What I Learned About Management Running My First Distributed Team For a Political Campaign

Reflecting on the importance of management and my experience running a political campaign in rural and suburban Virginia.

Last updated on: 
August 11, 2023
The Pathlight Team
The Pathlight Team
April 10, 2020
3 min read
What I Learned About Management Running My First Distributed Team For a Political Campaign

In 2016, I worked on a presidential campaign. The best way to describe work on a campaign is that it’s basically the highest-pressure, fastest-scaling, most-watched startup environment you can imagine. Political organizing is a lot like working on a high-velocity field sales team: extremely metrics-driven, really grueling, and highly iterative.

Mine was a typical story — I was amongst the top individual contributors in the region, so I was given an opportunity to lead. I quickly discovered, as so many have before me, that overseeing 10 people required very different skillsets than the ones I had been employing to date.

My job was to work alongside another manager to support 10 organizers (all working 100-hour weeks) to help them hit their weekly goals. It was really hard. Looking back, I see now that I spent way too much time in my spreadsheets, desperately trying to figure out what was going on, and praying that I wasn’t missing anything important. Trying to use the data we had - which was often outdated and always difficult to access - to make real-time decisions and give the team the feedback they needed to be effective. But all that time in spreadsheets was time I wasn’t spending on the most important work: coaching team members individually, sitting in on their calls, understanding their personal motivations and helping them stay inspired so they could do their best work. And I wasn’t alone in my struggles - everyone in my position was operating slightly differently, to varying levels of success.

I see now that my approach was a disservice to my team. What value could we have unlocked if they had been given the data, insights, and clarity to actually take control of their own performance?

What if I not only had better tools, but those tools gave me the confidence to shift my mindset about the capabilities of my team, and what it meant to be a good manager? Or if I could actually get feedback on my performance as a manager, spending less time reinventing the wheel? It would have made a big difference for me.

In the years since, after talking with hundreds of managers, I’ve come to realize that this experience wasn’t unique at all. It had nothing to do with being on a political campaign, and everything to do with the very real challenges managers are facing today. With greater ability to measure everything we do, better access to data, and the expectation to move faster all the time, we’re asking more of our managers than we ever have. But what have we done to actually help them succeed?

These challenges are only amplified by the craziness of a global pandemic. For the people who have been able to continue their work remotely under COVID-19, we’ve asked a lot of them. I believe that in a post-Corona world, we will have learned that we can expect great things from people if we give them the tools to be successful. We will expect people to come back to the office (if they do) with a greater capacity for self-management. We will expect managers to spend more time on high-value activities that actually drive success.

Ultimately, I believe that empowering great management - whether that’s managing yourself, a team, or an organization of thousands - is the best way to maximize everyone’s potential. And that’s why I joined Pathlight. Our vision is that empowering management not only helps everyone operate at their professional best, but creates a powerful new lever to help organizations hit their goals faster.

Building this solution is what I’ve been working on with a remarkable team over the last few years, and we’ve been really excited to share the first step in our journey.

Pathlight is now available to all customer-facing teams! Message me if you’re interested in learning more - I’d love to chat.

Want to see a custom demo of Pathlight or get help finding the right plan? We'd love to chat.

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