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Archive for the ‘CM Services’ Category

Most of the country (and really the world) have been self-quarantining at home for six weeks or more. We’ve dealt with figuring out how to work and school from home. We’ve struggled with spending 24/7 under the same roof with our family members – and even though we love them unconditionally – we know why our children must leave home after high school. We’ve learned how to shop for everything online and put in place decontaminating procedures for all our packages, groceries, and really anything that enters our house.

One of the results of this pandemic and our desire to contain it has been a stagnation of the once robust economy. Businesses – large, medium and small are struggling to survive. It’s no wonder that so many of us now are turning our attention to “restarting the economy”.

But what does that mean and do we have to return to our previous physical work locations and same old work ways to restart the economy? To understand the answers to these questions, we must understand how we got here in the first place. Can a virus, even if creating a pandemic really stop the global economy?

Clearly many businesses have continued throughout the pandemic slowdown. We applaud those workers – first responders, healthcare workers, essential construction workers and more – who have continued to show up for work to help those less fortunate and keep some of the economy going.

Many of us are tired and frustrated with being at home and want to do our part to restart things. Several state leaders have recently decided to “open” their states to help restart their economies. Still others aren’t sure their states are ready.

The bottom line is this: Most people don’t have to go back to their offices and businesses to restart the workforce and economy. Everyone needs to make their own informed decisions about their ability to return to the workforce safely and/or if a return to the workplace they occupied six weeks ago is required.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been able to do everything I need to do for my job while working from my home office. I’ve met with all the people I need to meet with (and many I didn’t need to meet with). I’ve performed all the tasks my job requires. My co-workers have all done the same. Many of our clients are in the same positions. Most have been able to handle their jobs either from home offices or as essential workers implementing new, health and safety procedures in their more traditional work setting. Many are struggling, not because they can’t do their jobs but because their markets have been impacted by the economic downturn.

So why does our economy need restarting and what can we do to make sure it happens successfully?

We are afraid of things we don’t understand. This virus (COVID-19) created more sustained fear than anything in my lifetime. That fear has caused a ripple effect that has impacted the global economy negatively.

People are afraid of how the virus might impact them, their family or people they know. People are afraid of how they might be exposed to the virus – from other people, from door handles, containers, their pets, and more. This fear causes people to make decisions that impacted the economy in negative ways.

Restarting the economy won’t be easy. There isn’t any one way it can be done successfully. However, until we overcome our fears about the virus and its impact on us, our economy will not restart successfully.

We need our leaders – governmental, business, faith, athletic and others to instill confidence in us to help us overcome our fears about the pandemic, the economy and our recovery. This is a time for true leadership – not the fear-mongering kind – promulgated by people who think that is the best way to win elections or propped up by media who think that is the best way to secure viewers.

We need the kind of leaders like Ronald Reagan during the early 80’s helping overcome fear of oil and gas shortages and high inflation; or George W. Bush who helped our country overcome the fear of terrorism; Michael Jordan who helped the people of Chicago overcome the fear of never winning a NBA Championship. (Tongue in cheek with that last one) but if you’ve been watching The Last Dance, the story of the 1997/1998 Chicago Bulls quest for a sixth championship in eight years, you will see that Michael helped his team overcome fears and that lead to their eventual success.

So, if you want to help restart the economy, do what you can to overcome your fears and help others around you overcome theirs.

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Many of us have been sheltering (working) at home for at least two weeks now.  It’s important that we all do our part to “flatten the curve” we’ve all heard about related to COVID-19.  It is a challenge for most people – to be “cooped up” in their homes.  Human beings are social, so only seeing and interacting with the same people day after day can become challenging – no matter how much you love them.

We’ve all heard the complaints about how difficult it is to work from home or how irritating a spouse is (try having three college aged children back at home with your wife and 12 year old starting to go through puberty if you want to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes). 

We’ve also heard the funny stories about people forgetting they didn’t put pants on during their Zoom call and standing up to reveal their boxers (or worse). 

I thought it would be good to share some thoughts about how to have a successful work from home day while under “shelter”.  DISCLAIMER:  These are things that work for me and may not work for everyone.  If you have other tips that are working for you – or just want to share a funny story, please feel free to add them.

Work from Home Tips:

  • Have a routine and stick with it
  • Have an area of the house that is your work area and do all your work there – just as if you were at your office
  • Don’t sit for more than one hour at a time – get up and walk around the house, stretch your legs, take a “brain break” (But make it short…you don’t need more than a few minutes)
  • Eat healthy food in small quantities several times per day
  • Even if dressed more casually than if you were at your office, dress completely
  • Make sure you spend some time for yourself (reading, exercising, thinking, listening to podcasts or music) at least four times daily.  HINT:  I choose to spread this time out throughout the day – reading when I wake up and just before bed, walking right after breakfast, exercising around Noon. 
  • Make sure you spend time each day doing something fun or relaxing together as a family.  (Play games, read, watch tv, take walks, etc…)  You are all stuck in the house together and it is easy to skip the “fun things together” part – DON’T!
  • Remember some-day this will all be over.  When it is, don’t just go back to the same old ways – keep some of the new habits you’ve created that are healthy, good and help you be more productive and happier.

MY TYPICAL DAY:

Wake up at 4 am and read the latest news about COVID-19.  If possible, go back to sleep until 5 am.

Wake up at 5 am.  Read more news about COVID-19.  Read news and other publications about government assistance programs for small businesses.  Scan the Wall Street Journal.  Read emails from overnight.  Read daily Bible story.  Feed the dog and make breakfast (two or three fried eggs, Ezekial bread toast and sausage).  Walk the dog. 

8:30 – 11:30 am.  Review daily plan.  Adjust as necessary based on readings and emails.  Video conference call meetings; approve various communications; work on projects.

11:30 am – 1:00 pm.  Workout, eat lunch, shower.

1:00 pm – 5:00 pm.  More video conference calls; work on projects and tasks assigned to today.  Eat at least two small, healthy snacks between 2 and 5 pm.

5:00 pm – Enter time for the day; Review plan for tomorrow; Empty email inbox.

6:00 pm – Shoot hoops in driveway with children; play ping pong with family; walk the dog; assist with dinner preparation; eat dinner and clean up

8:00 pm – Play games with family.  Dominos, Psych, Head’s Up, Talk about what we learned today (the college aged children especially like this)

9:30 pm – Read for pleasure and/or watch TV. 

10:30 pm – Lights Out 

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Associations, companies and other organizations have been using conference and video calling to meet and conduct business for many years.  Most of us are very experienced with the process and have developed methods to be productive and polite when holding these “virtual” meetings.

During the last few weeks the sheer number of virtual meetings and volume of participants has grown exponentially.  Because of this increased use it seems some calls may be less productive than they should be and many of us have forgotten our virtual meeting etiquette.  Check out these videos of what some of your calls may be like:

A conference call in real life:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYu_bGbZiiQ

A video call in real life:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMOOG7rWTPg

It seems a good time to share the best practices for virtual meetings. 

Here are some to consider.  If you have additional best practices you think are effective, please feel free to add them by replying to this blog posting. 

  • Login to your call at least 10 minutes ahead of time to make sure your technology is working and you have time for any new updates to run before the call.
  • If a video call, make sure to view what your video looks like before the call begins.  Are you framed properly?  Is the lighting good enough so people can see your face? 
  • When entering the meeting, don’t just start talking.  Wait for an opening and say your full name clearly.
  • When you aren’t talking, leave your phone/computer on mute.
  • If you’re the chair of the meeting, make sure to start the meeting on time.  Time is precious and people who planned ahead and prepared for the meeting shouldn’t be made to wait for latecomers. 
  • Have an agenda for every call.  The best practice should be to share that agenda in advance with all participants.  If that’s not possible, share your screen and/or review the entire agenda at the beginning of the call so all participants understand what’s to be addressed during the meeting.
  • Clearly state the purpose/goals of the meeting at the beginning.
  • When you would like to talk, don’t just jump in.  Wait for a pause, then say, “This is Rick” and wait for the meeting leader to acknowledge you.  If you’re using a video call, you can also use the Raise Hand feature and wait to be acknowledged by the meeting leader before you speak. 
  • Keep your remarks brief.  Don’t repeat what others have said.  You can say, “I agree with Beth.  Additionally, I think …”. 
  • If you’re doing other things while on the call, freeze your video frame or turn video off so you aren’t distracting the other meeting participants.
  • When the meeting is concluding, the leader should summarize the actions taken and any assignments made.  If another call is necessary, plans for scheduling that call should be made.

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Meetings are necessary to achieve consensus – especially in associations.  We’ve all been in those meetings that were a complete waste of time.  Make sure meetings you run are not a waste of time but are productive and help your organization work toward achieving its mission. 

To do so, we have identified seven keys to running successful, productive meetings:

  • Have an agenda for every meeting
    • Every meeting should have an agenda that identifies all the items to be covered during the meeting.  The agenda should clearly state the purpose of the meeting and the expected outcomes for the meeting and should be distributed enough in advance of the meeting for participants to review and give thought to the items being addressed. The purpose and expected outcomes should also be restated by the leader at the beginning of the meeting. 
  • If you need volunteers for activities, get them lined up before the meeting – never ask for volunteers during a meeting
    • So many times it happens, an item is discussed and after it’s decided upon, we seek a volunteer to “lead it”.  You know in advance the items being addressed and discussed so line up your volunteers before the meeting.  This will help assure you get interested, passionate people leading your activities.   
  • Make sure all planned actions during the meeting are related to strategic goals of the organization
    • If it’s not helping to achieve your mission, you shouldn’t be doing it. 
  • The meeting leader (President, Committee Chair, etc.) should be a facilitator, not a dictator
    • This is very important and is often a difference between for profit corporate leaders and successful association leaders.  Remember all members are equal.  It’s the job of the meeting leader to facilitate the discussion – make sure all points of view are given an opportunity to be discussed and debated.
  • Achieve consensus
    • Before any votes are taken, make sure all participants understand what they’re voting on and give ample time for discussion. 
    • Do not allow people to filibuster or to repeat positions already articulated by others. 
    • See our blog on achieving consensus for more information.
  • Make sure all decisions are clearly articulated at the end of the meeting
    • In order to assure the expected actions occur between meetings, it’s important the decisions are clearly articulated.  If assignments are created, be sure due dates are also assigned.
  • Be sure accurate minutes are taken during the meeting and distributed promptly following the meeting including any assignments and due dates
    • Minutes are the historical record of your meetings and decisions.  Be sure you have accurate minutes for all your meetings.  Additionally, between meetings, follow up with people who have assignments to be sure they’re on track

If you follow these seven simple steps your meetings will be efficient and will lead to successes for your association.  Happy Meeting!

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It’s the time of year again when many associations are implementing their nomination and election process.  Because associations are groups of people or companies in the same profession or industry there are many opportunities for conflict and other challenges as an association goes through its nomination and election process. 

To avoid challenges which can lead to bigger problems such as hurt feelings, dropped memberships, etc., it is important that every association have a clear nomination and election process and that the process is followed each and every time. 

Below are some suggestions you might consider including in your nomination and election process:

  • Have a nominating committee whose responsibility is to develop and/or review nominations.  The nominating committee could include a current leader, such as the president; a former leader, such as the most recent past president; and possibly a future leader, such as an engaged committee member. 
  • The nominating committee should work throughout the year to identify potential future leaders. 
  • The nominating committee should have discussions with potential future leaders to gauge their level of interest and commitment prior to nominating them. 
  • If the membership is engaged in the nomination process, the nominating committee should make sure ample opportunity and notice is provided to the membership. 
  • The nominating committee should assure the qualifications and responsibilities for nominees is clearly stated for the membership’s consideration. 
  • The association staff should be sure to remind the nominating committee of their responsibilities and the timing of the process several times throughout the year.  However, it is VERY important the staff be removed from the nomination process.  The staff should never be perceived as attempting to select future volunteer leaders for the association.
  • The nominating committee should consider several factors when evaluating potential nominees such as:
    • Experience in the industry or profession
    • Experience within the association
    • Level of commitment to the association and its mission
    • Is the nominee interested in the position for the good of the association or themselves
    • Is the nominee willing to listen to other opinions and work toward consensus
    • If being nominated for a director position, are they a potential future officer as well
    • Will the nominee work well with others but also be willing to offer their own opinion, even if it’s unpopular
  • Be sure the nominations are clearly published or communicated to whatever the electoral body is in advance of the election
  • Be sure whoever leads the actual election process (nominating committee chair, current president, etc.) is well versed on the process for the election and has information on how to handle curve balls that might be thrown such as nominations from the floor.  (We recommend you draft a script for the person leading the election process).  The script should include potential situations that can occur during the process and how to handle them. 

Above all, don’t let your nomination and election process become a “joke” where people who aren’t interested are nominated or elected because they “were out of the room”.  Building a culture where people want to be an association leader because of its value and importance to them personally, professionally and to the profession or industry they are serving is key to your association’s long-term success. 

Having a clear nomination and election process will help the process, but to build that culture can take time and takes committed leaders and staff. 

Good luck!

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As a leading Association Management Company (AMC) we are often asked by prospective association client partners and volunteer leaders of associations, “What is the key to making an association successful?”.  They, understandably, want a ‘silver bullet’ or ‘easy button’ answer – something they can easily implement to make their association successful. 

The answer is easy.  Unfortunately, the implementation is complicated.  The key to association success can be found in one word – Members

Associations that are most successful over long periods of time have figured out how to engage their members continuously

So, if you agree with my premise, the next logical question is “How do you engage members continuously?”.  That’s the complicated part.  There isn’t a simple methodology that works for all associations because each association and even each member within each association is different.  Members have different reasons for being members; they have different goals; they have different interests. 

Associations used to be able to engage all or most of their members around a single issue impacting most or all members.  (Often government legislation or regulation helps with this).  However, these days with member interests being so diverse, one issue doesn’t necessarily make as great an impact as it used to.

These days, associations need to understand the interests and needs of their members, much the way a retailer understands their customers.  Associations need to collect data on their members and the interactions each member has with the association and then deliver products and services that meet the member needs.  But doing just this isn’t enough.  This doesn’t create real engagement with members.

In addition, associations need to create opportunities for their members to interact with each other and the association based on their interests and needs.  The interactions can be through large events, small meetings, online groups, committees, and more.  These interactions must be expertly planned and coordinated by the association and they must allow the members to contribute to and derive value from the content or create knowledge shared during these interactions. 

Members are the lifeblood of associations.  Without members, even with a good and noble purpose, associations do not exist.  However, over time we may begin seeing a shift in how associations are organized around their “members” – this shift is one more reason it’s so important for associations to be engaging their members now

One possible shift could be that associations will cease to have “members” as we know them now.  People and companies won’t pay annual dues to be a “member” of an association and then pay additional (though perhaps discounted) fees for certain engagements with the association.  Instead, people and companies will pay for what they want or need. 

By figuring out ways to truly engage “members” today, associations will be successful today and their success will be sustainable regardless of what changes the membership model for associations encounters over time. 

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Association Management Companies (AMCs) have been providing value to associations for more than one hundred years.  What kind of value do they provide and how do volunteer leaders determine the best model for their association – and if that model is the AMC model, how do volunteer leaders determine which AMC is right for them?

These are difficult questions to answer – especially for a volunteer leader who doesn’t have the expertise, time or resources to dedicate to find the right answer. 

So, in the spirit of former late-night host and comedian David Letterman, here are the Top Ten Reasons Volunteer Leaders of Associations Should Select an AMC (and specifically CM Services):

10.  Associations managed by AMCs outperform associations not managed by AMCs from a financial perspective.  Click here to review an article describing a 10 year study which supports this claim.

9.  Associations managed by AMCs realize significantly greater growth over time than associations not managed by AMCs.  Click here to review an infographic demonstrating this point   

8.  Associations managed by AMCs have the flexibility to adapt quickly to changes in their marketplace and redirect or redeploy resources necessary to achieve new or ever-changing goals. 

7.  Associations managed by AMCs receive the expert guidance they require for their specialized projects and activities. 

6.  Leaders of Associations managed by AMCs can focus on their organizational mission, strategies and related outcomes rather than managing employees and day to day activities. 

5. Associations managed by AMCs have more money to devote to membership programming and adding value to members as a result of the efficiencies and leveraged resources brought to bear by AMCs.  In fact, when reviewing the American Society of Association Executives Operating Ratio Report, associations managed by CM Services spend on average 10%-20% less on the resources to manage their association as a result of these efficiencies and leveraged resources.

4.  CM Services’ Core Values mean CM Services creates long term relationships with our client partners and employee partners.  They are: 

  • We put our client partners first
  • Integrity in all we do
  • Expertise in the industries/professions we serve
  • Collaboration to achieve best results
  • Deliver innovative solutions for our client partners
  • A team based work environment that is fun

3.  CM Services was one of the first companies worldwide to achieve Charter Accreditation by the AMCinstitute.  Achieving AMCi Accreditation means CM Services has demonstrated its procedures meet or exceed the best practices documented in an ANSI standard for Association Management Companies.  It also means CM Services passes an independent audit of its procedures every four years.  CM Services is dedicated to continuous improvement of its proven practices. 

2.  CM Services has a proven process to assure our client partners succeed.  The process includes developing strategic and operational plans for our client partners and keeping the Board focused on achieving those plans. 

And the Number 1 Reason Volunteer Leaders should select CM Services as their AMC:

1.  CM Services’ Three Uniques – What makes us different than all other Association Management Companies –

  • Focused on our client partners’ results – we invest ourselves in your industry and make sure you are achieving your goals
  • Consensus Builders – we help your members make decisions through consensus
  • Client Recognized Superior Customer Service – highest Net Promoter Score among Professional Services Firms

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We can likely all agree that in business cash may be King but accountability is next in line for the throne. 

In our businesses if we don’t establish Strategies, Goals and specific, measurable Objectives we hold ourselves and each other accountable for achieving, we will not achieve our mission.

Associations are no different – except that associations are led by volunteers.  Everyone knows you can’t hold volunteers accountable right?  WRONG!

This is the biggest mistake we see associations make every day.  However, it’s an easy mistake to make because of the nature of volunteer leadership.  Volunteers have “real jobs”; volunteers have families, volunteers have other interests AND volunteers aren’t getting paid to do their “Association job”. 

What are some things that can be done within the association framework to change this paradigm and create accountability?

  • Staff and volunteer leadership both need to make sure the association has SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Timely) goals aligned with the association’s mission.
  • Each SMART goal MUST have a person responsible for making it happen.  (Note:  This person doesn’t have to do all the work but is the person RESPONSIBLE for making sure it is accomplished by the deadline). 
  • At each meeting (committee, board, staff, etc.) SMART goal status should be shared.  If a goal is falling behind its scheduled deadline, that should be reported and discussed.  If changes are appropriate, they should be made and documented.
  • Between meetings, staff MUST follow up with volunteers who have been assigned responsibilities.  The purpose of the follow up is two-fold.  First to make sure the volunteer understands his/her responsibility and the task at hand.  Second to make sure the task is being addressed and an appropriate status report will be given at the next meeting.
  • Between meetings staff MUST report to the chair or appropriate volunteer leader on assignments for which they’ve been given responsibility.  This will help hold staff accountable for their responsibilities as well.
  • During meetings it’s likely that additional tasks will be identified.  It is the responsibility of the staff and chair of that meeting to clearly articulate the new tasks at the end of the meeting and make sure they’ve been made SMART and have a responsible party assigned to assure their implementation. 

Following these simple guidelines for holding staff and volunteers accountable will help your association be more productive and encourage a healthy environment between and among the volunteers and staff who are all working together to achieve the mission of the organization.   

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I’ve often wondered if I could be a better leader if I was less connected to email, google, news feeds and apps through my smartphone.  I try not to be rude about my smartphone use.  I try hard to not check it during business meetings or when I’m in a conversation with someone else.  I was particularly struck by our connection to smartphones the other day during a family meal.  We were having a conversation.  I looked away from the table for a second and when I turned back EVERYONE in my family had their head down looking at their smartphone.  This was frustrating and eye opening.

I decided to document the number of times per day I check my phone and the approximate amount of time per day I spend engaged with my phone and not the people around me.  Here are the results:

  • I check my smartphone approximately 14 times per day.
  • I spend approximately one hour per day checking email, calendar items, news, weather, etc on my smartphone

Those numbers don’t sound so staggering.  They’re significantly less than most people.  However, the fact remains that time could be spent engaging people in face to face conversations to solve problems, create opportunities, or just make people around me feel valued.

I wondered if many business leaders disconnect themselves by not having smartphones or not using them during certain times.  Guess what – some do!  Here is an article by Sheldon Yellen, CEO of BALFOR about that very topic.

Technology has improved our lives in so many ways.  I wonder though if there isn’t a case to be made for improving quality of life and productivity by stepping back from some technology.

I challenge you to measure how many times per day you use your smartphone for activities other than phone calls and how much time that takes.  Then try to spend a day without the smartphone and see if your quality of life and productivity in business is affected.

That’s my next step!  I’ll let you know if I’m brave enough to do it and what the results are.

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We’ve all seen them.  Some of us have written them.  I’m talking about lists…not grocery lists or to-do lists.  I’m talking about the tenets of leadership lists.

I love reading other people’s tenets of leadership lists.  I like what those lists allow me to learn about the people who wrote them.  The lists give a real insight into the kind of leader these people are.

I’m constantly working on my tenets of leadership list – I hope you are too.  I’ll share a few of my tenets here.  However, I encourage you to read two other recent blog postings I’ve read to see what others think are important leadership tenets.  The first is 16 Ways to be the Leader of Choice.  Interesting title for that blog.  I must admit I really like a few of these tenets (some of which closely align with some of mine).

For example:

  • Choose meaningful goals.  I suppose this is obvious.  However, if a leader’s goals aren’t meaningful, who will follow them?
  • Respect others.  Absolutely critical in leadership.  The caveat is you can’t ask for or “demand” respect.  You have to earn it.
  • Sacrifice for the benefit of others.  I love this one.  Putting others first is one of my tenets.
  • Have enough ego to aspire to leadership but not so much that you forget leadership is about service.  I laughed when I read this.  Not because I don’t agree with it – I do.  But I just thought of all the “leaders” I have known who were egomaniacs and thought leadership was about being served, not serving others.

The other leadership blog I read recently was about former North Carolina basketball coach, Dean Smith, who passed away this week.  I have always liked North Carolina basketball.  Perhaps it was because of Michael Jordan and that unbelievable shot he made as a freshman in the National Championship game.  Or perhaps it was because Dean Smith attended the University of Kansas, my alma mater, where he learned basketball from the best ever – Phog Allen.  Read the blog posting here.  I think you’ll agree Dean Smith was a great coach, mentor, and leader.

So, what are some of my leadership tenets?  Here are a few:

  • Always do what’s right.
  • Put others before yourself.
  • When possible, lead by example.  When not, don’t lead.
  • Be a caring servant of others every day.
  • Commit yourself to your goals.

They are still a work in progress.  I hope you find some you can use.

 

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