Support your team. You’ve set a goal, built a program and made sure your campaign is ready for its field program. Now remember that most campaigns are broken down from one long, daunting slog into manageable blocks—quarters fill years, weeks fill quarters and days fill weeks. Build backwards from your report as a manager. If you need to give your candidate or client a report every Sunday, your field director should prepare his/her report on Saturday and their regionals will need to report to them by Saturday morning.
Your field director has a tough job and needs your support. Respect their relationships and work through them, not around them. Even if it’s easier to call an organizer directly, work with your field director to do it instead. And ensure that the rest of the campaign supports field. Is the finance staff collecting names on solicits? Will the social media team promote field events? Is the communications director exploring how to pitch grassroots events? All of those answers should be yes.
Ensure accountability. Good managers take a few steps to deal with problems, and to manage in a way that keeps fewer problems from developing. It’s your job to push back when a client or candidate makes the unreasonable asks, something dreaded by field staffers everywhere. A good manager sets reasonable expectations and protects the field staff against unreasonable expectations from the candidate or client, and from the wide range of distractions that will come up.
You can gage the field staffers’ performance by analyzing their data. Ask questions when the numbers don’t add up and be weary of the appearance of round numbers—they’re rare. You’ll likely see data in two places—a nightly report that your staff completes and the IDs and results once this data is entered into the voter file.
Compare these two numbers and when they don’t line up, ask questions.
You also need to be prepared to fire staffers. Sound harsh? Not as harsh as it feels to lose a campaign by a few votes and wonder if Johnny could have made a few more calls. Some folks aren’t cut out to work in field and it’s better to part ways quickly. If a staffer isn’t meeting core requirements in his or her first week, give them a clear warning and describe the steps they must take to get back on track. Make sure they’re supported and then, if things don’t improve in a week, make the change.
Dan Kelly has consulted on, managed, or led field operations on 24 campaigns in ten states and managed nearly 300 full time staff. In 2010, Kelly managed Dan Malloy’s campaign for governor in Connecticut, defeating two of the top ten self-funders of the cycle.