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Posts Tagged ‘associations’

I recently read an article about how “high achievers” can overcome burnout. It assumed (and I happen to agree) that people who work at a fast pace and under significant stress (call them leaders) can sometimes tire from their work and if they don’t deal with the exhaustion properly, may become ineffective. A few of the author’s suggestions for overcoming burnout included:

1. Delegate more.
2. Take breaks between big projects.
3. Control your electronic devices (turn them off more often)
4. Socialize with people outside your work life.

I think these are all good suggestions. Not sure I can do all of them – especially turning off the devices – I find myself checking email on my phone at the strangest places sometimes; my daughter’s soccer games, while at stop lights, and even on the way out of church this morning.

Here are a few suggestions I have for overcoming burnout as well:

1. Find something you enjoy doing and do it often. I love to play golf and basketball. I try to hit balls on the driving range or play basketball instead of eating lunch a few times a week.
2. Do something physical. Most of us get burned out mentally but physically we haven’t even exercised our body. Go for a run or a bike ride. Lift weights. Do something to break a sweat.
3. Go home one night and force yourself not to even think about work. Find a good book (that has nothing to do with work) and read it.
4. Go for a long walk.

These are all things I like to do to overcome burnout. What are some of the things you do?

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Americans have long been known as volunteers. Since its beginnings, America has been the land of volunteers. Associations, both trade and professional, were born in the US. Americans love to give their time and their money to charitable causes, research and development and professional and business development.

During the last two years, the US (and world) economy has been in a tailspin. The housing market “bubble has burst”, unemployment is probably over 10%, US businesses have had their biggest struggles in history. As a result of these and many more challenges, Americans are having to re-evaluate where they give their time and money and how much, if any, they have to give. In short, volunteers are giving less – a lot less.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for the economy. Eventually (probably in 2011) our economy will turnaround, our businesses will recover and Americans will will have secure jobs, money, etc.

My question is, will they still be willing to volunteer? I hope so. Let me know what you think.

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I must admit I am a workaholic – though I’ve gotten better over the years. Even before blackberries, iPhones and eMail I found a way to stay connected to my work during all hours but sleep, seven days a week.

Over the years I have been able to step away from work for a few hours at a time at least (mostly to spend time with my children).

Recently, I have learned from several successful leaders I know that everyone needs time away from work. Taking time away from work isn’t a weakness, but a strength. If you’re a workaholic like me, you are laughing in disbelief and asking how that’s possible – it doesn’t even make sense.

Here are a few examples of why taking time away from work is a sign of a strong leader:

1. It recharges the batteries – gives you renewed energy
2. It provides a different perspective to the leader
3. Sets a good example for your employee partners
4. Helps your family know it is important
5. Helps the leader balance his personal and work life

Do you take time away from work? Does it make you better at work?

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I believe that most successful trade associations have Boards of Directors that are not only functional but whose directors have developed trusting relationships amongst each other.

I have had the pleasure of seeing dozens of Boards of Directors interact with each other. Here are some of my observations about how Boards develop trusting relationships:

1. The members treat each other inside and outside the boardroom with respect both professionally and personally
2. The members begin every meeting sharing one recent business success and one recent personal success
3. Consent agendas are used allowing the Board to focus its time on mission critical issues, not administrative ones
4. The members keep the organization’s mission and strategic plan at the forefront of their minds in meetings

Tell me about some of the characteristics of the successful (or even unsuccessful) Boards you have seen.

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One of the greatest challenges leaders face are distractions. Distractions cause leaders to take their “eye off the ball”. Distractions cause leaders to lose focus on their mission and strategies.

Distractions come in all shapes and sizes. Here are my top four:

1. Personnel issues
2. Demanding customers
3. Balancing work and family
4. Money

In the last eighteen months, many leaders have been distracted by economic conditions. These conditions have caused leaders to focus on expense reductions and major business model changes just to survive. Now it is time for leaders to re-focus on developing the strategies that will help their businesses succeed in the future.

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I spent last week at the Annual Meeting and tradeshow of one of our association partners.  The meeting and show were a success – despite the economy.

Honestly I was a little worried going into the meeting.  The leadership has been divisive recently and it was unclear going into the meetings whether they could overcome their challenges.  However, at the meeting the association leadership really started coming together.  They recognized the importance of working toward a common goal – the association’s mission.  Here are some of the reasons I think they are moving in the right direction together now:

1.  Leadership Training – we have offered one half day of leadership training twice a year for several years.  The training is never the same but is always focused on providing them the tools they need to be effective leaders.

2.  A Mission – the association has long had a mission statement.  We have focused the leaders on developing annual operating plans with the intent of moving them toward accomplishment of the mission.

3.  Cheerleading – every team needs to feel good about itself as a team and every person needs to feel good about themselves as a person.  We began cheerleading for the association and its leaders at this meeting and by the end of the meeting, many of the leaders were cheering for each other.

4.  Sharing – the leadership spent time getting to know each other personally at this meeting and shared commonalities and differences they have amongst each other.  This helped them remember each of them is an imperfect human being.

5.  Full Value Contract – this is a new idea one of our staff members found.  Essentially the group determined the behaviors they want to uphold as leaders of their industry trade association and agreed to create a “contract” which will be used to hold each other accountable to behaving appropriately.  Examples of the behaviors might be:  Treat people the way you would want to be treated; or Always listen to and consider others points of view.

These are just some examples of how we can get our teams working together toward a common goal.  What ideas can you add to the list?

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Social networking is the current big technology buzz.  Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter encourage their members to update their friends and colleagues with “what they’re doing” on a seemingly constant basis.

I must admit I have an inherent problem with this.  I can’t get over the question of “Who cares what I’m doing right now?”  No one cares that “I’m writing my first blog” right now; or “I’m at the grocery store right now looking for velveeta cheese to make queso – why do they always move the velveeta?”

While I can’t get beyond this challenge with so called social networking sites, I have another beef to share.  Why do we call these online communities “social networks?”  Is the face to face networking that so many of us have experienced in our lives and business careers not also “social?”

Now that my biases are clear, let me get to the point:  Associations are the original “social networks”.

Associations provide the forum for people (since at least the colonial times in the United States) with common interests or in common professions to get together (whether in person, online or some other way) to share ideas, debate issues and most importantly arrive at consensus.

Consensus is the “What are WE doing.”  It is the most important result of social networking.

I think online communities used for networking are wonderful.  I just think we need to recognize they are one more tool for associations to use to accomplish their goals.  Further, for these online communities to become a truly valuable tool for associations, they need to discourage people from thinking about the “I” and get them thinking about “WE”.

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