Goals are more often achieved when success or failure is clear and unambiguous, like a political election. This week you'll hear the story of a young political campaign staffer and how he kept himself motivated by setting weekly and daily goals to keep himself on track for success.
- In politics, the goals are amazingly clear and the level of commitment is extremely high. Whereas in business, the goals aren't always crystal clear and the commitment is often lukewarm and that's not a coincidence. The all or nothing nature of politics is what creates the full commitment. For example in business, if a company's sales only come in at say $228 million this year instead of its goal of $229 million, it's not the end of the world.
The stock price might tick down a few points and a few executives might earn a slightly smaller bonus, but the company won't shutdown and lay off all its workers. But in politics, if a candidate gets only 49% of the vote instead of 51%, the election is lost. That politician and every single member of their campaign staff is out of a job until the next election. Just ask Ben LaRocco. After finishing a degree in political science in 2003, he went into politics as a campaign staffer.
Now he had five different jobs in his first four years out of school because a typical campaign only lasts about nine months. What's the work like? Campaign season is brutal. As Ben describes it, he worked long days, well into the night, and you have no social life. That's why most campaign staffers are single. There's no time for family. And they constantly check their own level of commitment. He said when it's 100 degrees outside in August and you've been knocking on doors for the past nine hours, you have to remind yourself that the next 10 doors could make the difference in the election.
If you didn't believe that, you'd be at the bar already. Well, Ben learned that lesson the hard way in one of his first jobs. He was working on a primary campaign for a state congressional candidate in Ohio. The other candidates were well-matched both politically and financially. Well, Ben worked hard all season long right up to election night. So when the polls closed at seven o'clock, his work was finally done. He watched the returns come in from campaign headquarters for the next two hours. Well at nine o'clock, his candidate was down by a handful of votes.
He got in his car for his 90-minute drive home. When he got home and turned on the television, he found out that now they were up by less than 50 votes. When he got up the next morning, they were still up but now by 62 votes, but they weren't done counting. It was such a close election. A lot of the precincts ended up counting the ballots twice so candidates took turns being on top one day and behind the next. Two weeks later, one county found 23 uncounted votes.
Unfortunately, it was a county that favored his opponent. In the final tally, his candidate lost by 22 votes out of over 34,000 votes cast. His margin of defeat was 4/100 of 1%. That's a pretty tough defeat to take at the tender age of 22, but that lost taught Ben important lessons about goals and commitment. Ever since, he's done two things differently. First, he tore out the pages of a daily calendar, five or six months worth, for every day up to election day.
He posted those pages on the wall and wrote daily and weekly goals on them. How many phone calls to make this day? How much money to raise by this week or how many people to meet or how many doors to knock on? And he tracked progress against those goals every day. Well, a second thing that he did was that every morning when he got up he asked himself, "What am I gonna do today better than my competition? "What will I do today "to affect what happens on November 2nd?" And when he went to bed at night, he'd ask himself, "Did I win or lose today? "Did I do more or less than my competition?" So here's what you can do in your organization to apply those lessons.
First, make goals clear and unambiguous like in politics on election day. And second, set short-term tracking goals, weekly or even daily to help motivate performance. Good luck at the polls.
- Leading change
- Creativity and innovation
- Getting results
- Collaboration and teamwork
- Managing during crisis
- Giving and receiving performance feedback
- Increasing engagement