Technology is Nice, but You Have To Walk the Walk

Tonight, political junkies like me kept tabs on the Coakley-Brown special election to replace the deceased Ted Kennedy as Massachusetts’ U.S. Senator. Attorney General Martha Coakley – as the Democratic candidate who had the backing of the DNC, White House, Kennedy family, your old crazy uncle, my dog, etc – was expected to be the runaway victor, as the Democratic candidate running for the seat of one of the Democrats most honored members. So she didn’t really campaign after the primary election, instead she was content to go on vacation and relax, waiting for her due reward.

Her opponent, Republican Scott Brown, on the other hand treated this campaign like any other race. Getting online with greater urgency than his opponent was a definite benefit (see “Obama, Barack” for another example of great technology use in politics) but another thing Brown did was act like an old-fashioned candidate. Holding events, meeting people, walking from house to house (in the snow, with no shoes, uphill both ways…), and introducing himself to his potential constituents.  In other words, he engaged in community relations to an extent that Coakley didn’t even attempt. (there are other elements as well, this is just a quick take)

Her expectations of a coronation blinded her and her team to a surging Brown campaign that ran a good show.  Why mention this now, when pundits all over the country (with more skin in the game – no pun to Mr. Brown’s … “special pictorial” mentioned in the campaign) are talking about this far more in depth than I?

Because there is an important lesson here for businesses CEOs and organizational leaders.

All of the technology in the world sometimes can’t make up for a lack of wanting to get involved with people on a personal level.  It’s about community relations and personal interaction.  “Boots on the ground,” and listening to people’s concerns over a cup of coffee before you act, whether in politics or business, can never be understated.

Remember, people want to be able to look you in the eye, or ask you a question and feel they are being heard and their problems taken to heart. There are a lot of strengths from social media communications that you can benefit from as well – open discussion, ability to take criticism well, being up front and honest with your stakeholders, promises to do the best that you can and try to live up to them.

But really, aren’t these virtues that you should have anyway? “Mad social media skills” or no “mad social media skills?”