6 leadership lessons from my experience at a polling station

On Sunday 26 I had to be at a polling station in Madrid.

In the 17 hours I spent there, a multitude of things happened. It is worth to share both the story and the conclusions because they apply to our work.

Each station is made up of three members and absolutely everything that has to do with voting is procedural. Each of the members has an instruction manual to know what to do throughout the day: from the constitution of the polling station to the final delivery of the minutes to the judge.

The procedure is not complicated but it is tedious.

The procedure is not complicated but it is tedious. And that makes many people not read it. This can make the difference between being in school 16, 17 or 20 hours.

If you don’t proceed by the book, there will be problems inherent in the number of people voting in each station. The final count will be complicated: it is obvious, but the number of votes at the polls has to match the lists of voters who have exercised their right (and all this, by 3). In addition, the results must be delivered in one way and not another.

First conclusion: in an environment of a lot of chaos and with well-defined procedures, do not improvise.

During voting, especially during peak hours, that everyone knows exactly what they have to do is essential.

It is necessary to verify the identity of the voter, certify that it appears in the census, verify that there is only one envelope for each one of the votes and write down their data in a list and if they participate in all the voting or not.

All this, before you can enter your votes at the polls. In addition, the envelopes must go to the ballot box they should and not to another.

Anything that happens that is not exactly like that, will bring problems during the vote (it can even be suspended and that time is recovered with the table open after the official closing at 20 hours) and then in the count.

That the members of the table know what to do at all times, work together and stay focused is essential so that there are no problems.

Second conclusion: when pressure increases teamwork and high performance is essential. If not, the objectives will be achieved much later and with lower quality.

At the tables there must always be at least two members (during the 11 hours that the voting lasts). At times when there is less influx of people to vote, it is used to rest, eat something or meet some basic need. It is essential to take those breaks. Tiredness takes a toll and mistakes are made.

Third conclusion: you cannot maintain a high level of concentration indefinitely. Rest is essential and establishing shifts to do so (if it cannot be simultaneous for all team members) is mandatory. If someone does not want to rest, the team leader has to force them, for the good of all.

The amount of papers that must be filled in to deliver the voting results is enormous. To the difficulty of counting, depending on the number of people registered at the station, is added the number of minutes and envelopes that must be filled out and signed.

The advice of those who have already participated in some other vote and also of the representatives of the administration is to fill in, in periods of little or no activity, as much information as possible (which generally has to do with data from the station and the members). All the administrative work ahead will make the end easier, which is when more fatigue accumulates and all the time saved is welcome.

Fourth conclusion: Listen to the advice of those who have already done it before if you do not have much experience. Advancing administrative but fundamental tasks, makes you can concentrate on what is most important at all times.

The person who chairs the table is the main authority during the vote and until the results are delivered. Whether you organize the work of the table, arrange the documentation in the most appropriate way and resolve any conflicts that may arise depends to a large extent on the time it will take for the members of the table to leave the school.

Fifth conclusion: the leader’s work is essential in a very complex environment. Being informed, being advised – if you do not master the subject – make decisions, form a team and manage conflicts is decisive to achieve results.

After so many hours, maintaining a sense of humour makes everything more bearable. After all, we are human beings, and we can go through a lot of emotions in such a long process. Regardless of the objectives (deliver the results of the table and get out of there as soon as possible) it is essential to be able to maintain a good atmosphere and laugh from time to time.

Sixth, and last, conclusion: maintaining a good environment, which builds trust, is essential to achieve high performance. And the responsibility belongs to everyone, not just the team leader.

These conclusions are perfectly applicable in a complex work environment, where not only the result matters but also the way in which we get it. What else can be learned from situations we encounter in life to apply to our work?