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.

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