November 26, 2010

Two Great Fast Company Pieces Worth Checking Out

If you don't read Fast Company magazine, what are you waiting for? It's a magazine that I have read since the early 2000s, and every issue has made me think about something I am doing in my life and career. In the November 2010 issue, which was the magazine's 150th issue, there were two really great stories that I think all association professionals should read.

1. Chip & Dan Heath's monthly Made to Stick column focuses on ensuring that you're focusing on what consumers (or members in our case) feel they need, not on what you might think they need. One paragraph captures the crux of their argument:

If entrepreneurs want to succeed, as venture capitalists like to say, they'd better be selling aspirin rather than vitamins. Vitamins are nice; they're healthy. But aspirin cures your pain; it's not a nice-to-have, it's a must-have.

An example: you might create an on demand education program series for your members, which is a great use of new technology that you think would be good for the members. However, what the members really feel they need is an in person meeting that would satisfy their desire to network with their fellow members, etc.

Is what you're providing a vitamin or aspirin for your members?

2. Nancy Lublin, who serves as the CEO of the non-profit Do Something, wrote a fantastic and timely piece about the importance of two little words - thank you. The reason I like this column so much is because she reminds us that it's important to remember to thank the people we often forget - the delivery drivers, mail carriers, interns, the repairmen, etc. that we interact with on a daily basis in our offices.

I think this is all too often forgotten, as we are so concerned with thanking our members and the people who bring in the revenue for our organizations. I found it interesting in her piece that in her organization, they did a test about the names of some of the people who regularly interact with their staff, and the average result from the staff was only 50%... I wonder what the results would be if we were to do the same in our organizations.

Giving thanks is important, and sometimes getting thanks encourages people to go above and beyond the next time they're giving you service. Think about that the next time the repairman comes in and fixes something in your office. Those two small words could go a long way the next time something breaks.

November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks...

It's that time of year again, and in today's Association Twitter Chat (#assnchat) some of the time was devoted to talking about giving thanks and recognition to volunteers and members.

For me, giving thanks to volunteers should be an ongoing process, not a once a year project. How can we best do it? Here are my guidelines for giving thanks to members and volunteers:
  • Make it personal - don't just give them a certificate or something... Make it something they're really going to enjoy. If you don't know what your volunteers are going to enjoy, you're not working closely enough with them (or you haven't documented enough)...
  • Make it regular - Don't wait until the end of their service to thank them or give them something to show them how much you appreciate them. Send regular notes... Send regular updates about something you know they are passionate about within the organization... Etc.
  • Make it wide ranging - I try to send a regular annual thank you around Thanksgiving to everyone who has made an impact on my work throughout the year. I use a template but personalize each person's note for something specific they've done to help make my job easier or how they've made an impact on the organization. That list sometimes becomes more than 100 people that I personally recognize. Imagine if everyone on our staff did the same thing what kind of impact we could make...
As we think about thanking and recognizing our members and volunteers, we (and our bosses) need to realize it takes time and dedication. We MUST devote time and energy to keeping track of those who need/deserve praise and thanks, and our organizations must embrace that. If they don't, they won't see the positive things and continued engagement that comes from really energized volunteers - those who feel the love and want to give it back...

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to the readers of this blog. You have all made me a better professional with your comments and kind words of encouragement. Be safe!

When Passion Goes Overboard

I was watching the Texas A&M vs. Nebraska football game this past Saturday evening, and I witnessed someone being probably as passionate about something as I have ever seen - Nebraska coach Bo Pelini... He was running up and down the field, screaming at referees and players, just showing his passion and exuberance throughout the entire game.

Problem was: he was penalized for his actions in chastising a referee over and over again, he nearly had one of his players quit because he screamed at him so much, and his team ended up losing the game after committing 16 penalties.

Here's the point - passion is important, but too much passion sometimes hurts a team or organization...

Have you ever witnessed an association volunteer or staffer show too much passion, which ended up hurting the overall effort? I'd love to hear some examples in the comments...

November 22, 2010

The Importance of Taking Advice from People You Trust

An old boss of mine wisely once told me that there would always be a reason NOT to take a new position, and that it was always easier to stay in the comfy and stable place where I was.

His advice has always been that I need to be willing to take a chance, and take the not-so-stable course. A few years ago, I told him that I needed to stay in my position because I was getting married and needed the stability. I recall him telling me that the next thing that would keep me in my job was buying a house (which happened), then it would be a baby (which also happened)... He is a wise, wise man...

I'm happy to report that in the last few weeks, after over four years of staying in my stable position, I decided to FINALLY take his advice. I accepted a new position literally in the most unstable time of my life - a mere two weeks before my wife's due date with our first child.

I chose between stability and the unknown, and I am happy with my choice... I start on Monday, and am ready for what the unknown will bring. I'm sure this new position will feel stable at some point a number of years into the future. That's precisely when I'll take my trusted old boss' advice again.