Leadership

Is Your Board in a Downtrend? Bend!

May 16 @ 8:00 am CDT

Before you read any further, I’d like you to picture a rubber band and a ruler – an odd request, I know, but I promise I’m going somewhere with this. Maybe you have both of these items on hand in a desk drawer, a junk drawer, or in your garage, but for now, envision them. In terms of their functions, one binds things together while the other serves as a measurement tool. Believe it or not, rulers and rubber bands have quite a bit in common with your organization – specifically when it comes to your board of directors.  To understand why we need to go back in history. During the Industrial Era, business leaders made two key realizations that would shape industries for centuries to come. First, if they could get workers to produce more goods faster, they’d yield a more substantial profit – simple enough. Second, they realized that employing workers with more experience within a respective industry could boost profitability and productivity. Back then, that mentality was effective, but today, given the constant innovation and disruption that continues to define the 21st century, is that the best model for your organization? What once worked in a previous era is no longer relevant. It’s time to consider whether your board of directors is repeating history and perpetuating this dated model. I’ve worked with several organizations where I’ve likened the board of directors to a ruler. Similar to a ruler, they are inflexible and are measured – measured in their risk-taking and their approach to change. Their every move is calculated, and they slowly, methodically take their time to make things happen within your association. Their thinking is too linear; they believe that members need to start at the bottom, working their way up the ladder to earn leadership positions. They tend to hold their board seats for extended periods and are rigid about tradition. This type of long-arch thinking no longer applies to modern…

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When It’s Time To Grow, Change What You Know

May 16 @ 8:00 am CDT

At one point or another in our lives, we have experienced fear in some capacity – fear of heights, the dark, (or in my case, fear of spiders!). The list goes on. Fear, however, is a normal, natural response to a perceived physical or emotional danger or threat. Did you know that there exists a universal fear that impacts all human beings?   Research shows that to some degree, change instills fear in all of us. It is a natural part of life, but an equally scary concept because change can oftentimes have unpredictable results, leading us down paths where the destination is unclear.   Let’s face it – change can also be hard. It forces us to adapt, adjust, and pivot in ways that are uncomfortable, but fear not! It also allows us to evolve and grow. I am here to tell you that although change can induce fear, it is integral to the survival of your organization.    Money dictates how we handle change. In the Post-WWII era, an economic boom took place where companies began producing goods at an unprecedented rate. A practice began to emerge, where executives who produced the most were also rewarded the most in the form of compensation, bonuses, and perks. By 1975, executive pay was a substantial 24 times more than what their employees were paid. Today, it is a staggering 300 times more, causing many leaders to fall back on the systems and practices that feel most comfortable because they are the most financially rewarding.    I have witnessed how this “quantity over quality” approach has become engrained in membership organizations, where more emphasis is placed on acquiring members rather than the services being provided or fulfilling their mission. We have a responsibility to overcome this in order to remain relevant, meaningful, and engaging to the communities we serve.    I want you to consider for a moment what types of changes your organization has faced in recent months or…

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Why I started a campaign to save the associations – and why you should care

May 16 @ 8:00 am CDT

It was a cold day. Snow flurries were swirling in the air. Our hands and faces were red and raw from the cold, and we wondered for a moment whether we should just call the whole thing off. It was 2017 and membership decline was experiencing a downward trend — especially among younger generations. Associations everywhere were questioning their value propositions, relevance, and futures, and some were taking considerable hits in revenue or forced to close their doors. Our firm had long researched membership engagement behaviors and trends and I’d spent the past decade consulting with association leaders on the values of younger generations and what they expected from a membership experience. Our clients were able to turn the tide and achieve growth, but many associations were still struggling. Emboldened to help the associations struggling to engage the next generation of members and ‘save’ them from continued decline, we decided to ramp up our efforts. Outdoors on a very cold day in 2017, our team filmed a video titled Save the Associations, encouraging associations to be intentional about their outreach to young generations. In the years that followed, the effort gained momentum. We released an ebook under the same title featuring case studies and best practices, and launched a Save the Associations web show featuring interviews with association executives. All the while, the challenges associations were facing were becoming increasingly difficult. Political conflict, social change, workforce shifts, and advancements in technology were challenging associations and their members in unprecedented ways. Here and now — exactly three years after our team filmed that video — a global pandemic has forced the world to shelter-in-place and work-from-home and associations have been catapulted into a crisis response situation. Whether they are representing front-line workers, organizing efforts to help their communities, recovering from revenues lost to event cancellations, or trying to adapt to a remote and technology-reliant workplace — every association in every country has been disrupted. Our team quickly…

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A group of office workers at a conference table with laptops

Getting Leaders On Board With Change

May 16 @ 8:00 am CDT

How to approach leaders that are stuck in tradition and often struggle with changing or trying something new. I’ve been a futurist for 20 years, and at just about every conference I’ve presented, someone has come up to me afterwards and said something similar to this: “I agree with what you say about the need to change, engage younger generations, and plan for the future — but I can’t apply it. I’m not the leader. And the people I work for have no desire to change. The people I work for are stuck in the past.” This is a space where many people exist, working in an organization underneath a leader or board of directors who either can’t or won’t be open to the concept of change. As a result, these team members feel powerless to innovate. They have ideas, but they believe they have no voice. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the 20th century, leadership was the equivalent of power, fueled by a top down, ‘do-it-because-I-said-so’ approach. It was a role that had to be earned over time, restricted to people with significant experience and a specific job title. In its era, this approach to leadership was effective. Here and now, this approach is highly ineffective. Here and now, organizations need leaders who are willing to disrupt the status quo and be open to new ideas and solutions. Here and now, the best leaders are visionary and add value to an organization—not slow it down or kill initiative. Regrettably, too many people think about and define leadership as though we’re still working in the 20th century. They think leadership remains limited to positions and titles and say things like “my leader won’t change”. If you haven’t heard it before, I will say it now: A leader who refuses to change isn’t permission to be complacent. It’s an outdated, irrelevant notion that people in ivory towers, sitting at mahogany board tables should grant…

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Losing Our Empathy: How to Team-Build When People Could Care Less

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May 16 @ 8:00 am CDT

Blame it on a 24-hour news cycle, social media, corruption, the increased use of profanity, or savage political campaigns, but one thing has become very apparent, we have lost what connects us to each other — our empathy. Whether we’re arguing about politics or vaccinations, guns, or abortion, or which lives matter most, our society has been unable to successfully cooperate or community-build for quite some time now. In my line of work, this means more clients calling with concerns about teambuilding and inclusion. Employers are observing increased conflict and lower tolerance. Young employees are less likely to stick around in a setting like this, so the lack of empathy is also contributing to turnover. Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel and how they see things from their point of view. Empathy leads to compassion and the desire to care for or help someone else. And our empathy is currently missing. New scientific research revealed adults today are caring less for others and more about themselves — and this has negatively influenced youth and young professional development. According to the research from Indiana University, declines in empathy among young people started happening in the early 2000s alongside a rise in mental health problems. Both outcomes are believed to be directly associated with burn-out. With the mainstreaming of technology, shifts in parenting and education, and a greater social emphasis on competitiveness, testing, and success, children were facing challenges earlier generations didn’t face. Researchers believe this generation’s self-care and care for others was backburnered to focus on personal success and survival. Here and now, children are observing communities in conflict, even during a global pandemic. Time will tell how this experience will influence their development, but the research indicates the conflict and lack of compassion is already more prevalent among adults than at any other time in history. The questions at the top of mind right now for many leaders and teams is:…

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How to Deal with an Organization in Denial

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May 16 @ 8:00 am CDT

A year ago, President Trump was under fire by experts and pundits for being in denial about the seriousness of the pandemic. In the early weeks, the President referred to the virus as a hoax, refused to issue a federal stay at home order, and hesitated to fully utilize the Defense Production Act. Unfortunately, leadership denial isn’t exclusive to presidents or pandemics. Henry Ford’s denial ended up costing the company a whopping $250 million. Model T sales were declining, yet Ford dismissed the figures because he suspected rivals of manipulating them. One of his top executives warned him of the dire situation and Ford fired him. When he finally decided to make a new car, Ford shut down production for months and the company lost its lead in the market. Denial is a prominent problem among leaders, and it can lead to serious consequences. I was thinking about the power of denial recently while facilitating a meeting with a company’s leadership team. Even after presenting data to indicate irreversible decline unless the company changed course, the team struggled to see the problem. Their conversation immediately turned to a quick fix, which was the equivalent of throwing a rock into a raging ocean. Solution aversion is a powerful barrier to organizational change. Research indicates the majority of leaders rely on the ‘ostrich’ response to change, denying or ignoring the need to change until something forces a response. A popular meme, which features a cartoon dog surrounded by flames, captures this sentiment perfectly. The caption says: This is fine. There’s brain science and social science involved in our responses to change, but the bottom line is this: When the path to a solution seems too overwhelming or difficult, we prefer to avoid it. From backburnering a diet to avoiding a tough conversation, the struggle is one we can all relate to in our personal lives. Likewise, in the workplace leaders will downplay the importance of investing in a…

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5 Key Elements Of A Successful Talent Development Program

May 16 @ 8:00 am CDT

Developing talent is one of the best ways to assure your organization has the leaders it will need for a strong future and pain-free transitions of power. Naturally, to develop talent, first you have to have talent. The good news is that once you have it, developing it is a great way to keep it. Talent development will help your organization stay a step ahead in the talent war.   Developing talent is one of the best ways to assure your organization has the leaders it will need for a strong future and pain-free transitions of power. Naturally, to develop talent, first you have to have talent. The good news is that once you have it, developing it is a great way to keep it. Talent development will help your organization stay a step ahead in the talent war. A SUCCESSFUL TALENT DEVELOPMENT PLAN WILL INCLUDE THESE FIVE KEY ELEMENTS: 1. Clearly defined responsibility Before you can build a successful talent development plan, you need to know who’s responsible for initiating and keeping up with it. If you’re expecting your employees to identify areas of career growth, you need to communicate that to them. If not, they need to know how you are going to help. One of the main reasons that organizations lose talent is because of a lack of learning opportunities. You don’t want employees leaving because they didn’t understand they were responsible for identifying those opportunities. 2. A Focus on talent not skill It’s easy to identify skills that people have, but when you’re developing talent, it’s important to focus on, well, talent. Talents are natural; skills come from honing a craft. Someone may be very skilled but still not right for talent development. Success comes from a combination of hard work, dedication, passion and vision. Look for these characteristics in your employees. ‍   3. Time and priority Like most things, talent can’t be developed overnight. It takes mentoring, coaching, training. If you don’t carve out time…

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