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!

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