Trust – The Ultimate Grassroots and PAC Motivator: Part 2

Misplaced Loyalty

Whether it’s defending your advocates to badly behaving legislators, or helping them navigate internal organizational land mines, we must demonstrate loyalty to engender trust.

Unfortunately, I still hear stories of legislators who treat grassroots advocates worse than their mother– in – law. Many of us have witnessed condescending behavior and overt animus toward constituents during our Capitol Hill and State House lobby day events.

We can’t prevent lousy legislator behavior, but we can defend our advocates when we witness the behavior, as well as when we hear more than once of an offending legislator misplacing her anger on our well–meaning grassroots volunteers. Misplaced loyalty to the legislator rather than the advocate breeds mistrust.

I understand that a lobbyist has to placate the offending legislator. However, there’s no compelling reason why a grassroots or PAC manager has to do that. Their loyalty must be to their volunteers.

We must pay attention to this dynamic. This is serious. My four–year research project with active, productive grassroots and PAC advocates revealed that the number–one reason they disengage from advocacy is “disappointing legislator behavior,” also known as “legislators behaving badly.” If your organization is luxuriating in an abundance of motivated advocates, don’t take my advice. If you want to retain your productive advocates longer, defend and protect them against badly– behaving lawmakers.

We must be their bulwark with churlish legislators. It’s almost as if we are the co–dependent enablers, aware of the negative interaction, but encouraging people to come back and try again at the next lobby day event. Our advocates are busy people. Why would they sign up for that duty?

We must also protect them from organizational discouragement. Jim Lorimer, former Vice President of Government Relations at my grassroots boot camp, Nationwide Insurance, exemplified stellar loyalty. On a couple occasions our state CAP (Civic Action Program) Chairpersons’ immediate supervisors tried to prohibit their attendance at our annual Washington, D.C. CAP training conference. Without hesitation he would call or write the manager and “bring the situation to the manager’s way of understanding.” The CAP leaders always made it to D.C.

They knew that we would support them. Out of over thirty state CAP Chairpersons that I was privileged to work with, only one refused to cooperate with Action Call requests, etc. I attribute this to the solid loyalty we exhibited. They trusted us to go to bat for them and they in turn advocated for themselves and the company.

Direction Changes

The insidious impact of frequent grassroots and PAC direction changes is why I preach the necessity of a grassroots and PAC community or program within an organization. Campaigns most definitely have their purpose, but they can reduce motivation in the long term unless community is created from them.

Our advocates will tolerate change, but not ambiguity. I’m thrilled to hear about organizations that are revitalizing the grassroots and PAC communities. However, the fact that they have to “revitalize” means that the effort stalled; the program blended into the organizational woodwork. This impacts our ability to motivate our team for future battles.

How do your advocates and PAC leaders know that this “revitalization” isn’t just another two–year attempt (or more commonly, an election year attempt) at political involvement, only to be mired in organizational adminisphere changes when the new department head is named, the merger is completed, the election is over, and so forth?

To increase your trust quotient, and thus motivational quotient, develop a sustainable grassroots and PAC community with structure, norms, and social capitol.

Failure to Trust Others

Perfectionists have a tough time with this. They can’t trust their volunteer advocacy and PAC leaders with meaningful tasks and their volunteers become disengaged. Because this is so critical to motivation, I asked Glen Caroline, Director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action and Tiffany Adams, Vice–President of Public Affairs for the National Association of Manufacturers, to speak at my annual Innovate to Motivate conference.

Glen and Tiffany’s organizations give their volunteer leaders responsibility for strategic and tactical assignments. From conducting district voter registration drives and “get out the vote” drives, to reviewing and editing manuals, their volunteer leaders know that their skills are valued to the staff personally and to the organization as a whole.

Not coincidentally, both the NRA and the NAM consistently appear on Fortune magazine’s “Power 25” list of the most powerful lobbying groups in the country.

Are you using the power of delegation, which implies trust, to motivate?

In part three of this article, I’ll reveal why your reward system, inconsistent messages, negative communications, and lack of gratitude erodes trust and hence, motivation.