I’m a big fan of two very different shows about politics: Veep and The West Wing. Yes I know, one is semi-mocking the other, but they’re both great commentaries on what it’s like to be a staff member at the White House.
And whether it’s Gary and his shoulder-aching bag or Sam Seaborn and his crush-inducing opposition articles, the underlying theme from both shows is actually the same. The staffers work hard. They set up meetings, anticipate needs, follow-up with the press, plan events, take the heat. You name it, they do it.. and usually without praise or acknowledgement.
So if you’re running for office or even running an office, are you doing all you can to avoid a staff "Amy-level" meltdown (for those of you who don’t watch Veep, by that I mean: an epic, demoralizing “I quit” speech right before the election)?
How can you take care of your staffers?
No idea? Here are a few suggestions.
If morale is really low…
Find ways to routinely celebrate your staff's success
Their success. You’re the one running for office, but they’re the ones actually making it happen. Take a moment to recognize that. And don’t just start a meeting with a two-minute thank you. Set something up, get them cupcakes or tacos. Show you put some thought into it — because they certainly do every day.
Do something out of the ordinary as a team
This only works if you’re going to enjoy it, too. The World Cup just ended (go, USA!), but are there other games happening in your neck of the woods? Maybe get a big-screen projector in the office, or reserve a few tables at a bar and invite everyone to come. One key thing here: it can’t be mandatory, that’s just awkward.
If staffers are just plain exhausted...
Tell an inspiring story
Get back to why everyone’s here. Be real. Did anything happen on the campaign trail or in recent weeks that really excited everyone? Why? Can you retell it from your point of view? Or try going back to Day 1, why are you here? Reflect on your own experience and get personal. People relate to real emotions and real experiences. Provide the space for staff to hear stories and reconnect with why they joined.
Trust them to do more
Show that you appreciate your staff by asking them to make more important decisions. Show that you trust them to take on more responsibility. This gives them a sense that their hard work doesn't go unnoticed and that they’re on the right track.
If your team needs motivation for the long haul…
Try working in the same space
There’s nothing worse than working for a boss or a candidate that goes into an office and closes the door. How is anyone supposed to communicate with that kind of body language? Go be part of the gang. Bonus: you’ll have a way better understanding of what’s going on on a day-to-day basis. You might even be inspired yourself.
Make your asks more specific
I’m just going to let Inc.com handle this one, they did it so perfectly:
"In one study, 63 percent of employees reported that they wasted time at work because they weren't aware of what work was a priority, and what wasn't. As a leader, it's your job to work with the members of your team to set clear goals. And once you do that, make sure everyone knows exactly what those goals are, what their relative priority is, and what the team's role is in reaching them."