In these last two weeks before Election Day, some American voters are not connecting with the big issues being covered by the political candidates, like immigration, international trade, or global warming, because they can’t relate to them. Instead, voters are more interested in issues that impact their everyday lives, like finding a good-paying job, affordable housing, gas prices and taxes.
How do we get to the heart of the matter to find what’s most important to people? We engage in open dialogue.
Open conversation begins at home. What is most important to you as a single person? As a couple? As a family? As a single parent? As an extended family? Name your top three priorities. Talk to the people in your household about these issues. I grew up in a middle class household. My dad worked in a steel mill, and my mother was an elementary school teacher. They wanted a better life for each of us kids. Since they both lived through the Great Depression, they knew they needed to save for the future. Together, they created a financial savings plan for our family. They didn’t know what the future held for us. Their number one goal was financial security. My mom and dad took me to the bank and opened a passbook savings account for me when I was in elementary school. They taught me to value money (and savings) at an early age. That lesson began at home.
Initiate dialogue in your workplace. If you want to know what’s on the minds of your employees, involve them in one-on-one conversations, open forums, focus groups, or surveys, asking what is most important to them. Go beyond traditional employee satisfaction surveys. Dig deeper. Their wants, needs and desires may reveal different ways to look at the workplace, the structure of your organization, or introduce innovative ideas for creating a better work environment. If you don’t ask, you will never know. In a job interview for the position of Director of Marketing for an urban development firm early on in my career, the interviewer, who was the owner of the company, asked me a question, “What do you know about real estate?” I could have answered “Nothing.” Instead, I countered with another question: “What can you teach me about real estate?” You see, I knew about marketing and public relations, which was my field of study, and I could easily apply that knowledge to the real estate industry, which is exactly what I told him. I admit, my creative response to his question was a bit risky yet necessary. I got the job. I got the job because I asked an important question.
Host a community forum. Cities and counties can do more to understand the needs of the people living in their local communities. If citizens’ voices are not heard, decisions are made in a vacuum. All too often, we hear about companies moving or closing when it’s too late. A different narrative is possible when people in communities are involved, truly involved, in conversations that lead to making important decisions.
Open a dialogue with elected officials. Within our American political system, we elect officials to represent us. However, if those elected officials don’t know what’s on our minds, they can’t really represent us. Write a letter, send an email, call your representative’s office, or show up when town hall meetings are held in your area. Make your voice heard.
Whether you are in a leadership position or not, find a way in your home, workplace, community, and country to open a dialogue that leads to greater understanding of what is important. When change is needed, that change will be made from an informed position because you let your voice be heard.