debated. He knew which bills had the votes to pass and which would be shy by three. This information was extremely valuable to senators.
LBJ had access to information that determined how senators would behave.
With good information, LBJ could tell the future.
(This just in: If you can predict the future, there’s always a market for your services. )
LBJ kept a scorecard for the bills. Names down the middle, Yeas on the left, Nays on the right. As he shared information with his fellow senators, he often learned how they planned to vote on various bills.
Johnson then plotted the votes on his scorecard. The numbers were only inked when he knew - truly knew for a fact - which way the senator was to vote. No guessing.
One LBJ staffer made the mistake of indicating which direction he “thought” another senator would vote.
LBJ unloaded on him.
“What the f*** good is thinking to me? Thinking isn’t good enough. Thinking is never good enough. I need to know.”
Thinking is guessing.
Knowing is information.
Information is capital.
If you know someone will do something, the capital is in the absence of Rework. Doing it twice is expensive.
Having to double-check because you can merely guess is time-consuming.
On your jobsite, do you manage by walking around? More specifically, do you manage by talking around - gathering information about the people and their priorities as it relates to you?
Do you know how your co-workers and tradesmen will behave?
Based on your consistent communication with them, do you have complete trust in what they say they will do?
You either know or you don’t.
You either have the information or you don’t.
So get the information.
Talk to people.
If there is a language barrier, find common ground and build on it.
Otherwise, you’re just guessing.
And guessing will get you whipped.