Campaign Tip: You should never be too busy to listen

Here’s today’s tip: You should never be too busy to listen.

Some of the most destructive campaign mistakes I’ve seen originate with a candidate who neglects to follow this tip.

You’re in the middle of a campaign. You’re juggling family and job and volunteers and donors and somewhere in the middle, your ears start shutting down. It can seem like they’re acting of their own accord.

It’s easy to understand how that happens right? It’s simply human.

The best way to keep from falling prey to this mid-campaign deafness is to prepare for the threat early in the campaign planning process.

Important information always needs a way to get to you. But one of the problems is that you can’t always predict the way that it will come to you.

  1. Pick the right people to be inside the bubble. These are your senior campaign team, kitchen cabinet and close friends. These are the people to whom you make the commitment, “If you need to tell me something. I will listen.” Accompanying that should be to communicate that you need them to act as filters as well. To keep things off your plate unless you need to be involved.

  2. Create effective information funnels. Information is going to be pouring into your campaign from all directions: twitter, facebook, polling, opposition research, volunteers etc. By hiring the right team and effectively delegating to them, they’ll be able to keep things off your desk that you don’t need to see. I’m not talking about some kind of House of Cards deniability. I mean that they can gather and synthesize information so that if you do need to see something, it’s in a form that’s most helpful. Further, if a decision needs to be made which doesn’t require your involvement, they can take action and keep from contributing to decision fatigue.

  3. Designate times and ways for your team to bring the smaller things to you. Open door policies seem great but in reality they create distractions and multiply decision fatigue on the part of leaders. If there’s something big, then your senior team should be able to reach you. However the smaller but potentially important stuff should be presented in a specific time and manner. Work with your team to help figure out how they’ll decide what type of thing falls into each category and empower them to make the call. They’ll make mistakes but if you train them correctly, your operation is going to run like a machine.

The biggest obstacle to effective listening is too much noise. Plan ahead to minimize that noise and make listening a personal and institutional priority


Raz Shafer