September 5, 2008

Transparency in Association Work

Personally, I believe that continually providing value to members and unabashed transparency are two areas that are EXTREMELY important in association work.

Does any association do a good enough job at either or both? I don't know the answer to that question. However, I do know that as I try to work my way up the ladder for a future career as an association executive, these are two areas that I would insist upon moving forward, while continuing to enhance and move forward the strategic plan of the association...

Speaking about transparency specifically, I once interviewed the president of a college in North Carolina who is a member of my current organization, and he had a tremendous answer to a question about his leadership style:

"I don’t believe in hiding the ball. My philosophy is, if you’re not open with the data, people are going to start speculating, and usually speculations are worse than the reality. They always think that if they’re not in a meeting that they think is important “I wonder what goes on there…” For example, in senior staff, we deal with the annual budget, the strategic plan, feedback from parents and students, what we’re going to have for lunch that day, and whole variety of big and little issues. A lot of what we discuss is boring, but folks on the outside don’t know it until they can see it. The other reason I do it is that, if I am make a decision after looking at a certain set of data or facts, and if I let those facts out to everyone else, people on campus should come to the same conclusion I did. And, if they don’t, I think there needs to be a discussion, because I could be wrong, or they could be wrong."

If you didn't know that it was a college president making that statement, you might think it was an association executive. It is so applicable to our work, that I think it is worthy of putting some thought into. In many instances I think that we aren't as transparent as we ought to be because we think of what the negative consequences of something will be as opposed to thinking in terms of what is best for the members that we're trying to serve. In the quote above, he is looking at the decision from the eyes of his constituents - what will they think? How do these decisions affect them?

Transparency is important, and by being open with the data and information, we are allowing our members to be involved in the process - a very positive way of doing business.

Anyone have different thoughts?
Have you seen or worked in associations that are completely transparent with their work? What has been the result?

No comments: