Elections: Now is the Time to Do

by Emily Jasper on April 12, 2011

I have to say it: I hate the fact that we’re already hearing about elections for 2012. Logically, I understand it takes a long time to educate the American public, sort out all the contenders, and make sure that we have qualified candidates when it gets to voting day. However, as a businesswoman, I’m a little frustrated that the actual “doing” of the job gets set aside while people are running for the future job.

It’s not how we do it in business.

First, if your performance review at the end of the year included campaigning, but not actual performing, your boss is going to have to lay down the law. I’ve heard anecdotally that one of the things that Gen Y needs to watch out for is being considered too outward focused. We love to volunteer for extra projects and work on teams all over the company, but we run the risk of then not doing the actual job expected of us. And by seeking out other projects, we give the impression that what we’re doing now isn’t worth our time or investment.

That’s kind of how I feel about campaigning: that you don’t see what you’re doing now as being the most important thing.

In essence, we’re dealing with a “grass is always greener” situation. In an ideal world, as a politician, having a stellar track record of accomplishments would be more than enough to get you elected or re-elected. You wouldn’t need to dupe the public with catchy slogans or dumbing down the issues, ignoring a lot of the nuances that make them so complicated. You wouldn’t piss people off by having back-stabbing commercials running 24/7, causing us to question your character because you don’t have a problem with fighting dirty.

The second thing that gets me is that the campaign is a wish list, dependent on a lot of planets aligning for things to work out how you promise. It is hard to make change happen, and after working in Federal Procurement for a while, trust me, the government is a giant machine. Things rarely happen as quickly as needed, and those long lists of promises only turn into disappointment when they don’t actually happen.

If you are in a position to campaign with a realistic platform, make sure you’re actually accomplishing some of those promises. If you are making slow progress or encountering obstacles, show them to us. Just the same way schools use thermometers for progress on fundraising, use progress pipelines to show how you’re doing the job. That progress report could say much more later if you’re looking to be reelected than fancy speeches dancing around the issue.

Finally, I’m tired of business and government taking an us vs. them attitude. Government plays in business all the time with everything from standard regulations and patent issues, to giant bailouts. However, the government is none too pleased when business wants to step in and help out. There’s evil lobbying to get the rich only richer. Yes, there may be companies pushing the system, but I think there is a shift from fat cat lobbying to educating about ripple effects decisions have.

For example, ObamaCare may get more coverage for more people, but the cost of it was pushed off to employees in many companies because the change was so quick, budgets couldn’t be realigned. So we have Americans taking home smaller paychecks during a time when we need them to consume more…and the ripple goes on from there. We all want to get the job done, trust me. I don’t think people really want to waffle around on issues, and if they do, then again, it should be like business. Get them out of there.

I don’t know who I’ll be voting for in 2012, but I can’t think that far ahead when we have too many issues to worry about now. To not have had budgets, to be facing shut down, if this were a business, you have no reason to be planning ahead if you can’t handle things now.

The ability to DO will continue to be an asset all leaders need, so start demonstrating that now. Don’t wait until the next election and hope you’ll have a chance.

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