I only had five minutes to speak and I was required to have twenty slides which progressed automatically every fifteen seconds. That means I had to memorize twenty fifteen second snippets.
Perhaps you can take a lesson or two and apply it to your business.
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. Most normal people wouldn’t last two days on a political campaign.
I’ve been in a fist fight in a campaign office. I’ve been passed out drunk in a closet. I’ve walked in on people screwing – twice.
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 a genuine piece of shit – like you can’t do anything right.
You cry. You yell. You curse a lot.
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 bullshit. You know how to get shit done. You know how to tackle any problem that comes your way
Moving from the campaign world into corporate marketing to work with small, medium and even huge corporations was a complete shock to my system. I quickly learned that you can’t just tell people to go fuck themselves, to stay at the office all night or to come in on Saturday to get their shit done.
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 lawyers. So many damn lawyers.
SeaWorld was under attack by PETA and their attendance and their stock price plummeted. We were brought in to help stop the bleeding. Day one on the job, I stepped in and asked how long it would take to send out an email to their customer list. They said 45 days.
It took them one year from the premiere of the damaging Blackfish documentary until they responded to the animal abuse allegations. ONE FULL YEAR. Because people who don’t know shit about PR refused to let them. And their inaction nearly put them out of business.
SeaWorld isn’t alone. I could rattle off names like Sears, K-Mart and many others we’ve worked with stuck in the same bullshit. No campaign would 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.
You don’t have to have sex in offices, curse people out or drink yourself into oblivion to get things done like on a political campaign. You don’t have to have the HR nightmares. You can have it both ways. Here are a few things corporate America should take from political campaigns to get more shit 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 bullshit.
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 meeting.
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 get shit done is something every corporation should emulate and scale.
I have done so at my agency and yes, these changes bread hostility in the workplace, but you can negate that on the front end if you know what you’re walking into.
Have a great night full of positive vibes.