In 2016 we saw the most experienced candidate to run for President in recent history lose to the person with the least amount of experience. After losing the White House, Congress, and the Senate – not to mention 2/3rds of Governorships – it’s time for the DNC to look in the mirror and ask why they can’t seem to win elections.
Why can’t they win elections? Here are just a few reasons why – in no particular order:
- They come off as out of touch with voters.
- They come off as elite and entitled.
- There is infighting within the party (see Sanders vs Clinton).
- There is no unified message.
- They can’t unite in towing the party line.
- Their candidates are viewed as stale.
- They apologize for everything.
- They aren’t engaging with voters.
- They do a poor job of execution when picking their battles.
- They are seen as not being tough and back down or whine when they don’t win.
I could go on and on. Literally, I could. But then I’d sound like another whiny and rambling “Democrat”. Not my style.
Even members of their own party – specifically Pete Buttigieg, South Bend, Indiana’s Mayor who ran for DNC chair – said “We don’t seem to have any strategic plan – we just go from one cycle to the next.” Pete is correct. Shame I couldn’t vote for him in the DNC chair’s race – because I know a bit about the importance of strategic planning – or so my clients tell me. Hey Tom Perez, vision is great, feel free to give me a shout if you find yourself struggling with the same ol same ol per making vision a reality.
No wonder democrats can’t win elections. Trying to win an election without a clear and actionable strategy which all party leadership buys into is like trying to head north without a compass. No wonder so many have abandoned the party.
“Democrats have no agenda, no plan for the future, and no sense of leadership”
– Former US Representative FL, Jeff Miller
Executing a strategy is hard. Only 56% of strategic initiatives reach their goals or business intent. However – it’s an entirely different scenario when you don’t even have a clear and actionable strategy from the beginning. It’s difficult to get to where you want to be if you don’t even have a realistic plan supported by all for how you’re going to get there.
So how can the DNC win in politics (and you win in business)?
ASK – THEM WHAT THEY WANT!
Before you develop a strategy and direction you need to collect data – from internal and external sources. I know this is a foreign concept to some – but the easiest way to collect data is to ASK those who are part of your organization and those you want to win over. Ask them what they want! Per the DNC, last I checked – our elected officials serve us, not the other way around. Voters want to feel like they’re heard. They can’t feel heard if you don’t ask them for their input. If you ask – then people expect to see confirmation their voices were heard, not just in a “thank you,” but in actions and direction. You need to understand – not guess or assume – what it is the people want and why.
LISTEN – TO WHAT THEY SAY!
Once you ask and have collected data – you really need to listen to the information you receive. You can’t ignore the data you don’t like. You can’t toss the results in a drawer or file them away. Spin only goes so far. For people to support and follow you or your cause – they need to know they were actually heard. Now that you’ve solicited feedback and ideas you need to determine what will it take to make those a reality. What does success look like for those who provided input? Per the DNC, just in case the Democrats forgot – their end goal is to win elections. It’s tough to win elections if you’re not really listening to what your constituents want – or listening to the ideas they propose.
DELIVER – YOUR STRATEGY
Now it’s time for action. Once you ask and listen, you should have a pretty clear picture of the direction your supporters prefer. This information, combined with other internal and external factors to which you most likely (or at least should) have data on, will serve as inputs for planning. You now have the information needed to set direction and develop your strategy for action. Gain commitment and lead your supporters.
“A leader in the Democratic Party is a boss, in the Republican party he is a leader”
– Harry Truman
To be successful you also need to understand this is not a one and done approach. Once you begin executing your strategy, you’ll need to provide insights and updates regarding accolades, concerns, and possible changes to your strategy and direction. Frequent communication is required. And no – not just constant emails with a “donate” button. People need to hear and see that you’ve listened to their ideas. They want to see progress on how you are working to resolve their concerns. And, stay…on…message.
You’ll then need to consider adjusting your strategy and direction as needed. This is the part people tend to forget about. You need to course correct if your strategy doesn’t pan out as you had hoped. If you’re hearing or seeing a change is needed – circle back to Ask and Listen.
In closing – if you want to be successful in business or in politics you need to have your constituents (or customers) on board and committed to what you’re trying to achieve. The approach is simple. Ask. Listen. Deliver. Communicate. And course correct as needed.
About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions – a Leadership Effectiveness & Strategy firm. He helps clients in achieving success through people, creating organizations where people enjoy working and customers enjoy doing business.