Thursday, January 27, 2011

What would Tony Soprano do?

Thanks to Anne O’Donnell and Cheryl Rothbart for leading the January 20th session of the Alexandria Brown Bag. One of the topics we discussed was how to engage the entire staff in the cause of membership.

What would Tony Soprano do?

Wouldn’t it be nice if membership was part of everyone’s job? In reality, trying to make this happen is a challenging, even daunting task. No doubt many membership directors have watched an episode of The Sopranos and fantasized being a bit like Tony Soprano. Hey, wouldn’t it be nice to swagger over to another department and declare, “it ain’t personal, it’s membership!”

Let’s face it, you’re not Tony Soprano; you can’t influence (i.e., intimidate) the way he does.  If you’re thinking about using him as a role model… fuggetaboutit!  Instead, here are some approaches that might work better and more safely:

Think cooperation and reciprocity: Here’s a great example: one Membership Director would offer editing services to other departments. It wasn’t part of her job and it was extra work. However, when it came time to ask other departments to help with membership-related activities, the basis for a cooperative and reciprocal relationship had been established. Instead of pleading for help, she was able to say, “My department helped you out with the editing, could you help us out with a membership-related issue?”

Be communal:  If you’re asking staff to call prospects, why not make it a fun and communal event? One association gathered staff in the Board Room, brought in pizza and made the effort a much more enjoyable task.  Free pizza and a party atmosphere is certainly more motivating that having to sit by yourself, at your desk, making phone calls.

Remember, sales isn’t for everyone: Not everyone is comfortable with cold calls to prospects or members. If someone is genuinely uncomfortable with this task, it’s best to find another membership-related task which is in their comfort zone. Give your colleagues a chance to help by doing what they do best.   

Focus on those who get it: The issue here is effective time management and a good ROI for the time you put in. Therefore, your efforts to engage other departments should concentrate on your colleagues who “get it” – those who believe that membership is truly the business of everyone on staff.  Take the time to find out who these people are and use their support as a stepping stone to win the support of other staff.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Sign that the Recesssion is Ending

"That the first sign I've seen that the recession may be ending."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Quit Wasting Your Volunteers’ Talents

“Actually, I’m a member. I’m just doing this
until I find a volunteer opportunity that suits my talents.”

Is Your Association a Talent Wasteland?

“Do your members have talent?”

“Of course!” you are likely to respond. Okay, but let me ask this: “How are you utilizing those talents? How do you draw out the best in your volunteers?”  What would be your response?

Unfortunately, many associations fail to make good use of their members’ talent; volunteer opportunities are frequently a poor match for the talent pool – skills, experience and insights are wasted. To put it bluntly: some associations are a talent wasteland in regards to their members.

A Lesson from Great Managers

Let’s back up a moment and consider the results of a study by the Gallup Organization (as outlined in First Break All the Rules). They studied 80,000 managers in 400 companies to identify the characteristics of a great manager. This is what they saw in the great managers: 
  • When selecting someone, they select for talent, not simply experience
  • When setting expectations, they define the right outcomes, not the steps
  • When motivating someone, they focus on their strengths, not eliminating weaknesses.
  • When developing someone, they help him find the right fit, not just the next rung on the ladder.

Clearly, these lessons are relevant to volunteer management. – a different model

 What’s needed is the following shift in mindset about volunteers:

As an example, as well as inspiration, for how to put this new mindset to work, let’s look at the start-up website, Their tagline is, Changing the way people volunteer. Look at their Open Projects page; you will see the openings are listed in a way that attracts people based on their talents. This approach fits nicely with the findings of the Gallup study.

Is this how you go about recruiting volunteers in your association? If not, imagine a listing of volunteer opportunities on your association website, a la, that targets your members by talent.

‘nuff said!

Related article: The Strength & Passion Interview

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sabotage Your Action Plan!

"Once again, we've sabotaged our Action Plan..."

Ah, you’re on the verge of making things happen! Your strategic or marketing or membership plan is done: you have identified a great new service to launch or maybe a website rollout or perhaps a major improvement in customer service. Of course, it’s going to happen because, “we have an action plan!” And like all good action plans, it identifies:
  • The critical tasks to be done.
  • Who is responsible for each of those tasks.
  • Milestones for each task.
Yup, you’re raring to go. You’re going to do great things…or are you? 

Day- to-day reality is the enemy of action plans

Three months have passed and guess what, you haven’t made much progress. The reason is obvious: the day-to-day distractions of association life, plus the not-so-unexpected arrival of an "unexpected "crisis, have waylaid your action plan.

Admit it, this sounds very familiar.  Kind of disheartening, eh? 

Strengthen your action plan by sabotaging it

How can you avoid this? Add another step, after you’ve completed your action plan: sabotage it!

The next time you and staff gather to create your action plan, finish the process by stepping back, looking at the plan and asking: “How can we sabotage the plan?”  When you think about it, the answers are likely to be simple, and even mundane:
  • “I’ll let the day-to-day tasks overwhelm me so I lose sight of the key milestones…” 
  • “I’ll just assume the Board or staff fully understand and support what we’re trying to do…”  
  • “Of course we can squeeze this in a month before the Annual Meeting…”
Anticipation, of course, is the point of this exercise; it’s the day-to-day distractions, not major catastrophes or evil villains, that are most likely to sabotage your action plan.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ground Rules for Board, Volunteers and Staff

In an earlier post, Building Trust between Board and Staff, I discussed the need to develop and  invoke a set of ground rules to promote trust between volunteers and staff. Listed below are ten rules for your consideration:

Volunteers - Staff Relationship Ground Rules

  1. Our number one purpose is to serve our members to the best of our abilities. All of our actions, priorities and words must be judged against that. Therefore, we conduct every board or committee meeting as if the entire membership is watching. We ask ourselves: would our members be proud of how we have conducted ourselves?
  2.  We seek to gather all the facts before entering into a discussion or making a decision. We acknowledge that the quality of our actions and decisions are only as good as the quality of our knowledge about the situation.
  3.  We believe in accountability, not blame. We acknowledge that mistakes and failures will occur and    we will use these as learning opportunities.
  4.  When a mistakes or failures occur, we remind ourselves of rule #1.
  5.  We work hard to catch each other doing the right thing. We will celebrate our successes.
  6.  Hidden agendas and gossip are forbidden.
  7.  Each of us agrees to listen with full attention when another person speaks.
  8.  Volunteers will ask the staff: What is the impact of our decision(s) on you? Have we listened to your perspective and wisdom about the implications of this?    
  9.  When the staff brings forth an item for decision-making to the volunteers they will ask: Have we explained this clearly? Do you feel you have enough information with which to make a good decision? Have we listened to and addressed the big questions you have raised?
  10. Every person takes responsibility for the successful outcome of a meeting or interaction. These   ground rules can be invoked by anyone whenever necessary.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What would a "Membership Happiness Machine" look like?

A just-for-fun brainstorming exercise.

Watch this surprising, delightful video of a Coca Cola Happiness Machine. Now imagine what a Membership Happiness Machine would be. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Building Trust between Board and Staff

Trust is the fundamental quality of successful, productive and sustainable relationships. Without trust between the board and staff, an association’s ability to serve its members suffers. This leads to the logical question, how can the executive approach, in a systematic manner, the challenge of building trust to achieve performance?

Here are some facts to consider:
  • Ninety-one percent of employees rated “being trusted to get the job done” as the most important thing to them in their work setting (2001 Randstad North American Employee Review)
  • A Watson Wyatt Worldwide survey found only half of employees trusted senior management.
  • Watson Wyatt also found that in terms of performance, companies where employees trusted top executives posted shareholder returns 42% higher than companies where distrust was the rule.
While I know of no research that documents relationship between trust and performance in associations, I have no doubt there is a close correlation. The following shows the differences between two organizations, one with high degrees of fear and distrust versus one where the culture is built on a foundation of trust.

Culture of Distrust and Fear
Culture Built on Trust
Minimal collaboration
High levels of collaboration
Turf Battles
Open Sharing of Information
Low Morale
High Morale
Negative Gossip
Positive Gossip
Low levels of innovation
High Levels of Innovation
Sabotage/Behind the Back Gossip
Disciplined Communications

As I look over the left-hand column there is an air of familiarity about it. Sad to say, many of the behaviors in left hand column are all too common in the realm of board-staff relationships.

Awhile ago, I had the opportunity to work with Bob Foxworthy, a consultant who has developed an approach he calls Trust-Based Leadership™.  His work with companies such as Tropicana, CSX and Hewlett-Packard has won awards such as the George Land Leadership 2000, World-Class Innovation Award and Rail Business Magazine’s Railroad-Shipper Win-Win Award for customer-supplier collaboration.

My experience working with him on a leadership training program for a police department in Virginia opened my eyes to techniques and approaches that can be used by associations.  Here are three ideas I would like to throw out for your consideration.

Idea #1: Develop and invoke a set of ground rules to build trust

Ground rules are a way to clarify and codify the answer to four questions:
  • How do you want to be treated?
  • How do you think you should treat others?
  • How do others think you want to be treated?
  • How will we resolve conflicts?
Unfortunately, most associations have no ground rules to guide the relationship between board and staff.  And those with ground rules seem to pay them lip service. If people in an organization cannot answer the four questions above, they will seriously constrained in the ability to achieve improved levels of performance.

Idea #2: Develop a Set of Measurements

There is a maxim that whatever you measure, you get more of. So, if you want board and staff to be clearer about their roles, do a better job of communicating,  be more active in sharing information and work together for a  common goal – then it makes sense to have a way to measure those things. Here are some indicators you might use to measure trust in your association:
  • Clarity of roles: Are the roles of board members and staff clearly defined?
  • Communication: Are the lines of communication and process for communication between board and staff clearly understood by all?
  • Open sharing of information: How well do board and staff share information vital to making sound decisions?
  • Shared Purpose: To what extent do board and staff feel they are working towards to the same set of goals?
It is worth emphasizing the importance of measurements. You can and should measure the factors that shape trust in your association. Doing so allows you monitor what is happening, pinpoint “trust fractures” and take corrective action.

Idea #3: Have an annual game plan

Trust is a perpetual process that must be continually renewed among people and within organizations. Many times I have heard an executive say something like this: “When I was first hired five years ago the board knew and trusted me. But now, due the turnover, I feel they no longer trust me.”
With this mind, an executive director should have a game plan each year designed to build and maintain trust between the board and staff.  Asking the following questions will help you develop the game plan:
  • Are we invoking the ground rules for board-staff relationships? Do new board members (and new staff) have the opportunity to explore and discover why the ground rules are important?
  • Are we measuring and monitoring key indicators of trust? Am I using those measurements to facilitate better communication and collaboration?
  • Am I paying attention to my personal leadership and communication styles. Are there aspects I need to change or new skills I need to learn to become more proficient at creating an environment of trust?
Finally, I would like to share, courtesy of Bob Foxworthy, seven characteristics of Trust-Based Leaders:
  1. They work to build trust with others in all they do.
  2. They demonstrate humility and authenticity when interacting with others.
  3. They tell the truth to their peers and their followers, even when it is personally painful to do so.
  4. They are open, honest and direct in their communications.
  5. The demonstrate respect to others.
  6. They consistently act in an ethical manner.
  7. They are courageous visionaries committed to becoming the best that they can be and /or leading their organization to greatness (measurably defined).

Monday, January 3, 2011

Why Consultants Should be More Like Kojak

Who can forget that wonderful TV series, Kojak, and Telly Savalas' signature tagline, "Who loves ya, baby?" Now, what the tweet does this have to do with consultants?

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..." 

'nuff said!