Boards and Annual Conference Venues
MARCH 20, 2017
I've had two recent experiences that have made me think critically about an association board's role in selecting venues for their association's annual conference. The first was as a volunteer board member, witnessing (and participating in) an unfocused and opinion-laden discussion about where the association in question should be taking its annual conference. Then I did something unexpected.
Generalist > Specialist
JANUARY 25, 2016
Been reading (and thinking) about the pros and cons of hiring generalists vs. specialists. Some of what I've read seems aimed at large organizations, much of it arguing for the advantages of generalists over specialists. They don't have to convince me. When it comes to small staff associations like mine, generalists win hands down. Here's just three reasons why. What do you think? Or am I off base?
Associations Are Non-Profits for a Reason
MAY 16, 2016
There is a clear and important reason that associations are organized as non-profit organizations, and it isn't so they can get out of paying taxes. My musings in this regard were inspired by this post by Anna Caraveli on The Demand Networks blog. Titled, Are you Marching to your Board’s or your Customers’ Pace? , It's a good post. Go read it for yourself. If nothing else, it got me thinking.
Innovating the Lean Startup Way
DECEMBER 7, 2015
Elizabeth Weaver Engel of Spark Consulting has another white paper out. It's the third or fourth one I've read from her shop, and it's another good one. This one was co-authored with Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, and it's titled " Innovate the Lean Way: Applying Lean Startup Methodology in the Association Environment. " It's great.
Fundraising and Association Leadership
JUNE 8, 2015
In the past year, me and my association have gone through dramatic transformations. With regard to my association, we have significantly increased the amount of money--and our dependence on that amount of money--that is raised from our members through our 501(c)(3) foundation. Initially, we worked with an external fundraising consultant. That's always been important. Image Source [link].
Going on Vacation
JULY 21, 2014
image source What do you do when you go on vacation? No, not where do you go and what do you do there, but what do you do about all the people who may want to get a hold of you while you''re gone? In my association I try to make it as clear as possible. Vacation is for vacation. When you''re on vacation there is no expectation that you can be reached. Except I don''t do that. So I''m okay with it.
Breaking the Ice
NOVEMBER 17, 2014
image source Last week I wrote about a facilitation workshop I recently attended--a workshop to learn how to be a better facilitator and how to teach others to do the same. I got a lot of takeaways that are relevant to the work I and my staff do with our association''s Board, committees, and task forces. Here''s another. This is something that is often overlooked. The result? Staff Meetings.
Member Engagement and Association Building Blocks
JUNE 10, 2013
image source Thanks to my co-presenters, Elizabeth Engel and Peggy Hoffman , and all the folks who joined us at our "Walking the Walk of Deep Member Engagement" learning lab at last week''s ASAE Marketing, Membership and Communications Conference. Go check them out! They don''t want to assume a traditional committee leadership role. How do I know this? Because I’ve been one of these members.
Flipcharts Don't Lie
SEPTEMBER 16, 2013
image source Two weeks ago, in Mental Rules for the Staff Retreat, Part 2 , I continued writing about the process I used to create my association''s values statement, despite some misgivings about the value of values statements I''ve previously shared and still hold. It was a very productive discussion. The survey helped a lot with this process. Stay tuned. Associations Leadership
All Committees Are Not Created Equal
NOVEMBER 16, 2015
Got into a friendly argument with a colleague about last week's post , where I revisited an idea that I've discussed before : that program committees should report to an association's Chief Staff Executive, or CEO, and not its Board of Directors. His take? Absolutely not. Never. Committees must always been created by and report directly to the Board. Governance committees, yes, I replied.
Leadership and U-Shaped Tables
JUNE 30, 2014
image source I''m just returned from what was a very successful strategic retreat with the Board of Directors of my association. Like many of the Board meetings we''ve done before, we used a U-shaped table for several of the sessions. With the open end of the U facing a projection screen, we''ve found that it gives the Board members an equal opportunity to see and interact with each other and to view the many presentations we use to report progress and explore strategic concepts. In order to help focus discussion, we usually break our Board up into a handful of smaller groups.
Eric Lanke: Provocative Proposals for Change
MARCH 12, 2012
I just finished reading an advance copy of Shelly Alcorn's "Provocative Proposals for Change," a report she authored based on Appreciative Inquiry interviews she conducted with more than 200 association executives
The Limitations of Crowd-Funding for Associations
NOVEMBER 7, 2016
In many ways, associations are the original crowd-funded organizations. Long before the term became popular and proliferated across digital kingdoms like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, associations were gathering money from many to support programs and services that were valued by all. The economies of scale were and still are powerful. But this model has its limitations. Image Source [link].
On the Right Track
APRIL 14, 2014
image source So we had a great time at the WSAE meeting last week with Humanize authors Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant. In addition to the session they conducted for everyone, Notter and Grant also facilitated a private discussion with the association CEOs in attendance, which focused on the unique role that the staff executive has in changing and shaping the culture of any organization. When it was my turn to summarize my thoughts on the subject, I said aloud what I had written in last week''s post. I''m not sure everyone in the room agreed with me, but no one challenged me, either.
Six Rules of Living Your Values: Conclusion
SEPTEMBER 29, 2014
image source Over the last six weeks, I have tackled the six rules of living your values, as defined by Francois Nader, CEO of NPS Pharmaceuticals in this HBR blog post. Those rules, and my posts about them, are: 1. Define the values in simple, sixth-grade language. Don’t post plaques on the wall declaring the values. Teach people what the values mean. Recruit people who naturally are inclined to live your values. Make values a primary filter for performance evaluations. Your values must be non-negotiable. So what, if anything, have I learned? Well. Clearly, the latter.
What Happens When Non-Board Members Attend Board Meetings?
NOVEMBER 3, 2014
image source We did something brand new at our latest Board meeting. For a while now, our Board has been organized into three task forces--each focused on one of the three strategic priorities of the organization. These have been task forces of the Board, meaning the only Board members served on them, and they have traditionally met at each of our two-day Board meetings. It was a risk.
The Importance of Sharing Survey Results
OCTOBER 13, 2014
image source Like a lot of associations, mine is in the habit of surveying our members. We do a fair number of small, ad hoc surveys, but we also put a lot of time and energy into a biennial satisfaction survey. It gives us a wealth of information about what responders think about our strategic direction and our programs and services. I do this for a few reasons. They deserve it.
Eric Lanke: Bucking the Trend
APRIL 9, 2012
McKinley Advisors is out with the results of their 2012 Economic Impact on Associations study. I think it's their fifth one. Throughout the recent recession and slow climb back to prosperity it's been an interesting way to check the
Eric Lanke: Which Committee Are You On?
NOVEMBER 14, 2011
Here's a hypothetical for you. Let's say that you're an active volunteer in an association whose mission you care about. You serve on two committees for this association--one of which you chair. Because this association has
A Faster Horse
MARCH 11, 2013
image source "If I had asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." We've all heard this quote attributed to Henry Ford. And if you don't know who that is, I'm sure you've heard one the dozen or so similar quotes attributed to Steve Jobs. These thoughts are on my mind as I prepare to leave for my association's Annual Conference. Part of me is excited. You're the member.
We Can Only See the Destination By Moving Towards It
APRIL 22, 2013
image source These words came out of my mouth in a conversation with one of my staff people yesterday. Our association is venturing into a new area of activity--something we all know is necessary, but for which few of us have any natural aptitude. Understandably, everyone is looking to me for direction, for a clear picture of where we are going. "We We''re all in this together. I get that.
Eric Lanke: Stop Calling It Strategic Planning
JANUARY 23, 2012
So I'm working my way through Humanize, and like most everyone else, I'm really enjoying it. This will probably be the first of several posts describing the thoughts it provokes for how I am and should be running my
I'm Not Building a Navy SEAL Team
OCTOBER 6, 2014
image source Quick rant this week. I attend a lot of conferences where the focus is leadership and how to build and lead effective teams. One common type of speaker I see at these conferences is someone retired from the military (an ex-Navy SEAL Team member was the latest example), talking about their own experiences with team-building and team leadership. The talks are always interesting and inspiring. The people giving them always deserve our thanks and applause for the risks they have taken and for their service to our country. But you know what? Sure I do. No, of course I don''t.
Opposing Views Are Allowed to Co-Exist
DECEMBER 8, 2014
I''ve been writing about a facilitation workshop I recently attended--a workshop to learn how to be a better facilitator and how to teach others to do the same. It was organized and led by Jeffrey Cufaude of Idea Architects. I got a lot of takeaways that are relevant to the work I and my staff do with our association''s Board, committees, and task forces. Here''s the last one. I''ll admit it.
Assessing Your Willingness for Dialogue
MAY 12, 2014
image source Four weeks ago, in On the Right Track , I wrote about some of the things I''m doing in my organization to diffuse leadership and decision-making across our hierarchical levels. It was partially inspired by the CEO-level discussion facilitated by Humanize authors Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant at a recent WSAE meeting. But that wasn''t the only thing that grew out of that meeting. Not only did I complete this assessment, but two of my staff people who were in attendance completed it, too. Some leaders might think such a conversation risky. Or about me as its leader?
Member Engagement? It's.Well, It's Complicated.
SEPTEMBER 9, 2013
image source A big thanks goes out to the more than forty association professionals who joined me on Wednesday, September 4 for an informal discussion on member engagement. The call was hosted by WSAE as part of its peer-to-peer discussion group series , and it was (I think) the best attended discussion they have ever held. We even had one person dialing in from Philadelphia! I find this confusing.
Six Rules of Living Your Values: Introduction
AUGUST 11, 2014
image source This HBR blog post on building a new company culture has been sitting in my inbox for a while. In it, Francois Nader, CEO of NPS Pharmaceuticals, talks about how focusing on a new set of core values helped him turn that company around. But he doesn''t talk much about what those core values were. Of course, anyone can write down words, call them values, and incur no change.
Eric Lanke: Should Committees Report to the Board?
SEPTEMBER 26, 2011
I've been thinking a lot about this question lately. It's a question, I know, that never even occurs to leaders in many associations. "Should committees report to the board?" " they might say. "Of course they should. Who else are
The Mission Driven Volunteer
AUGUST 12, 2013
image source I was interviewed and my association is featured as one of the case studies in the new white paper--The Mission Driven Volunteer--from Mariner Management & Marketing and Spark Consulting. What is mission-driven volunteering? Well, according to the white paper itself. It''s a concept that strongly resonates with me. It is the] "incubator" of NFPA''s future leaders.
Accessibility vs. High Fidelity
APRIL 15, 2013
image source Read an interesting blog post about the changing nature of music industry. According to the author, after generations of working to make the music being produced more accessible, the industry is changing its focus to deliver the highest quality sound experience possible. It got me thinking about some obvious and some not-so-obvious parallels in the association business. More is easy.
Your Leader Is In Control
APRIL 21, 2014
image source I do a fair amount of reading on leadership issues. And in doing so, I encounter the following sentiment--most recently in this Corner Office column --again and again. I have learned that leadership is all about demonstrating and exuding confidence. Keep it inside. Process it. But don’t let it show on your face. Because they need to know that the leader is in control.” In control?
Being Data Driven Is Harder Than It Sounds
MARCH 31, 2014
image source This week I was struck by two charts from the 2014 Economic Impact on Associations Report published by McKinley Advisors. And as I explored them in more depth, I retaught myself a lesson about how data is not often what it appears to be at first blush. First, I saw this chart, showing the reported membership retention rates of participating associations over the last five years.
When Consensus Is Not Enough
MARCH 18, 2013
image source Sometimes I struggle to understand what's missing around the Board table. We've got smart people on the Board, people who are committed to the mission and goals of the association. We've got the right issue on the table--something everyone recognizes as closely tied to our future success and growth. But still something is missing. We're stuck. Associations Leadership
The Most Important Value of All: Self-Reflection
JANUARY 20, 2014
image source Two weeks ago, in In the Eye of the Beholder , I continued writing about the process I used to create my association''s values statement, despite some misgivings about the value of values statements I''ve previously shared and still hold. For the second discussion, I chose a slightly different path. That should take care of it, I thought. Who could argue with that? Stay tuned.
Sharing Information Helps You Think
JUNE 2, 2014
image source That''s one of the conclusions I''ve come to as I continue to take steps to better manifest a chosen behavior from my organization''s values statement in the day-to-day interactions around my office. I last wrote about this two weeks ago, in The Case for Sharing Information. Having asked everyone else in the organization to do the same, I decided I would lead by example and chose the following behavior: We share information openly and proactively, demonstrating an understanding that our actions impact others. That''s starting to change. Where did I go? Who did I meet there?
Why We Don't Take Risks
JULY 30, 2012
image source I recently had a reason to re-review the four principles of innovation and the four barriers to adopting them in the association world that were identified as part of WSAE's White Paper on Innovation. And the corresponding barrier? Well, let me quote directly from the paper: Low tolerance for risk Innovative organizations are by nature risk?taking ballooned and focus?grouped
Eric Lanke: Don't Rush to Fill the Silence
MAY 21, 2012
This is one of the toughest lessons I've had to learn as a leader. And it is something I still don't always get right. In a staff meeting, on a conference call, at the Board table--there are invariably times when silence occurs, when
Eric Lanke: Who Revolves Around Who?
APRIL 23, 2012
I've been reading a bunch of blog posts about people's reaction to ASAE's choice of James Carville and Karl Rove as General Session speakers at their upcoming Annual Meeting. Jamie Notter provides links and offers his
When Red Lights Mean Go
JULY 1, 2013
image source I just got back from an annual strategic retreat with the Board of Directors of my association. It always comes at the end of our fiscal year. It''s a time for us to look back on our successes and failures over the past year, talk about the long-term future of our industry, and make necessary adjustments to our on-going strategy. This year I tried something different.
If the Future is a Painting, Who's the Painter?
MAY 6, 2013
I''ve been blogging lately about what it takes to lead an organization in a new direction. I don''t pretend to be an expert in this area. My blog posts are reflections of the thoughts I''m having as I try to lead my own organization through the turbulent waters of change. Imagine that the future is a painting. In that analogy, the leader is not the painter. Landscape or portrait? Thank you!