Five Reasons the NRA Won the Background Check Debate that Have Nothing to Do with Politics
Over 30,000 views and counting...my recent Forbes column, Politicking the Bottom Line, has garnered some attention. Read my take on five reasons the NRA won the background check debates that have nothing to do with politics: http://onforb.es/15PAjrF
Is Your Strategy on the Right Track or the Warning Track?
It’s baseball season, and for those of you who follow it like me (Go Cincinnati Reds!) you know what the warning track is. . . at about 690 feet in length and about 15 feet wide, the noise of the track’s gravel under the outfielder’s feet warns them they are about to hit the outfield wall, followed by a visit to their orthopedic surgeon or dentist.
I think there are also warning tracks in our government relations strategies. If you have invested the time and energy into developing strategy, one of the most difficult things to do is to make sure you are adhering to it.
Once strategy is developed it needs to be live and deployed. It needs to be measured and modified as needed. What I have observed recently is that many well- meaning government relations professionals are on the strategy warning track. They are focused on the day to day of catching the ball, of making sure nothing bad happens, of fighting fires, and so they are not paying attention to the gravel noise under their feet.
I think there is a gap in the way people think and operate regarding strategy. They love their strategy, and adore being labeled as “strategic thinkers.” The problem is that thinking is not doing. Strategies stay on track when we are disciplined and can monitor those activities on a regular basis, certainly weekly and absolutely each month. There are things you do, whether meetings, conference calls, or projects, that move your strategy forward. Where the gap exists is when other distractions seem to seep in and become time and energy sucks.
Now before you start saying, “Hey Showalter, I don’t have the time, you are just giving me another thing to do,” read on. There is a way you can accomplish this. I recommend you start to do two things:
1. Before you commit to anything (launching your social media initiative, scheduling a call, participating in a webinar, writing an article, serving on a professional association’s board or committee ---- anything) ask yourself if it is positive, neutral or negative relative to your strategy.
For example, I’m amazed at how many people want to advance their careers and become more well known in their profession, but yet either decline an opportunity to speak at a meeting of their peers or have to get the permission from the 5th Ozone Platoon Leader to speak. You should be jumping at those opportunities and consider it a privilege to be on the platform.
Another favorite example is the trend of giving your grassroots volunteers “activities” without a strategy. Are any of those activities strategic, or are they just “to do’s” to justify your job?
Amyism #65: Grassroots Tactics
“Your best grassroots advocates know the difference between just being kept busy and meaningful engagement. The only real way to retain people is with meaningful engagement.”
- Betsy Vetter, American Heart Association
A way to ensure volunteer burn out is to give them lots of busy work with no results. The ground truth is that asking your stakeholders to do them for the sake of good citizenship is a hard sell in today’s world of over-committed volunteers. Plus, some of you are in legislative battles with groups who do them much better than your volunteers, so you compare unfavorably to your legislative opponents. Your volunteers know which tactics to use, but not how to persuasively deliver them. Even Peyton Manning still attends his team’s practice, and during his post surgery comeback, he worked with a coach.
There are a lot of layers to this dilemma, but you are going to have the best results if you focus on a couple strategic initiatives for your internal grassroots development and concentrate on those, rather than giving your advocates a list of “to do’s” disguised as strategic.
You need to be brutally honest in the way you determine whether the activities you or your advocates (or PAC leaders) are engaging in get you closer to your goal. Labeling activities as strategic (which I am hearing a lot now for some reason) just isn’t strategic.
Amyism #29: Government Relations Results
"Your ultimate results are revealed in your daily routine. Tell me what you want, show me your weekly calendar, and I'll tell you if you'll get it."
2. Do a quick strategic audit of your calendar. The calendar doesn’t lie. Look back at the last month or two and mark each item on your calendar as positive, neutral, or negative as to your strategy. I realize there are many things you need to do that don’t have to do with strategy execution, but I also know that there are way too many things we commit to doing that we can control. You must be comfortable saying “no.”
My most successful coaching clients that have learned to say no. In fact, I take it as a high compliment when their colleagues have reported to me, as a couple have, that “You’ve turned John into a monster. He won’t help us with our projects.” (The “projects” were things like putting paper in the printer, running something down to the lobby, etc., because his desk was closest to the elevators.) Those were just nonsensical activities for him and we put a stop to the interruptions. Within a couple of months, he was noticeably more productive, and none of his co-workers poisoned his food, etc.
Bottom line, you have to take control so that you can stay on track and so that your organization strategy can stay on track. If you are hearing the gravel of the warning track, it’s time to take an audit and pay attention.
How to Tell If Your Organization is a Political Minefield (and How to Deal with It)
In my coaching practice, I find that folks who are overly concerned with the internal politics of the organization can quickly get off track relative to their own career strategy and their organization’s strategy. You have a finite amount of energy and if it is directed towards internal political issues you just can’t direct it to what matters most ----- staying on track and being a source of positive energy to your internal and external stakeholders.
Here is how I evaluate whether a coaching client is in an overly political environment, and my tips for mitigating its’ distractions:
1. They talk about “winning” or “beating” internal colleagues.
Who you have to beat is yourself --- are you better than you were a year ago? How about a month ago?
2. They talk about their colleagues more than their own performance.
You have control of your performance. You don't however, have control of how your associates perform.
3. There are topics that I am told that I am not allowed to discuss with them.
This is a symptom of not just a political culture, but a fear-based culture. If you don’t have anyone to confide in, how can you improve?
4. The client continually talks about other departments and their effects on their performance rather than their own ability to improve.
See #2 above
5. The client is more concerned about what will make their boss happy than about what will help them improve their abilities to do a good job. Remember, your boss is going to be wrong now and then.
You are paid for your insights and unique value. If you are a “yes man” or woman, your value is diminished.
6. Decisions that are delayed because the client is told they have to talk to internal associates first, not because of the value of their input, but because they must be included in discussions to make them feel useful even though they have no expertise in the subject. Jack Welch always reminded his team that “If you can’t be simple you can’t be fast, and if you can’t be fast, you are dead in a global economy.” Allowing those who have no discernible expertise in certain topics to be given air time or worse, veto power, shows the organization doesn’t really care about speed or results. The solution is simple: stop inviting them to your meetings. Steve Jobs was ruthless with this practice, routinely uninviting people to meetings who did not need to be there. It won’t derail your career for you to try it now and then.
All organizations have a political context. That’s completely natural. The key is to recognize it for what it is, flick it off your shoulder, and move on.
Please join us for your opportunity to get many, many new ideas at the beautiful new D.C. offices of Arent Fox www.arentfox.com on June 12th.
I have discovered that people learn more from questions, peer discussions, and comparing agendas than they do from a Powerpoint slide (and yes I still use Powerpoint).
The Town Halls are all about you – your issues, your challenges, you advice for your peers regarding grassroots and PAC challenges. You will do most of the talking and I of course, will chime in with my observations and advice as needed. I’ve been told I am a combination of Oprah and Judge Judy in these sessions, so a rollicking good time will be had by all!
You can learn more and register here: