By Chris Gandy
James Carville is popularly credited with the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid”. At the time Carville was a strategist for Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaign against the incumbent President, George H.W. Bush.
Apparently the phrase was meant for internal use to keep the campaign on message but ended up becoming a defacto election slogan and, as you are aware, has in various forms, become part of the lexicon when referring to the need, despite all distractions, to keep focused on the core issue.
I couldn’t help but think of Carville and his phrase last weekend when I met Dave, the CEO of a mid-sized not for profit.
Dave and his organisation are doing it real tough at the moment and he seems to be running around trying to fight bush fires on a number of fronts. So much so he confided:
“I just want to go home, jump into bed and pull the sheets over my head”
My heart went out to Dave. He was highly distressed and I was at a bit of loss as to how to help apart from offering to drive him home and pulling back the sheets.
In a last ditch attempt I told him about Carville and Clinton’s campaign and said let’s try a version of this with your organisation.
What if your personal mantra is: “It’s the cause, Dave”
I then suggested that he name his most pressing issue and jot down a range of realistic responses and critically apply this rule to each one:
“How much more effectively will we serve our cause if we take this action?”
We literally did this exercise on the back of some beer coasters.
As we got into it Dave’s mood changed dramatically. He could see that his decision making processes where being influenced by irrational thoughts, emotions and petty office politics – to name but a few distractions. Dave realised he and his organisation had forgotten why they existed. Day to day dramas had become infinitely more important than their cause.
With this simply little exercise he began to realise that by making the cause his beacon, navigation through troubled waters became much easier.
As I left Dave in a decidedly more buoyant mood he said to me:
“You know if we asked ‘Does this action support our cause’ before we made a decision, we wouldn’t be in the pickle we are now!”
About Chris: Chris Gandy is the founder and director of Cause and Effective – a provider of contingent resourcing and leadership search services to cause-based organisations.