In Alabama we just had our primary elections. At least five times a day for the last two weeks the phone rang in my home with a recorded campaign message or the perky voice of some bright young intern asking for my vote. My mailbox has been slammed with political junk mail. I thought my number was on the do not call list, but I guess that doesn’t apply to the lawmakers. Nevertheless, I’m personally glad to see that the election is over; now our phone will quit ringing in the middle of dinner. There’s an important lesson from this that we can teach our children, but give me a minute to rant first.
No matter who is elected for office, whether it’s the President all the way down to city councilman, they will never call my home phone again. Although these elected officials are meant to serve and represent the interests of the voters that placed them in office, the reality is that once they get into office they are no longer interested in reaching out to the people. They think they know what their electorate needs, but they won’t reach out to us. The closest thing they do is run the occasional public opinion poll to see what the people think about the job they are doing.
I think that politicians, if they were truly interested in serving the people, would find out what the people want. Instead of campaign stops where they tout their agenda, why aren’t they holding focus groups of their customers, the voters? The best and brightest companies are constantly on the prowl to unearth the pain points that their customers are experiencing. The worst companies talk at their customers and put corporate interests first, complicate the customer interactions with red tape, and hide behind policies and procedures built to protect the company rather than serve the customer. In short, great companies are always looking outward while poor companies are always looking inward. It’s all about relationship, and politicians are no different than companies.
It is no wonder that voter apathy is at an all-time high. Because none of the politicians care to connect with the people, nobody gets excited about any of the candidates. The candidate gets what they need and they move on – hence, the phone calls, TV ads, and junk mail stops. If anyone has ever been asked by a politician what their needs are, I would love to hear it.
What lesson can we take from this and share with our kids? It is that you can’t get very far in life if you don’t build quality relationships, which takes time. I think that the invasive phone calls and junk mail asking for me to do something for them, when they haven’t taken the time to ask what they can do for me, is a direct indication of how much value the politician places on their relationship with me. Now I know that the elected official cannot possibly know every voter than they represent, but I have not seen any examples of any politician doing this to any extent. While I personally don’t need anything from my politicians, it would be nice to know that they really cared for something other than my vote.
For our kids, they need to learn that relationships behave a lot like bank accounts. Before you can make a withdrawal, you have to make some deposits. Likewise, before your kids can ask someone for something significant, they must have spent time investing in that relationship. The same thing goes for offering advice; unless you have an established relationship with someone then you have not earned the right to speak into their lives. The old saying goes that “Nobody cares what you know until they know that you care.” Teach your kids this valuable lesson because nobody makes it through this life alone.