The One Thing the Typical Politician Does Far Better Than the Typical Entrepreneur
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We like to give politicians a hard time; for the most part, it’s well-deserved. Elected officials tend to make a lot of unclever statements, to put it mildly. There’s no lack of foot-in-mouth content coming out of D.C. They are magnets for criticism, almost as much as professional athletes.
However, they actually get one thing right, believe it or not. Something that executives and business leaders in the private sector can learn from (remember, I just said ONE thing!).
Elected officials do a great job at delegating responsibility and empowering staff to get them through each day. A little known secret outside the D.C. Beltway is that the United States is primarily run by congressional staffers, 25-to-35 year olds. Everything from drafting policy to attending briefings, daily scheduling to vote prep and crafting speaking points, is all initiated by the staff and rests solely on their shoulders. Members of Congress will call their staff in the middle of the night needing to know where a piece of legislation is on the floor, or what part of a bill talks about a certain amendment.
For the machine to work efficiently there is no time for micromanaging. Each staff person is required to execute their individual responsibilities in order for the Member to run on all cylinders. There is no other choice than to put your full faith and confidence in your staff, because quite simply, you can’t do it alone.
Without a competent staff they literally would fail before they started. There is a level of trust there in that if anyone messes up too badly, everyone pays for it. Even so, it’s best to give your employees more rope and fewer hurdles to jump through. In this scenario, they can’t function without them. They give them room to grow. The employee at a traditional company who reports to all sorts of people is laughable compared to the 26-year-old congressional staffer who spends his/her time in the district meeting with billion dollar companies with little to no supervision.
Give your employees the opportunity to shine.
Don’t micromanage; let them take on tasks without constantly looking over their shoulders. Hold them accountable if something doesn’t go right, but follow up by giving them another task or duty immediately. Don’t put them in timeout… get them back in the game. It will show them that you trust them and have confidence that they can learn from their mistakes and get better.
If every coach benched players for making a mistake, there wouldn’t be any sports to watch -- everyone would be sitting on the sidelines. Transparent repercussions and oversight leads to a more responsive employee. There are many committees and subcommittees in Congress sifting through a never ending barrage of legislation. You have to allow the person to do their job. In Congress, it moves so fast, that even with oversight, there’s a trust involved.
This high-stress, highly visible job involves a large number of moving parts. It ultimately shows just how much more the younger generation, and employees in general, can do when given the opportunity. When you realize the ability of your employees, you can change the structure and the process of what you do. Whereas in Congress everything is fast-paced and stressful to keep things moving, the private sector can take advantage of removing some micromanaging and adjusting the hierarchical structure.
By flattening the hierarchy and giving more responsibility to your employees, you can rid yourself of inefficiencies and create a workforce that is more self-sufficient. Private companies tend to over-complicate and over-process because they can. Our system of government does not lend the same luxury to congressional offices, which could actually be considered an unintended benefit.
If there’s anything a politician can get right, it’s letting their staff work for them. They put their trust, faith and career into their staffs’ hands. Similarly, more private companies could really benefit from letting their employees surprise them. Let them surprise you. You’ll be glad you did.