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8 Things The Corporate World Can Learn From Political Campaigns

Think of your absolute worst HR nightmares. That pretty much sums up how a political campaign operates. The best two words to describe the campaign workplace is unprofessional and hostile.  You’re targeting a lot of specific demographics so things are said that many would take as sexist, racist or at a minimum stereotyping.

You’re constantly being degraded, cursed at and made to feel like you can’t do anything right.  You work every night, every weekend, and every holiday with very little pay and absolutely no benefits.

But when it’s over and you look back at those moments – you’re grateful. Because you know that you can handle anything – any person, any crisis, any drama, any issue. You know how to get it done. You know how to tackle any problem that comes your way.

More disturbing than either of those realizations was learning that you can’t just push the ball forward because someone might get their feelings hurt. You may step on someone’s toes. The chain of command is way too long. Decisions can take weeks instead of immediately like I was used too.

Everyday you have to jump through 100 hoops just to post something to Twitter. Leaders are afraid of innovation because they have a cozy position, good pay, maybe some stock options. Change could hurt them personally. Oh, and the law – so many laws.

Many Corporations work in fear – stuck in the way it has “always been.”  No campaign could ever operate this way. The whole corporate system is set up to hear too many opinions, to stop progress, to protect the status quo and to kill innovation.

Here are a few things corporate America could take from political campaigns to get more done.

1. Campaigns work well because everyone is rallied behind a single common goal – to win the election. 

Not knowing where you’re going creates an environment where people drag their feet. Every business should have one large goal beyond just ‘make money’ to help rally the troops.

2. That big goal is broken down into mini-sprints where everyone works furiously toward the same goal. 

In campaigns it’s all about the financial quarter where the media reports on our strength. Find those short term goals and then celebrate the completion of those goals throughout the year.

3. Campaigns have a defined enemy.

It’s our common goal to destroy that enemy. It gets everyone on the same page. It rallies the team. It boosts morale. Find a target to go after and rally the team around catching that enemy, growing past that enemy and perhaps even shutting that enemy down.

4. Campaigns have a simple hierarchy.

A consolidated senior team, very little middle management, and as many worker bees as they can find. Decisions are passed up the chain quickly, approved and immediately implemented.

With that said, titles are worthless, because:

5. Whoever can do the job and steps up is the right person for the job.

And no one on a campaign would ever fault anyone for stepping up to get a job done. People get the job done or they get out of the way.

6. Campaigns do not allow destructive people in their ranks.

We surround ourselves with loyal teammates and would never get in the bunker with someone who would drop the grenade. We fire very quickly.

Businesses on the other hand let people just linger and soak up precious resources. Take the feelings out of the equation and cut people.

7. Campaigns don’t let lawyers get involved in messaging. Ever!

Lawyers are there to answer one question – will this get me in trouble?  They stay in their lane. Don’t let lawyers scare you into inaction. Don’t let them bully their way into your problem.  Lawyers should provide a solution – you already know the problems.

8. Let numbers make the decision for you.

Egos in business can often get in the way of good decision making and everyone wants to prove their worth by giving their opinion. On the campaign trail – you follow the poll because that’s your path to victory. The data is the final arbiter of what a good idea or bad idea is or isn’t.

So while political campaigns may be the nightmare of every HR professional, their ability to have progress is something every corporation should emulate and scale.

Every day at Goldfinch Winslow, we look at how to be better.  How to be better for our clients, our team, and our community.  These changes can bred resistance due to the change in culture, but you can negate that on the front end if you set the example and have passion for the pursuit of progress.

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