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Boards of Directors Members and Committee Chairs are key leaders who determine whether an association is successful or not. What does that mean? It’s simple – associations whose directors and committee chairs are not focused on the organization’s strategic plan, are not consensus builders, and don’t know how to run effective meetings cause their association’s to fail – or at least stagnate. Conversely, directors and committee chairs who are focused on achieving the results desired by the organization, who engage others toward achieving those results and who run effective meetings, lead their associations to success.

But you likely didn’t get to choose the directors and committee chairs you serve with or whom you serve as staff for right?

So, what can association’s do to assure their leaders are qualified and ready to lead their association?  It’s simple – train your leaders!

Think about it. In your business, what do you do to make sure your employee’s are all working together toward a common goal and are equipped with the skills and tools they need to achieve that goal?  You make sure they understand the direction your company is headed in and provide them the proper training to get there.

The same is true with associations – except the people you need to train aren’t getting paid to do their jobs – they are volunteers. And in many cases, they are volunteers who don’t have experience building consensus or leading an association.

Every association should have a volunteer training program – just like every company should have an employee training program. The training should cover at a minimum the following:

Board orientation for all new directors and officers. This orientation should teach the volunteers about the association, its policies and programs. It should inform them of their duties and responsibilities. It should get them up to speed on meeting dates and deadlines and should update them on the current strategic plan, directions and measurable goals of the association. Though this is a “new” director orientation, all directors and officers should be invited to participate.

Treasurer training. Every time your association elects a new treasurer he/she should be invited to the association office for treasurer training. During the training he/she should become familiar with his/her new responsibilities as well as the expectations for the role. Examples of all the reports he/she will receive should be provided and it should be made clear how to read and evaluate those reports. Finally, the controls your association has in place and the procedures your association follows when handling all accounting and financial transactions should be shared and demonstrated.

Committee Chair training. At every meeting of your association when committee meetings will be held, the association should provide committee chair training. The training should focus on making sure the chairs understand their committee’s role in the overall association. (How do they fit in with the strategic plan?) It should also confirm with the chairs the objective for each of their individual committee meetings. Finally, it should provide some guidance and input on how to run their meetings effectively.

Ongoing Board Training. At each Board meeting, consider setting aside time – perhaps the first hour – for training. The training can be reminders of the Board’s duties and responsibilities, it can include tips on being an effective meeting participant, building consensus and more.

Providing training for the volunteer leaders of associations makes them better leaders and as a result makes their associations more successful.

If you don’t have a training program for your association, create one. If you’d like suggestions or help in creating your training program, contact CM Services’ Head Coach and President, Rick Church at rickc@cmservices.com.

Associations are groups of people or companies in the same profession or industry or with similar interests working toward a common goal.  By definition, when groups of people get together to take some action, there will be discussions, debates, and disagreement.  It’s also true that whenever a group of people get together there will almost always be at least one person with a negative outlook on things.

The art of being a successful association leader is knowing how best to help a group reach consensus.  Part of that art is learning how to effectively handle negativity during your meetings.

Here’s a definition from dictionary.com: Negativity is a tendency to be downbeat, disagreeable, and skeptical. It’s a pessimistic attitude that always expects the worst. Negative outcomes are bad outcomes, like losing a game, getting a disease, suffering an injury, or getting something stolen.

Negativity can occur in many different ways but the most common is “that one person”.  You know the one, he/she never has a kind word to say, sees the bad in everything and is often very vocal – the one with the black cloud hanging over his/her head.  That negative input, if not handled properly can change the tone of a meeting, change the energy of an event, and even change the direction of an association.

So, what are some tools you can use to handle that negativity?

  • How the meeting is organized can have a major impact. Make sure you have an agenda for the meeting that clearly articulates the decisions that need to be made and provides the information necessary to make those decisions.  Make sure that agenda is distributed at least one week and preferably two weeks prior to the meeting.
  • Using the Consent Agenda format can be helpful too. Consent agendas keep your group focused on the important things – the decisions that need to be made, actions that need to be taken and progress on the organization’s key metrics.  They keep your group from spending unnecessary time talking about reports and things that don’t impact the overall goals of the organization.  (Those are hot bed areas for negativity and you avoid them with the Consent agenda)
  • Agenda approval, right after “minutes approval” on the agenda is also important to keep focus. If anyone has an item to add to the agenda, it MUST BE DONE UNDER AGENDA APPROVAL.  There should be no “other business” item at the end of your agenda unless it is used to consider an item added to the agenda.  All this is designed, not to silence anyone, but to help the chair create focus.
  • How you run your meeting also has a major impact on whether it’s positive or negative. Set the ground rules for the meeting upfront and make them clear to everyone.  Describe what needs to be accomplished during the meeting (articulate goals for the meeting) and what the process will be to get everyone’s input and come to the consensus required.  For example, after describing the desired outcome, tell everyone something like, “Thank you for participating in today’s meeting.  Everyone’s input into this decision is important and valued.  To assure we arrive at consensus and to make sure everyone’s input is heard, please don’t repeat something that’s already been shared and keep your comments positive and productive.  We are all on the same team working toward a common goal.  Thank you.”
  • Of course, even if you have organized your meeting well, provided the information in advance of the meeting in a Consent agenda format and laid the groundwork for how the meeting will be run properly, you may still have that person who is negative. How do you keep them from dominating the discussion or harming it with their negative input?  It’s not easy, but you can do it.
    • First suggestion is to not let them take over your meeting with their comments. Use polite interruptions such as, “Thank you for that input John. Let’s hear what Joe has to say on this subject as well.” Or, “You have some excellent points John. I wonder if Joe has some new points he’d like to make?”.
    • Sometimes of course, that negative person doesn’t get the hint and you may have to be a little more direct but always positive and polite. You can try saying something like, “Thank you John. I think we all have a clear understanding of your position. Let’s see if anyone else has input they’d like to share.” Or, “Thank you John. That point has been made. Let’s see if there are any new points anyone would like to discuss.”
    • When redirecting the conversation from the negative person, always try to direct it toward someone you know will be positive. Negativity is contagious (so is positivity by the way).

At CM Services, our team of association professionals use Board and Committee orientation and training to help our association leaders learn to build consensus in positive ways.  Click here to view some of the training we have done for our leaders.

If you’d like help with Board training, planning or overall management, contact Rick Church, CM Services’ President & Head Coach at rickc@cmservices.com.

Keep your meetings positive and effective!

Leaders are Learners

It’s been quite a while since I created a post on this blog.  Something caught my attention today and I was inspired to share it through my blog.  Most of my posts relate to leadership.  Not because I hold myself up as some great leader, but because I aspire to be a better leader.

One way to become a better leader is to study great leaders.  Identify the characteristics and traits they shared and adopt them as your own.  When we think of great leaders some of the qualities we think of include:  charisma, decisiveness, honesty, trustworthiness, intelligence, ability to communicate effectively, and many more.

One of the qualities we don’t often attribute to great leaders (but one that I believe all share) is their desire to learn.

Think about it.  Great leaders are lifelong learners.  They are curious.  They want to read what other people have written.  They want to listen to what other people are saying.  They want to gain as much knowledge as they can.

This article sums it up nicely.

Read the article and share what you think be commenting on this blog.

To most people, the concept of becoming “lean” connotes having less or doing more with less.  For example, I am 35 pounds leaner than I was fifteen months ago.  My company is managing more associations today with fewer employees than we did two years ago – we are leaner.  To many businesspeople the concept of lean is also associated primarily with manufacturing businesses.  It’s a concept that’s applied to the operations of the business, not to leadership.

I read an article recently about a book called The Lean CEO.  You can read the article here.

I think the concept of the lean CEO is interesting.  In fact, it mirrors many of the same leadership traits we often discuss in this blog.  The author of the article suggests that lean isn’t just a cost-cutting thing, or only applicable to manufacturing.  Instead, he believes lean is a cultural change that brings about success for the employees and the business.

Here are a couple of the key concepts of lean:

  • It creates an environment that is motivating to workers by involving them in making the business better.
  • It is about continuous improvement and involves everyone in that process.
  • It improves productivity but not by asking people to work harder and longer but getting them to work together as a team.
  • It’s about respecting people.  The teammates, the customers, management.

Sound familiar?  These are all concepts we have come to know and expect from great leaders.

Perhaps we should be talking more about Leanership.  I plan to read The Lean CEO.

There are many traits successful leaders have.  We have discussed many of them through this blog.  Of course, there are some traits shared by most, if not all, successful leaders such as, honesty, focus and commitment.

There are other leadership traits that we commonly think of when we think of great leaders such as communication, selflessness and humility.

Leaders become leaders because they are often smart, well-liked, able to set and achieve goals and able to get a group (or team) of people to work together toward a common mission.

One leadership trait we don’t talk about enough is sharing.  Leaders who share their knowledge, their experience and their goals are the most successful leaders.

I recently read an article about the importance of sharing as a leadership trait.  You can read it here.

What I really liked about this article is it draws attention to something I truly believe – that great leaders are not great because of who they are, but what their team is.  Great leaders encourage and embrace a culture of sharing.  They don’t hold their knowledge close to the vest and keep others from gaining it.  Rather, they share that knowledge and in doing so, encourage their teammates to do the same.

The result?  A team of people who trust each other, are confident in their ability to do their job well and an industry leading organization meeting the challenges of its customers.

What kind of leader are you?  Do you share openly and honestly with your team?  Or are you concerned about sharing certain knowledge – afraid that doing so will make you less valuable to the team?

I challenge you to give some thought to this concept and implement it in your business.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

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.

Leadership Lists

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.