We voters can’t fire the candidate we elect if he or she is doing a bad job. So let’s get serious about our voting choices. Let’s come up with our own meaningful selection criteria and assessment processes that equip us to make good choices.
Although the dates are still distant, municipal, provincial and federal election fever is starting to ramp up. Leaders are travelling the country, nominations are being held and potential candidates are lining up get their photograph in the newspapers. Everyone is speculating: who’s going to run in which political riding and in which election and who has the best chance to win?
Yet, at the moment, our view of elected officials at any level of government isn’t very high. After all, for the past year we’ve watched pained as the federal government’s Senate expense scandal unfolded. The political ugliness that surfaced along with it continues today. Then, just as we grew tired of the expense scandal, along comes Toronto Mayor Ford! His rather bizarre and erratic behaviour and subsequent fall from grace has kept news reporters busy for weeks.
Not easily banished
However, there’s another issue related to these stories that must be seriously considered – that any representative once elected essentially has a “job” for four years and cannot be terminated, downsized and/or “outplaced” in the same manner as if they worked in industry. So, what does this mean?
It means voting in an election is essentially no different than a work related selection process where a poor “hiring decision” results in having the wrong people in the wrong job! However, a voter can’t simply fire their representative within that four-year period even if they appear not to be doing their job. I suggest therefore that voters put on a “human resource hat” and create recruitment and selection criteria and a personal assessment process for making their own decisions about the candidates.
One of the first things to keep in mind is that past behaviour predicts future behaviour. Therefore, when reviewing a candidate’s resumé or portfolio, look for experience and character elements that might assist you to project future behaviour. These may include the following:
Cultural fit. Take a moment and define your neighbourhood culture. Then ask yourself if the candidate has been involved in volunteerism and/or community leadership that would demonstrates a good understanding of your neighbourhood community culture. Has the commitment been consistent and/or sporadic? Finally, ask if this leadership demonstrates commitment to the community and/or simply leverage for self-aggrandizement.
Self-confidence an asset
Character. Good leaders are also good team players and work in a collaborative fashion. They motivate people to work together for the betterment of a community.
Look for character elements such as positive attitude, a strong self-confidence, a strong personal value system and a goal orientation. On the other hand, be careful to screen out individuals who demonstrate a sense of superiority, grandiosity or entitlement. There are no leaders without followers, so determine if your candidate has developed his/her network of followers who trust this individual’s character.
Skills and competencies. While candidates with good communication skills can make a good first impression, dig deeper into their skill pool to determine what competencies they offer. Be sure to make a checklist, determine your priorities and compare and contrast your candidates. Explore these skills to ensure they are more than simply superficial.
Candidate experience. Each voter will have a different perspective on the experience they wish a successful candidate to have. Before you make your checklist, set out the values you’d like to see emerge from each experience.
For instance: traditionally, many occupations as well as community volunteer roles have often been discounted. Yet, the skills developed are invaluable. Thus, avoid a focus on a candidate’s job title and instead use your skills checklist to evaluate the candidate’s experience with respect to the skills they would have gained.
Personality and communication style. I doubt there is any one ultimate personality style that makes a candidate successful; however, those who are able to develop long-term, meaningful relationships seem to do well. Assessing for integrity and trust in communication is often difficult because you often don’t get much time with a candidate, but look for a sense of genuineness and follow this through the election process.
Issue awareness. In my view, no matter whether a candidate is running in a municipal, provincial or federal election, their job requires a broader view of life, business and general issues. They need to be able to think strategically, understanding trends and issues that will impact a community, and intervening either to take advantage of an opportunity or to prevent a disadvantage. Add this element to your candidate evaluation checklist.
Personal stamina. Elected representatives spend long, gruelling hours at meetings, and then go about their public relations role by attending multiple community events. This takes commitment and also personal stamina. So add good health and good life habits to your selection criteria checklist.
While the election timeframe for 2014 and 2015 is closing in and will create a flurry of activities, there’s plenty of time for citizens to begin creating a recruitment and selection list for assessing their candidates. You’ll find there’s nothing more challenging that seeing the wrong person in the wrong job.
Barbara J. Bowes is president of Legacy Bowes Group, a leading HR consulting firm in Winnipeg. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.