Lessons from a Local David-and-Goliath Tale

Linda Dulye's picture

Over the past couple of months I was lucky enough to work on my friend and neighbor Al’s county election campaign.

From the beginning, Al understood what he was up against in trying to unseat an entrenched incumbent. After all, he’d never run for elected office before. But, in true David-versus-Goliath fashion, Al achieved a stunning victory on Election Night.

There are many similarities between what Al accomplished in his campaign and what managers try to achieve every day in the workplace.

Here are four key strategies that helped put Al over the top – and a challenge to managers to apply them.

1. Clarify your message. It wasn’t clear at first what Al stood for. Not that he didn’t have reasons for wanting to be elected, he had plenty, it just wasn’t clear and succinct. But Al kept revising his message until he could clearly articulate the top three things he stands for. Managers: Does your team know what you expect of them? Do they know your department’s goals and how they can accomplish them?

2. Be accessible. Early on, Al went door-to-door, introducing himself to voters. Then he held meetings in which voters could meet him and ask questions. In each of these instances, Al handed out business cards with his cell phone number and his personal email account printed on them. Managers: How accessible are you to your staff? Keep in mind, the more gatekeepers and layers between you and your staff, the less likely employees are to trust you.

3. Be authentic. When I first saw Al’s campaign literature, the disconnect was profound. The photo on his brochure showed Al in a suit, looking very much like an attorney – but Al’s a dairy farmer. In fact, he comes from a family with a long history of dairy farming in our area. So, we developed new brochure that showed Al in his typical wardrobe – jeans and a polo shirt – and in the field where he spends his days. Managers: Are your words and messages aligned? Do you walk the talk?

4. Say Thank You. No one expected Al to win on Election Night, but he did. The next morning he had already placed Thank You signs on supporters’ lawns. He couldn’t have won without them and his response showed heartfelt gratitude. Managers: How often do you show appreciation for your team’s effort? “Thank you” is one the most abundant currencies you have.

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