December 11, 2009

Addendum to my Big Idea Post...

So I posted yesterday about the Big Idea that essentially talked about empowering people at the lowest level.

Well, today, I saw on Twitter a Guy Kawasaki post that linked to this really interesting post talking about 50 ways to foster a culture of innovation within your organization. I especially liked #s 8, 11, 35, 37, 41 and 50. These speak to the fact that Kristin Clarke's original big idea that she proposed is in fact a good idea in terms of empowering those who might be at the lower level. Those people often have great ideas, but might not feel as though the culture is in place to allow them to get them into the right hands.

I'm going to think about how we might be able to incorporate some of these ideas into my organization. I'd encourage you to do the same...

December 10, 2009

Big Idea Month: Empowering the Lowest Level Staffers

December has been deemed Big Idea month by Acronym, ASAE & The Center's blog. They've asked association bloggers to either come up with big ideas and write about them, or write about some of the ones that were posted by readers in the comments section of the post linked above.

One big idea I'd like to discuss and write about was proposed by Kristin Clarke: "What if associations promoted all of the lowest-ranking staffers to VPs for a week--what changes would they immediately make?"

My first thought - WHOA! That's a big idea, and a radical one at that. However, I'd like to put a little twist on it... I think an even more radical idea would be to make the VP and the lowest-ranking people change places for a week (not just put the lowest ranking people in the VP's chair)...

It would be instructive not only for those at the lowest levels to see the different vantage point, but it may also be incredibly valuable to the association for the VP to see life like it is for those at the lowest levels for a week. What are members frustrated about? Why are the processes at that level so tedious? Why is it so hard to get my voice heard by those at the highest level? All of these things would be beneficial for the higher level staffers to see.

As another aside, I have always said that I would LOVE for the members of my current organization to spend one day working at the office to see life from that vantage point. I think if that happened, there would be a different level of understanding between the membership and the staff about service, responsibilities, and just the overall aspect of how the organization runs on a regular basis. I guess they call what I am talking about an internship program, so perhaps we'll need to start one!!

Back to Kristin's original idea, I really think empowering the lowest level employees to make their voice heard about what changes need to be made is a great idea! But my question is - shouldn't this already be happening without having to make them a VP for a week? Shouldn't we already be soliciting this feedback on a regular basis if we are to be a great association? I would think if you could build that kind of culture, a culture where every staff member no matter what their level was confident to make their voice heard, you'd be in a pretty good situation. You'd also be better prepared to make change that the rest of the staff supports and understands.

December 3, 2009

Blogging on the Forum Effect

Over the next four weeks, I am going to be blogging on the Association Forum of Chicagoland's FORUM Effect blog relating to something I have been doing for the last three + years: working from home.

I wrote a story in their November/December issue on this topic, and am expanding on it in my posts over the next month.

My first post talks about the first of the five D's of working from home that I developed - dedication. As you can see, I talk about how you must be dedicated to your craft, your association, and your co-workers to make working from home a positive experience.

I'd like to thank Heather and the folks at the Association Forum for giving me the opportunity, and hope that you'll take a look over the next few weeks at my posts.

As always, thanks for reading...

December 2, 2009

Speaking Up for the Extroverts...

I read an interesting story on recently called Why Introverts Can Make the Best Leaders. It's an interesting story that talks about five traits that make introverts great leaders.

I think that all of writer Jennifer Kahnweiler's points are well written and make sense, but I'd like to speak up for extroverts to talk about some of their leadership traits by commenting on what Jennifer used as traits of introverts...

1. They Think First, Talk Later - I think this is a good trait for a leader, but I think even extroverted leaders understand that you have to be in control of yourself to be seen as credible. Credibility comes from knowing what you're talking about and being able to articulate your point when needed - i.e. being measured and thinking about your response as it relates to a situation. Every leader that I have ever met has understood this, whether they were an introvert or extrovert.

2. They Focus on Depth - No argument here. Depth is important when considering issues. However, I think that leaders need to be willing to trust those who work with them to focus on the depth (i.e. the weeds), while the leaders focus on the overarching mission, future vision, and goals of the organization. If they get caught up in every little minute detail of a specific project, that might cause some of their employees to not feel empowered, and thus not feel as though they are being led...

3. They Exude Calm - I think calmness in the times Jennifer describes is again, a positive trait for an introvert. However, I want someone leading my association or organization who is going to rally the troops to meet goals, be the loudest cheerleader for the association, and inspire others to act in betterment of the organizational mission. I think that understanding when calmness is needed is obvious, but you have to be willing to also exude passion to be a great leader.

4. They Let Their Fingers Do the Talking - I understand that documentation is necessary, and I also understand that being able to articulate your points in writing is important. I think when leaders embrace social media tools like Jennifer points out, that's a great thing... However, when a leader sits in his/her office and shoots off 100 e-mails instead of picking up the phone to call an employee or member, I'm not sure that inspires people to follow them. I'm not sure that a leader who only blogs and sits on Twitter all day is seen as credible. Knowing when to write and when to communicate more personally should be common for all leaders - not just introverts.

5. They Embrace Solitude - Leaders need to clear their heads - get away from it all every once in a while. But, I want a leader who is visible - someone who inspires me to be better by the fact that I can see their dedication. Occasional solitude is fine, but embracing it too much to the point of being a recluse is not my idea of a great leader.

I guess to close, I believe that in many cases, inspiration is what employees and members are looking for in a leader. If someone inspires them to be a better employee, general member, volunteer, etc., that is a positive thing for an association/organization. Can that person be an introvert? Absolutely. Are they the only ones who can do so? Absolutely not.