A couple of years ago, a reporter called a Congressional office with an angle for a story about an image of impropriety occurring within the operation. Little to their knowledge, this inquiry would lead to day after day of many more reporter calls questioning the structure of the operation and even the legality of internal procedures. It could have been a serious problem for the principal, who was seeking re-election.
Immediately upon receiving the initial inquiry, the agreed strategy was to accept responsibility, apologize, and rectify the situation as quickly as possible.
A parallel strategy was to become familiar enough with the circumstances in question to get ahead of the reporter calls and whoever was pushing the attacks. These combined strategies worked, ending the series of stories in only a few weeks as opposed to a few months.
While it's always better to avoid negative stories altogether, this was an example of how to successfully mitigate an unpleasant public narrative that was already well in the works.
Forunately, thanks to teamwork, a relentless pursuit of the truth, and an uncanny ability to percieve and combat developing storylines in the news, a problem that could have been - in the words of a "friendly" operative - a "dead man walking" moment for the principal barely made a dent in the polls and was all but a non-issue further into the re-election campaign.
The Lesson: Even when a bad blow knocks you on your heels, find a way to get back on offense. The only way to succeed is by protecting the objective and moving forward.
Inherently, both staff and leadership are skeptical when it comes to strategic planning exercises for good reason. Commonly, “experts” who are unfamiliar with the organization drop into a conference room for a weekend and apply a one-size-fits-all approach to overcoming challenges and meeting your potential. Despite the inevitable team closeness and best intentions that come out of these activities, a lack of follow-up can result in the staff and organization finding it’s way back to the old way of doing business, frequently worsening morale.
For several organizations that have had a desire for honest conversation about internal challenges and opportunities, a blueprint for success has been the result. A two-day retreat created a roadmap for success in the future.
The staff for one Congressional office coming off a tough re election battle had been through various retreats in the past. They brought open-minds but low expectations with them to this retreat. However, by developing a program that enabled and empowered staff and leadership together to be part of the productivity - and fun - a stratetgic plan of what they hoped to accomplish in 6 years was put on paper. They also had a plan for how to execute the plan and accomplish their goals in a very measurable and accountable way.
Additionally, departmental and personal plans and goals allowed leadership and staff to dig deeper into their development, creating a greater loyalty to the organization.
The Lesson: People help support what they help to create, so ensuring investment in your plan - at all levels of your organization - helps to ensure success.
For some, the most celebrated shot is the one made at the buzzer for the win. However, the real testiment to success are the hours of practice, team building, strategic development, and all the plays that put points on the board up to that moment.
Granted, there's a lot of merit to being able to pull off that critical play in the most clutch moment. This analogy is relevant to a recent political campaign where the team essentially chose the most favorable candidate to run against, executed a strategy to help boost that candidate through a primary, and implemented plays as the most favorable scenarios continued to occur.
While that critical play made at the right moment was no doubt a major contributor to their success, so was all the work the team had done to get to that point.
It started 18 months prior with the selection of the very best professionals to lead every facet of the team. It was a strategic plan that included weathering hit upon hit from the opposition while also laying a foundation for success. It was a budget and fundraising plan that would allow for flexible options when the time was right. It was about continuing to ensure that sights were set on victory.
Due to hard work, true innovation, and the resources to execute that clutch play at the end, victory was the outcome.
The Lesson: Be fully prepared to take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunuties by being in position to make them count.