Saturday, December 31, 2011

The test of an organization is the spirit of performance

The following is from Peter Drucker's Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. There's not much I can say but, "read this and study it well."
The purpose of an organization is to enable common men to do uncommon things.
No organization can depend on genius; the supply is always scarce and unreliable. It is the test of an organization to make ordinary human beings perform better than they seem capable of, to bring out whatever strength there is in its members, and to use each man’s strength to help all the other members perform. It is the task of organization at the same time to neutralize the  individual weaknesses of its members. The test of an organization is the spirit of performance.

The spirit of performance requires that there be full scope for individual excellence. The focus must be on the strength of a man – on what he can do rather than on what he cannot do.

“Morale” in a an organization does not mean that “people get along together”; the test is performance, not conformance...there is no greater indictment of an organization than that the strength and ability of the outstanding man becomes a threat to the group and his performance a source of difficulty, frustration, and discouragement for the others.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Have dinner, and then have breakfast, with your members.

In a previous post, I asked, "Why not spend a day - or two or three - in the life of your members? Imagine what you could learn by just observing!" This time I will ask, "Why not have dinner, followed by breakfast, with your members?"  Your response will probably be, "But that happens already." If so, consider the following twist used by the executives of the Hampton Hotel chain:
Six or seven times a year, Phil Cordell, Hilton's global head of focused service and Hampton brand management, selects guests in a key market to meet with him and his leadership team for dinner. The next morning, after their stay at Hampton, he meets with them to get a critique. Among other things, some wondered why hotel soap is square and pointy, unlike what they use at home. Hampton changed its soap, as well as addressing dozens of other suggestions to improve a brand that -- with free in-room Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast, a money-back guarantee and super-friendly service -- already had many satisfied customers.
You will note they meet with the guests before and after. This approach, as opposed to simply having dinner or doing a focus group, yields unexpected insights.

Let's apply it the association setting by asking: What if, on the eve of your annual meeting, staff were assigned to have dinner with members who were attending (as well as exhibitors). On the last day, they get together for breakfast for a critique of the convention. Think you might learn something? Just asking!

Related articles:  

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

Are you wasting money on market research?

Okay, this is a deliberately provocative question. My goal: To get you thinking about the best way to learn about what your members really need. 

Let's begin by considering this example of how Honda, when it was first designing the Civic back in the 1960s, eschewed traditional marketing research in favor of a more direct approach: observing its customers:

A U.S. Honda design team, stalemated on a trunk design project, spent an afternoon in a Disneyland parking lot observing what people put into and took out of their car trunks and what kind of motion was involved...Honda didn't hire an outside market research firm to provide stacks of data about trunk usage. They took a more direct approach and ultimately came up with anew design. 
(From: Competing for the Future by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad)
So ask yourself: Would a "more direct approach" work for your association? Why not spend a day - or two or three - in the life of your members? Imagine what you could learn by just observing! While you mull that over, take time to read a classic article, Spend a Day in the Life of Your Customers. The authors note, "A senior executive’s instinctive capacity to empathize with and gain insights from customers is the single most important skill he or she can use to direct technologies, product and service offerings, communications programs, indeed, all elements of a company’s strategic posture."

'nuff said!

Related article:  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Are you preparing your staff for the job that is coming at them?

Here is a interesting and thought-provoking exchange between Jon Stewart and Mario Batali about bosses who yell at, and demean, their staff. Stewart has asked Batali about the infamous Gordon Ramsey, whose insulting tirades are the staple of a certain reality show I'd rather not name:

Stewart:    [When] you’re at your restaurants, are you Gordon Ramsey? Are you yelling at these people in the kitchen?

Batali:    I am decidedly not Gordon Ramsey. Although, I respect him for finding his voice in whatever world it had to be.

Stewart:  Why can’t he use his inside voice?  Why must he always use his outside, angry voice?

Batali:     You have no idea how complicated that inside voice may be...that’s yelling at him from inside. Generally, cooks that yell at other cooks, or chefs that yell at other cooks, are expressing their own self-loathing for not having prepared their staff to do the job they knew was coming at them.

Stewart:   Hey Gordon Ramsey, maybe it’s time you took a look in a pot of sauce named you.

With this in mind, reflect back upon the times you have been angry and disappointed with your staff and colleagues and ask yourself, "Did I do everything in my power to prepare them for the job I knew was coming at them?" In other words, did you do your best to help them succeed?

'nuff said.

And here's the full interview. The segment cited above begins at the 3 minute, 30 second mark:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mario Batali
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Handbook for Micro-Managers?

This is just for fun (or maybe I'm trying to make a serious point). A friend recently went into a rather extensive rant about a boss who happens to be a micro-manager  Which got me to wondering: how does one learn to be a micro-manager? Is there a handbook these people use? That led me to imagine a special edition of the classic management book, The One Minute Manager.

Why not a special edition for the micro-manager in your life?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Making Sense of Innovation: Three Questions to Ask Yourself

A lot has been written about innovation - perhaps too much. As a topic and as a practical matter, it can be hard to your head around it. To that end, here are three questions to ask yourself as you try to figure out how make innovation happen in your organization. 

1. Which "pathway" to innovation is best for your organization? 

It turns out there are a number of pathways to innovation (as illustrated below). The trick is understanding which will make the most sense for your kind of organization. 
  • The "Expertise" Pathway:  Developing superior knowledge and expertise to gain leverage. Consulting firms, when they are able to establish a clear intellectual leadership in a particular field, are a good example.
  • The "Re-mixing Common Elements Uniquely" Pathway: Innovation is realized by how an a company packages or presents its products or services. In its heyday, for example, The Gap's clothing was not impressively unique, but its method of merchandising and presenting were.
  • The "Unmet Customer Needs" Pathway: This reflects the ability to match products with unfilled consumer needs. Church & Dwight, maker of Arm & Hammer baking soda, has expanded it sales by finding new, unfilled needs for its sodium bicarbonate: toothpaste, carpet freshener, and mouthwash.
  • The "Leveraging Functional Excellence" Pathway: The ability to execute, consistently, a certain function better than one's competitors. The Ritz-Carlton defines functional excellence for customer service in the hotel industry while Procter & Gamble has mastered the skills to excel in consumer packaged-goods marketing.
  • The "Pure Imagination" Pathway: Using imagination to see possibilities that are not always logically evident. Walt Disney Company has given the lexicon of marketing a whole new term - "imagineering."

2. Do you have a well-defined approach to Creative Problem Solving?

It is not sufficient to simply say, "let's get together and brainstorm a solution" and expect consistently good results from your innovation efforts. Staff needs to be in-sync about how to proceed with Creative Problem Solving. .For that reason, a number of organizations train their staff in the Osborne-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Model, which consists of six well-defined steps:
  1. Determine the objectives or desired outcome.
  2. Assemble the facts. 
  3. Define the problem that needs solving.
  4. Generate ideas for possible solutions.
  5. Determine the best ideas leading to a solution.
  6. Determine strategies to make sure the solution will be accepted and implemented within the organization. .

    3. How will you manage the team?

    Execution is the name of the game, here. This requires a framework for managing a team working on an innovation project. One approach is to use the the C.A.R.E. Profile® -- an instrument that identifies five key roles in innovative team performance:
    1. Creator: Generates original concepts, goes beyond the obvious, and sees the big picture. Hands off tasks to an Advancer.
    2. Advancer: Recognizes new opportunities, develops ways to promote ideas, and moves toward implementation. Hands off tasks to a Refiner.
    3. Refiner: Challenges and analyzes ideas to detect potential problems and may hand plans back to an Advancer or Creator before handing off tasks to an Executor.
    4. Executor: Lays the groundwork for implementation, manages the details, and moves the process to completion.
    5. Facilitator: Works throughout the process to ensure tasks are handed off to the right people at the right time.
    The C.A.R.E. Profile enables a manager to choose the right people to fill each of these roles so a team has a balanced mix of skills needed for success.

    Related articles:

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Project Build: Organizing for Creativity and Performance

    A few years ago I developed a fun team building exercise called Project Build. The exercise explores two different approaches of organizing people into teams and makes an important point about the best way to organize teams for creativity and performance. It's been a big success every time I have used it. Feel free to use it!

    Related articles: 

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    Avoid Emotional Triggers in Chapter Relations


    I have written an article, Avoid Emotional Triggers in Chapter Relations, for ASAE's Component Relations E-Newsletter. It presents a list of emotional triggers (i.e., behaviors by headquarters' staff) that can frustrate chapter leaders.

    And this raises the question: How does one respond when emotionally triggered? Here are two approaches toward speaking skillfully in such a situation:

    Using these techniques, and training your volunteers to use them, can significantly reduce tension and conflict between an association's HQ and its chapters.

    'nuff said!

    Click here for more articles about Chapter Relations.

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    A Decision Making Primer

    Is your board having trouble making decisions? Here are some questions to ask yourself.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    More Tattoos: How are Your Members Branding Themselves?

    In the previous post, I ruminated about tattoos. Well, there's a cool project called, Brand Yourself a Librarian. Check it out!  Now take a look at the pics and the video and ask yourself, "How are my members branding themselves?"

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    Member Tattoos: Your Association Logo Here!

    Tattoos! Yes, tattoos! They signify loyalty, commitment and pride. Consider the two examples below. The first being someone who is a PBS devotee. The second...well, this dude is a Harley owner and he's tattooed a portrait of the founders of Harley on his back!

    With that in mind, here's my question: Do your members love your association enough to get a tattoo? Of course the question isn't really about tattoos, it is about loyalty, commitment, passion and a deep sense of community. 

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    The Case of the Members Who Griped but Just Wanted to Help

    It's inevitable, we get negative feedback from our volunteers. Staff hears the complaints, they get annoyed as they try to placate the complainer(s). In other words, they respond to the complaints by assuming the worst: 1) that a majority of volunteers feel the same way; or 2) if a volunteer is griping, (s)he probably has nothing positive to offer. 

    Let us consider two cases where that assumption was seriously misleading...

    The Case of the Appreciative but Silent Volunteers:  

    In recent years, this association had been barraged with complaints from the Chairs of its special interest committees. In response, the staff made a systematic and concerted effort to make needed improvements. However, there wasn't much in the way of positive feedback from the Chairs. The staff assumed the volunteers were either unaware, unappreciative or just impossible to please.

    Guess what? The staff was wrong. When I conducted phone interviews with the Chairs, a very different picture emerged. Many of the Chairs were aware and appreciative of the improvements. They had many positive comments about staff performance. Aha! The phone interviews gave them the chance to provide feedback.This reassured staff that they were on the right track and confirmed that staff and volunteers were in sync about what next steps were needed.

    The Case of the Commercial Members Who Griped but Just Wanted to Help: 

     For this association, the problem was a continual set of gripes from a core of their Commercial Members (these were folks who were long time members and, therefore, were deeply involved). Once again, a set of phone interviews revealed a more hopeful picture. The CMs, who sold to the association's institutional members, wanted a greater sense of inclusion as part of the professional community but felt left out. 

    Guess what? When I spoke to the executives of these institutions their outlook was: "We know there is a core of CMs who have made a great contribution to the profession and the association. We are concerned because the association has failed to recognize that adequately." As a result, a task group of CMs and institutional members was convened to improve the relationship.Volunteers who had been gripers were now problem solvers.

    It's probably an immutable law: there will always be complaints and negative feedback from volunteers. After all, you can't please all the volunteers all the time! The best, most professional way to respond to griping is to:
    1. Gather the facts, find out what the majority of volunteers really think and feel (i.e., don't assume the complainers represent the majority)
    2. Report your findings back to the volunteers so everyone is on the same page.
    3. Ask for help. Tell your volunteers you want to improve things and request their help (e.g., a volunteer task force).
    4. Deliver!
    The Bottom-Line: Don't assume the worst when you hear a complaint from a volunteer. It doesn't do any good for your morale or the morale of the rest of your staff. Get the facts and stick to what you should be doing in the first place: strategies and activities that benefit the member and engage the volunteer. 

    'nuff said!

    For more articles on working with volunteers, click here!

    Saturday, July 30, 2011

    The Two Questions You Must Ask of a Volunteer

    In an previous post, Get In Sync with Your Volunteers, I presented a series of question that staff and volunteers should explore together to promote a greater harmony and a higher level of collaborative performance. In this post, I propose two questions I believe staff must ask of volunteer.

    "What are the two or three most important
    things you want me to know about you so
    I can help you succeed as a volunteer?"

    "What are the biggest questions or concerns
    on your mind that need to be addressed
    by me or someone else on staff?"

    Asking these questions at the beginning of the staff-volunteer relationship puts into place two building blocks necessary for a trust-based partnership. You will notice the first question is about what the volunteer thinks (s)he needs to succeed, thereby laying the groundwork for a "win-win" relationship.
    The second question demonstrates concern and empathy for the volunteer (who is likely to have some doubts about his or her ability to do a good job). In the course of numerous interviews with volunteers, from many different associations, the refrain I often hear goes something like this, "I just don't want to screw up during my tenure as Chair." In other words, most every volunteer feels a bit insecure about their role, it's only natural. The second question provides staff with the insights they need to reassure and support the volunteer.

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Trust and Keeping Promises

    Yesterday, I hosted a meeting of Chapter Relations Professionals on the topic of building trust with chapters. One of the participants noted the following pattern that occurred at her old association:
    The HQ would roll out a new program or service for their chapters which was well received. However, the HQ would then often decide, a couple of years later, that they would no longer be able to offer the program. Naturally, the chapters became distrustful when, at a later date, the association rolled out new programs. The chapters were unwilling to commit their time and energy to the new programs for fear they would be discontinued in the near future. Who could blame them?
    All of this reminded me of a quote I read in the book Performance Management by Aubrey C. Daniels:
    "Trust is measured behaviorally by the correlation between antecedents and consequences. In other words, those who always do what they say are trusted; those who do no are not trusted...An unkept promise by a manager causes the person not only to distrust the manager but the company as well."
    The Bottom-Line: Every time an association rolls out a new program or service - be it for its chapters or its members - it is making a promise. To keep that promise, the association needs to be committed to the program over the long haul.

    'nuff said!

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Get In Sync with Your Volunteers

    In theory, volunteers and staff should be collaborators or partners in helping to meet the goals and mission of the organization. All too often, we fall short of this ideal. To promote a greater harmony and a higher level of collaborative performance, I submit the following set of questions for you and your volunteers to explore together:

    Is There Clarity Before We Proceed?
    Are we in agreement on what is most important?

    What is at stake? Why is the work of this committee or task force important? What are the consequences if either volunteers and staff fail to do their job?

    Do we (i.e., volunteers and staff) have the information and facts necessary to make good decisions?

    Have both volunteers and staff had the chance to say, “These are the major questions and concerns I have going forward”?

    Do We Know What Success Looks Like?
    Does everyone buy into it?

    Do volunteers and staff share the same vision? Is everyone committed to it?

    Can we articulate our goal with with the following statement? “By next year, this committee must accomplish _____.  The reason we must accomplish this is because _____ ! “(i.e., a reason that is compelling and motivating to volunteers and staff)

    Do We Have a “Hit-The-Ground-Running Action Plan?”
    Can we turn words into action? 
    Do we have an action plan with no more than a few priorities/tasks?
    Do the action steps in our plan meet the criteria below?
    Feasibility:  The proposed action item is “doable” – there are sufficient resources, time and staffing to accomplish this (and do it well).
    Impact: The action item will have a positive and meaningful result, the type of outcome volunteers and staff will agree, “Yes, that was worth doing.”

    Are there clear role definitions among volunteers and staff? What is it that only the volunteers can and should do? What is it that only staff can and should do? What are the areas where volunteers and staff need to collaborate? Is it clear how this collaboration will be managed?

    You will notice the important phrase here is, "Volunteers and staff." On second thought, let's make the phrase, "Volunteers  AND  staff."

    'nuff said!

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Easy on the Eye: Making Life Easier for Volunteers and Chapters

    Take a moment to think about the materials you send to your volunteers and chapters (e.g., board materials, membership marketing manuals, etc). How easy on the eyes are they? With this in mind, let us take a look at a marketing manual I created for use at the state chapter level for an association. When creating this piece I tried to answer these three questions:

    Is it easy, at a glance, to determine what information is on the page? In the example below, a volunteer can quickly determine the topic covered on the page. The reader doesn't need to spend time wading through dense paragraphs of text to figure out whether the information within is relevant or timely. 

    Is there anything engaging that will attract the eye? The information on the More Guerrilla Tactics page uses graphic images to stimulate the interest of the reader. There's nothing particularly fancy about it, but it works.  

    Are there visual cues to help the user remember and reference for use at a later date? There is often a time lag between when a volunteer receives (and hopefully peruses) a resource from HQ and when she might actually get around to using it. Thus, it is helpful to apply the "I remember seeing ____" Test. In this case, a chapter volunteer might say, "I remember seeing a primer about writing better letters."

    Click on image to enlarge

    Click on image to enlarge

    You will notice this marketing manual is pretty basic. It certainly didn't win an awards for graphic design! Still, it got the job done: it was very effective as a marketing tool and well received by the folks who used it.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Four Questions for Creating Trust-Building Ground Rules

    In an earlier post, Ground Rules for Board, Volunteers and Staff, I presented a sample list of ten ground rules that might be used to promote trust between volunteers and staff. Recently, however, someone asked me, "How does one know if they have a good set or the right set of ground rules?"

    In other words, this persons wanted to know what are the ground rules for creating ground rules for building trust.

    And so, without further ado, here are the four questions you must be able to answer in order to have effective ground rules for building trust.

    Ground Rule Questions

    1. How do you want to be treated?

    2. How do you want to treat others?

    3. How do you think I want
    to be treated?

    4. How will we resolve conflicts?

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    An Interesting Fact about Trust

    I have been writing (okay, proselytizing!) about trust quite a bit. So here's an important fact about trust and why it just might be really, really important: Nine out of ten employees (91%) define true success as being trusted to get a job done, surpassing fulfillment from money or a title.

    This was from The 2001 Randstad North American Employee Review; trust was identified as the number one element driving employee satisfaction.

    Click on slide to enlarge

    'nuff said!

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Is a Trust-Based Partnership Possible with Your Chapter?

    Look at the diagram below. Which relationship type best characterizes the situation in your association between HQ and its chapters?

    Relationship Type



    Both parties display trust, highly invested in the “good of the whole,” seeks high performance and innovation.


    Both parties get along with each other. Friendly on surface, but no real depth or commitment in their ability to collaborate.


    Both parties distrust each other. There is gossip, sabotage, low performance

    Chances are, many readers of this article will sigh and then mutter, “I wish there was a true partnership between us and the chapters, but after so many years and given all the ups and downs in our relationship…”
    “…in the last four months we’ve actually been partners.”

    Take heart for it is possible to move from the “red” or “yellow” zones to the green zone on the chart. That’s a lesson I learned from Bob Foxworthy, developer of Trust-Based Leadership (with whom I had the pleasure of working on a project for the City of Fairfax Police Department).

    Bob is best known for his work in building a partnership between Tropicana and CSX railroad. This case was discussed in Monty Roberts Horse Sense for People. Monty is a world famous horse trainer whose “Join up” technique with horses has been a model for strengthening relationships in the workplace. Many companies, including Abbot Laboratories, Volkswagen, AT&T, Toyota and Disney have studied Monty’s techniques for use in their organizations.

    Now, back to the Tropicana/ CSX partnership…This is the story of a turnaround in a 28-year, bad-business “marriage.”  Orange juice, being a perishable product, must be shipped quickly from Tropicana’s processing plants to their distribution centers. Over a 28-year period, Tropicana had been dependent on the rail carrier CSX for those deliveries. For a variety of reasons, it had not been a good relationship.

    With Bob Foxworthy’s help, management at both companies formed a Partnership Committee to build trust and focus on performance improvements. I know many readers will groan and say, “Another committee, big deal!” However, the results were impressive:
    • In the first year, they realized $0.8 millions in increased revenue for CSX and reduced costs for Tropicana. 
    •  Increased the number of railcars shipped out the Bradenton plant by 50%. 
    • Established a high-speed, cross-country delivery system cutting delivery time from 12-to-14 days to seven days.
    The keys to their success included:
    • Information was shared openly so both companies can thoroughly understand each other’s business – “nothing is sacred.” 
    •  Partnership Committee members were given training in the principles and practices of trust-building (i.e., they were given the necessary skills and tool-kit for practical application). 
    •  As part of the Partnership practices, all employee of either company could “catch someone doing something right” and present them with a peer award. 
    •  They developed a “scorecard” so they had metrics: that way they could track success, levels of perceived trust, etc. In other words, they adhered to the maxim: if you want more of something, measure it.
    Simply put, they took a systematic approach to repairing and building trust. Four months into the process, Gene Zvolensky of Tropicana addressed a meeting with representatives from both companies. “We’ve been doing business with you for twenty-eight years,” he said to his CSX colleagues. “And in the last four months we’ve actually been partners.”

    The Bottom-Line:  This story serves as proof that it is possible to achieve a trust-based partnership, even after years of poor relationships. If Tropicana and CSX were able to do it, then there's hope for your association and its chapters.

    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    TLC: Why Chapter Relations Professionals Should be More Like Kojak

    In an earlier post, I suggested consultants could learn a thing or two from the TV character Kojak. Who can forget his signature tagline, "Who loves ya, baby?" I believe the same applies to the Chapter Relations Professional. 

    Why? One of the functions of the CRP is to act as a consultant to the chapters. Peter Block, in his book, Flawless Consulting, states that "consulting at its best is an act of love: The wish to be genuinely helpful to another..." I prefer to describe this as acts of Tender Loving Care (TLC). This notion was instilled in me by a group of chapter leaders from Michigan. Here's the story...

    A visit to Detroit...

    A number of years ago I was on the staff of an association which had 300 state and local chapters. At one point, I was invited to Detroit to sit in on a two-day annual planning session for the Michigan chapters. At first there was a bit of tension and underlying hostility towards me since I was from HQ. There were comments such as, "Oh, you're from Washington and you're here to help?"

    As I listened -- okay, I had no choice but to listen, I was outnumbered twelve to one -- I understood why they felt the way they did. They had a number of legitimate complaints about how they were being treated. Then Tom, who was the president of the Michigan State Chapter said, "It's all about TLC...tender loving care!" He went on to tell a story about they had repaired a rift between the state chapter and its local chapters.

    They started with a little TLC! 

    "Two years ago, the Michigan state chapter and the local chapters were at each others throats," Tom explained.. "We didn't get along and we didn't agree on much of anything." I saw the other people in the room, who were the local chapter leaders, nodding their heads. 

    "We had to re-build trust and respect," Tom went on. "So we started with a commitment: we, the volunteers leaders for the state chapter, would have to demonstrate that we really did care about the local chapters. How did we start? With a small and simple gesture. We had customized banners made for each of the local chapters, so they would have something to hang at their meetings. The state chapter board members showed up at the local meetings and surprised the members by presenting the banners. In other words, we started with a little TLC.
    "The other thing we did was listen - a lot of listening. We made sure a state board member was at every local meeting and available to talk with and listen to and even get yelled at by the local members. That's how we started and, two years later, we are able to sit together in a room for two-days and have a productive planning session."

    The Bottom-Line: When dealing with your chapters, there's more than making sure you have the right processes, support mechanisms or checklists in place. You need to step back and make sure, once in a while, there are acts of TLC. After all, it's what Kojak would do!

    Also check this post:  Help Your Chapters Solve the Right Problem!

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Three Reasons Your Chapters and Volunteers May Not Trust You

    Are you trustworthy? Do your volunteers and chapters see you as sincere, reliable and involved with them?  “Of course!” you respond. “The staff at HQ strives for professionalism and to earn the trust of volunteers and chapters each time we interact with them.”

    Let us now ask this in a slightly different way: Given the context of their daily life experiences, what might create the perception, in the mind of a volunteer or chapter executive, that you, or another staff at HQ, are not trustworthy?

    To answer this, I will present three examples, utilizing snippets from a day-in-the-life of a volunteer or chapter executive, to illustrate how trust can be unintentionally undermined.

    Why Jane doubts your sincerity

    Jane is the chapter executive for the Terabitha Chapter (which is famous for its annual bridge building contest). On Tuesday morning, she called customer support about a software issue.  After numerous rings, her call was put on hold with a message that began, “Due to high call volume…” and concluded with, “…your call is very important to us.”

    “My call is important? Do you sincerely expect me to believe that?” Jane muttered to herself.

    That afternoon, she called to find out about a major policy change under consideration by the national Board.  Local members were concerned and she had been trying, for the past week, via email and unanswered calls, to get more information. Finally, she gets you on the phone and you tell her, “I sincerely apologize for not getting back sooner, we’ve had a zillion calls about this policy issue…”  Jane mutters under her breath, “yeah, due to high call volume.”

    You hear the agitation in Jane’s voice so you try to reassure her, “Jane, I value your opinion as I do all the chapter executives.” At that moment, Jane is having a wicked bad flashback to her earlier call: all she hears is, “your call is very important to us.”

    Jane, for easily understandable reasons, begins to doubt if anyone at HQ sincerely cares about her opinion.

    Why Hank thinks you are not reliable
    Hank is a volunteer with the Hyboria Chapter and serves as the Chair of the National Membership Committee. Wednesday morning, he has a doctor’s appointment scheduled for 11:30. He knows, from prior experiences, the doctor won’t actually see him at 11:30. It will be more like 11:54 or sometime after noon. As he sits in the waiting room, rereading the July/1995 edition of Sports Illustrated for the 37th time, he recalls how, last week, the cable guy showed up 90 minutes late. “People aren’t reliable,” he thinks to himself.

    That afternoon, he checks his email. You had promised him the agenda and support documents for the upcoming committee meeting by COB of that day. He calls and you apologize. You go on to explain, “The materials are almost ready. Unfortunately, there was an urgent request from a Board member yesterday – high priority – so I was pulled in to work on that. I will have your materials to you no later than tomorrow afternoon.”  That night, you work late so you can deliver the materials first thing in the morning.  It was delivered late, but heck, it was just a little bit late. Under the circumstances, you feel okay about that.

    Hank, meanwhile, has mentally put you into the same category as his doctor and the cable guy. “HQ staff aren’t reliable,” he thinks to himself.

    Why Harmon thinks you are not involved with him

    Harmon is the new staff exec at the Narnia chapter. It is his first job in associations, a lot of issues and problems are brand new to him.

    Friday morning, he drops his car off for repairs. He has a new mechanic, Sal, who was recommended by a neighbor who said, “I totally trust him.” Sal greets Harmon and says, “tell me everything you can think of about the problem.” He listens without interrupting. Then he starts asking questions,  lot of questions. Finally, he says, “Chances are it is one of two issues. The only way I can be sure is if…”

    That afternoon, Harmon picks up his car – it runs perfectly. He reflects on Sal’s ability to listen, and realizes it is the ability to ask lots of questions, the process of getting involved,  that makes Sal a good mechanic. That’s why his neighbor trusts him completely.

    Meanwhile, Harmon has been struggling to get up to speed on association type issues. He calls you for advice and begins the conversation by unloading all the background details. You realize his questions can be easily answered with a series of FAQs you have written. Besides, your schedule is packed and you conclude that a long conversation with Harmon is not the most efficient use of your time. You politely cut the conversation short, directing Harmon to the FAQs. You  hang up, rush to your meeting, thinking, “It would have been nice to chat, but that’s why we have FAQs…”

    Harmon, meanwhile, is comparing his experience with you to the conversation he had with Sal the Mechanic. Unlike Sal, you didn’t bother to ask a lot questions, you didn’t take the time to get involved.  Harmon shakes his head and realizes he’d rather talk to his mechanic than to you. He picks up the phone, makes a call and says, “Hey Sal, what do you know about associations?”

    The Bottom Line: To build trust with another human being, you need to consider the context of that person’s daily life. Everyday, your volunteers and chapter executives encounter and assess the trustworthy of a variety of people. Those experiences create a filter through which they learn to trust, or distrust, others…and that includes you. The more you understand their context for assessing trust, the more success you will have.