For those of you who don’t know me, I don’t usually become to political in my posts because the message can easily get lost in the differences in ideologies. Today is no different. There are a few interesting things that take place in American politics that, like them or not, work quite well. How they are used and what is accomplished when things “work” is left up for discussion somewhere else.

With sensationalized media clips for the sake of ratings to sell advertising space, as opposed to just objectively reporting the news, we barely finish one election cycle and we’re back on the media frenzy around the next group of elections. Personally, it does my head in and I want to scream; however, I have decided to look for what we can learn from this crazy carnival attraction we have come to know as elections and the political arena.

The grand politico franchise has nearly developed a science around the concept of people adopting their beliefs and ideas to the degree that a vote of confidence is cast. Wouldn’t we all enjoy this in our organizations (without all the mudslinging and juvenile TV ads)? Well here is my top 10 list that does its best to put a nice little spin on the otherwise circus we not so affectionately call American politics.

Top 10 ways to create the culture you want.

10. Careful planning – Every single candidate that makes it past the primaries has a refined strategy and plan on how they are going to consistently communicate the “atmosphere” and expectations around their candidacy. Culture will never organically happen, when left to its own devices. If you are going to have a quality culture, you must plan for it.

9. Understand difficult issues – There are things that will have opposition. Nothing will make everyone happy. The successful candidates are aware of this possibility and prepare themselves for it. Just because you’re excited about an initiative doesn’t mean everyone will share the same sentiment. Objectively step back and imagine what push back you could experience and find ways to communicate your message to those who may have objections. You can’t declare a culture. You have to develop it.

8. Don’t go it alone – Politicians have staff, volunteers and friends who help them move things forward. Leadership is no different and when it comes to anything leadership, especially culture, you have to have a solid team to support that culture.  A good team is one in which difficult questions can be asked without causing internal strife. Let creative differences be the first step to a solution. If your team has creative differences, chances are the greater masses will to. Hash out those differences first so you have a united leadership team.

7. Use purposeful language – One of the biggest drivers of culture is language. Politicians are masters at not answering certain questions if it puts them in a position of diverting from their prescribed language. While I don’t suggest this level of avoidance, adopting a specific language when discussing culture will help reinforce it. If your language speaks a different culture than what you have communicated, these mixed signals will cause people to view you as unorganized or, even worse, untrustworthy.

6. Make it public – The amount of “in your face” time that politicians pay for is absolutely staggering. From ads to interviews to media sound bytes, they all put their message in your face. Never miss an opportunity to publicly exemplify the culture you wish to develop or perpetuate. This ties into the Careful planning element. There are consistent events or scenarios that occur in day-to-day business. Use these opportunities to reinforce culture.

5. Celebrate efforts of others – There will be people who are quick to align themselves with your culture. Without making it look like you’re playing favorites, recognize and celebrate the efforts of those who support and exemplify the desired culture for your organization. We humans love to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and we love recognition.

4. Carefully select talent – Any politician worth their salt is going to choose their team based on an alignment with their campaign. Don’t believe me? Ask Newt Gingrich. A lack of alignment caused a mass exodus. If you’re not considering your culture and values alignment during your talent recruitment efforts, you’re begging for increased turnover. Make your culture painfully prevalent throughout the recruiting and onboarding process. Not the bait and switch routine, but how things really function. I know, you feel naked right now. It’s normal. It’s also okay.

3. Celebrate your distinction – If you don’t stand out as a politician, forget it. Your culture is no different. So many organizations almost feel ashamed about the differences they have when compared to other organizations in their industry. Your differences are what give you market distinction. Potential talent drives profit as much (if not more) than customer purchases. Unashamedly wave your culture banner high and wide. The quality talent that quickly connects with what makes you distinct will most likely be the difference in your organization moving forward or not.

2. Listen to the needs of others – No one will vote for someone who is just about perpetuating their own agenda. Before you go strong and hard with what you believe to be right, make sure you are asking those you’re serving (yes, serving and leading are interchangeable). The culture doesn’t necessarily have to change, but how it’s expressed may be adjusted because of how it can affect people as they carry out their responsibilities. You or your leadership team does NOT have all the answers and a culture of collaboration will bring the best ideas.

1. Never quit – The year of an election is replete with TV ads, billboards, Facebook ads, tweets/RTs and whatever other media available with the candidate’s message(s). This ubiquitous barrage of communication consumes a significant segment of the campaign budget. As an organization, you most likely already have internal communication channels set up. They’re your channels, so use them. Maybe you can have a daily email by the CEO. A funny note from the leadership team every Friday and Monday. A community forum where the CEO responds to questions or challenges within the organization. Whatever you do, keep it coming. People change and get hung up in the tasks. It’s important that they are consistently reminded of how it all ties together. Culture never sleeps!

Did I miss anything? What are your thoughts?

  • This was a great post! You are 100% right…I wrote something not similar but related last year when I worked the social media on the Sean Duffy for Congress campaign 🙂
    The Politics of Social Media: An Overlook of the Duffy for Congress Campaign – http://bit.ly/dpB2Lb

  • Thanks so much for contributing your personal experience. Loved your post!