Getting on the ballot is not the same as being able to do the job
Qualifying for the October elections ended Thursday, Aug. 8. Of course, to use the word “qualifying” is somewhat of a misnomer. It’s like calling aluminum foil “tinfoil” (there’s nothing “tin” about it) or pulling up in your “driveway” when it’s actually only used for parking. Similarly, to “qualify” for elected office has very little to do with whether a candidate is actually “qualified” to hold that elected office in the first place. “Qualifying” is merely the legal process to get a candidate’s name on the ballot.
It’s a lot like filling out a job application – and sometimes the most “qualified” candidate doesn’t get the job. Now, in those instances, it’s sure easy to think the hiring process is rigged because the boss hired a friend or family member. In other instances, it could be your resume just never got paid any attention.
And while all of that may indeed be possible, employers still get hiring wrong when it comes to selecting the right candidate. And not in just a few times, but most of the time. In fact, a recent CareerBuilder survey found that 74% of employers admit having hired the wrong person for an opening, and a survey by Glassdoor estimates that number to be up as high as 95% – not to mention hiring the wrong person can cost a company up to five times the amount of the bad hire’s annual salary.
So, as campaign season commences, we’re not only voting for a candidate – in a sense, we’re hiring one – and the question is: What will “hiring” the wrong candidate for an elected office cost you? Or your children?
Obviously, a lot. That’s because our elected officials can encourage businesses to relocate to our community, with better-paying jobs, or cause them to leave. They can improve the education of our children in the classroom, and thereby increase the quality of our workforce, or they can spend millions of dollars on development boondoggles that will do anything but.
They can overregulate and choke the entrepreneurial spirit right out of the most vibrant communities, by making it plain that it’s “who you know, not what you know” that will get you ahead. And when you look at what’s gone on at City Hall in Shreveport, from the city’s insurance business being awarded to the first cousin of the mayor’s campaign manager to the Caddo Parish Commission giving $20,000 to help sponsor a local sorority’s event (even after the event had already taken place), it’s not much of a stretch to conclude that we, the voters, may choose the wrong candidate 74% of the time, too, just like the CareerBuilder survey discovered.
But as voters, we have to be in the “people business.” As Jack Welch, the former chairman and CEO of General Electric, said, “We spend all our time on people,” and, “the day we screw up the people thing, this company is over.” And the same is so true for our government, from City Hall to the White House.
Maybe voters get “hiring” so very wrong (and so often) because getting the job (fundraising, campaigning, kissing babies, making speeches, etc.) takes a completely different skill set than actually doing the job the elected official is being “hired” to do.
Do we spend too much time listening to a candidate’s speeches or following their Instagram posts, but not enough time studying their skills? Do they have the attention span, for example, to concentrate on the details of large-scale, organizational change? Are they persistent enough to see the changes through to completion, even when faced with high resistance to such changes?
Are they capable of gaining a detailed understanding of their elected position and how it works? Will they act prudently for both the long-term and short-term, simultaneously? Or will they sacrifice long-term public gains for short-term general gratification?
You see, according to Fortune magazine, 70% of CEOs fail, not because of their ideas, but because they cannot execute. They don’t get things done, they are indecisive, or don’t follow through on their commitments. Yet, don’t we seem to be electing these same type folks to lead our communities year after year?
So, yes, we can call it “qualifying” for office, but it’s kind of like saying we’re “dialing” a telephone number (even though we don’t have dial phones anymore). That’s why it’s a misnomer.
Being “qualified” to do the job is so very different than applying for the job in the first place, an before we elect anyone else this fall, let’s make sure everyone knows the difference.
Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.