I’m not a political junkie but if you live in New Hampshire, like I do, you can’t avoid the scene. Tuesday’s ‘First in the Nation’ presidential primary process can not be missed or eluded. Politicians and their entourages, including a passel of reporters, are zigzagging across the state, making formal appearances in dozens of scheduled town hall meetings and private living room chats; it’s not unusual to stumble upon a candidate having breakfast in your local diner. Every serious candidate, and then some, are here. Television ads are prevalent, endless volumes of phone calls asking for your support, and citizens canvasing along local streets for their favorite candidate are all a part of the very normal scene.
With all the hoopla, you hear a lot of opinions. Some people are more vocal that others, but even in silence, each of us can identify the candidates’ traits that we like and those that we don’t.
The political process at our statewide — and national — level provides an excellent opportunity for us to improve our workplaces. You can apply those lessons today, starting immediately, in every thought and interaction at your organization.
When we reflect on the candidates and how they conduct themselves, it provides a valuable exercise for evaluating the quality of our workplace environments. It is true that the leadership characteristics we seek for the President of the United States of America could have some differences from traits in our supervisors, managers, even the CEO of our business, yet there are certainly many important areas that are identical.
Try this exercise. Without focusing on the particular stance a candidate represents, think about the attributes of the candidates that you admire. Likewise, think about the attributes of the candidates that are unacceptable to you. Write it down on paper. Here are a few priorities from my list:
Candidates’ traits that I admire: unwavering integrity, clear and fair decision-making ability, commitment to the responsibilities of the position that transcends personal aspirations, ability to unite and respect differing views while holding firm to their own beliefs
Candidates’ traits that I loathe: hot-tempered, vindictive, or patronizing actions towards a person or group, no interest in collaboration and mutually beneficial outcomes
Your list will look different, as it should. The point is to know what it is important to YOU, while recognizing that many unique and valid perspectives exist.
Next, think about how YOU lead in your organization. Remember, all of us are leaders, whether we have functional or traditional management responsibility or work as an individual contributor. Each of us is a role model for how to lead our own lives, how we conduct ourselves in the workplace, and how we perform our job. That impacts our entire team and ultimately, the success of the organization.
When you think of the items on your list, does your own personal style align more closely with the aspects that you admire? Or do your actions look more like the behaviors from your ‘not-so-desirable-traits’ list?
Though my value system holds fair treatment to all as a priority, I know Grace can give you a few examples to illustrate my lack of perfection in this area. There are times that I clearly put my needs ahead of hers, as much as I think I’m always fair and just to her as an equal part of the family. She would say that I sometimes rush her on our walks; I get impatient and pull at her leash to hurry up, despite her enjoyment of the moment. She would say that we let the cats sleep on the bed at night, but she can’t. No doubt she could think of other instances.
Yes, I understand that presidential actions hold much greater consequences, but the point is pertinent. A judgment of ‘being fair’ is relative. It’s not good enough to conduct yourself in a certain way only when it is convenient, it needs to be done consistently and true to all involved.
So do we practice what we say others should do? Or is that only for the other guy who has more important ramifications to their actions? As an employee, co-worker, team member, manager, or CEO, we must realize that our actions DO matter. And they matter all the time, even the consequences may seem trivial.
Selecting a presidential candidate is an important responsibility. So is your role in your organization. Your values and actions impact people everyday. Are you paying attention to what you value and adhering to those ideals? What can you do differently today that will make a difference to those in your company?