Are Your Emails Really Member-focused?

I recently attended a webinar led by Bill Graham, Graham Corporate Communications and Institute for Organization Management faculty member.

He started with the concept that you need to focus on what your members are worried about and connect your email to their world.

Bill always reminds his audiences that communication is not speaking or sending emails, those are activities.  "Communication is a result; it's what you get into their head."  “Think of communication as a one-way street. Nobody has to listen.”

He went on to talk about specifics as it relates to the subject line, introduction, body and the close of your email.

Subject line: It’s the penthouse of the email real estate, the most valuable, so find a unique perspective that engages the receiver.

Introduction: Your first words matter because they see them on your phone, so be personable, respectful, friendly and helpful.  Focus on them not you.

Body: Focus like a trusted advisor, not like a salesperson.  You are taking up their time.  It should be worth their time, not worth your time.

Close: With a “Call to Action” - if they got to the end, they want an action step, so ask them to: attend a meeting, make a decision, attend a conference call, etc.

He also gave us some general email rules to follow:

  • More is seldom more;
  • Positives turn on, negatives turn off;
  • Simple is memorable, complex is forgettable;
  • Avoid cliches, they always sound like autopilot; and
  • Be personable and comfortably friendly...at a respectful distance.

Some general tips throughout his presentation that he gave that I had to write down because I think they are repeatable:

  • Before you speak...WAIT - ask yourself: "Why Am I Talking!
  • Change your pronouns to: you/your, or even: they/their.  Using first person pronouns: I/my/we/our, is talking about your world, not their world.
  • Are you a trusted advisor?

The final bullet, in my opinion, was his main message - “are you a trusted advisor?”

Bill suggests you’re a trusted advisor if you:

  • Engage with your members;
  • Ask questions and listen to your members;
  • Are interested in your member’s needs; and
  • You focus on long-term relationships...not short-term gains.

In closing, and focusing on the suggestions from Bill Graham and the title of this blog post, your emails should focus on the following:

  • Subject Line - engage the receiver.
  • Introduction - focus on them…they see the first few words.
  • Body - be a trusted advisor and focus on their world, their results: reasons, motives and goals.
  • Close - end the email with a “Call to Action.”

If it’s not about their world...it’s likely not communicated...it’s just NOISE.

Be a trusted advisor and keep your emails member-focused!

Good Board Governance - Part II

Now let’s have a discussion about the difference and importance of both indemnification and director and officers insurance.

Indemnification - most if not all organizations indemnify their board of directors for any financial liability for serving on the board.  The indemnification clause usually is stated in the bylaws.

It also goes without saying that the board member will be indemnified as long as he or she did not do anything illegal or acted in bad faith.

Check your bylaws to see if your chamber board members are indemnified.

Director and Officers Insurance - most know this as D&O insurance which protects your board members from any lawsuits concerning legal activities.  And it is common knowledge that these claims and lawsuits are generally employee based.

And as stated in The Perfect Board book on page 80, these types of claims or lawsuits can be wrongful termination, sexual harassment, copyright/trademark infringements to name a few.

The bottom line, make sure you have the indemnification clause in your bylaws and you are providing (any paying) for D&O insurance.

For a legal resource go HERE.

Good Board Governance

In my opinion, and in the opinion of many, the fundamentals of good board governance starts with duty of care, duty of loyalty and duty of obedience that each member of your board must understand.

For a quick review:

Duty of Care - as a board member it is imperative that you do your homework on the board materials prior to the meeting so you can fully participate in the discussion and make informed decisions.

Duty of Loyalty - as a board member you must take your business hat off and put the hat of the organization on and do what’s best for the organization, not your business.

Duty of Obedience - as a board member you must stay true to the mission of the organization and not get involved in things that are not part of your articles of incorporation  or bylaws.

Speaking of bylaws, that is the governing document that your board and members must follow.

The other legal aspects of a board and their governance process that must be followed are the adherence of a quorum for each meeting, a process to conduct those meetings, and the creation of minutes of the meeting to reflect the boards intent in setting policy for the organization.  And by the way, the handling and storage of those minutes.

Quorum - as stated in your bylaws, but usually it is a majority of the total number of board members (i.e., if you have a board of 21, then 11 would make a quorum.  If you don’t have a quorum, you can’t do business as a board and you must cancel the meeting.

Roberts Rules of Order - it’s important to have order when conducting board meetings to stay focused on point and your agenda.  Most boards use the Roberts Rules of Order in conducting their meetings.

Minutes - the official recording of the meeting which should start with the date, time and location of the meeting.  Remember, it is not necessary to capture every word that is spoken during the meeting.  It is important to identify who is in attendance and who is not.  Report on the discussion of a particular agenda item and any action (vote) that took place.  And by the way, those minutes need to be kept indefinitely since they are an official document of your organization.

If the above items are not understood by every board member, it is imperative that you conduct regular board orientations to remind your directors of their role and responsibilities.  I would have something in writing that they can take home that they can use as a reminder during their board tenure.

A fully informed board of directors of their role and responsibilities are critical to the success of your organization.

Review your orientation documents today!

For resources on good board governance go HERE.

The Trim Tab Concept in Leadership

There have been many articles written over the years, on the “trim tab” affect in leadership, and how it can transform your organization.

Peter Senge talks about it in his book The Fifth Discipline but it is widely known that Buckminster Fuller coined the term, when it relates to leadership, many years before.

As written in Wikipedia, “Trim tabs are small surfaces connected to the trailing edge of a larger control surface on a boat or aircraft, used to control the trim of the controls, i.e. to counteract hydro- or aerodynamic forces and stabilise the boat or aircraft in a particular desired attitude without the need for the operator to constantly apply a control force. This is done by adjusting the angle of the tab relative to the larger surface.”

The bottom line, and my translation, small well focused actions you take can make a big difference in your chambers.

Think about an entire ship being moved by 1% of its mass.  The small trim tab on a ship can make it turn completely in the opposite direction while maintaining a stable environment.

Or said another way, change can be implemented by small step/s.

For more information on the trim tabs metaphor in leadership go to the Buckminster Fuller Institute HERE or HERE.

The Art of Negotiation

At a recent seminar I attended on the art of negotiation, Steve Piacente and Carol Buckland with The Communication Center gave many tips on how to be an effective communicator.

They started with defining the five core concepts of communication.

  • Be Clear
  • Be Concise
  • Be Compelling
  • Be Candid
  • Be Comfortable

In addition, when giving a presentation, know your audience, frame it so they hear you.  Storytelling is an effective way of communicating your message.

Persuasive communication is based on reason, emotions and beliefs/values.

As stated above, frame your message so your intended audience is interested in what you have to say.

The word “because” is powerful, it gives the reasons why they should hear your message.

In other words, remember the WIIFM theory.  "What’s in it for me."

They then referenced Dr. Robert Cialdini’s six principals of influence:

  • Reciprocity
  • Commitment and Consistency
  • Social proof/consensus
  • Liking
  • Authority
  • Scarcity

They also referenced a study by UCLA professor Dr. Albert Mehrabian that states the percentages word choice, voice tone and body language have when you are communicating in an in-person conversation.  These numbers are probably not what you expected.

  • Word Choice - 7%
  • Voice Tone - 38%
  • Body Language - 55%

To sum it up, be intentional when selecting your words, use voice and the use of pauses effectively and don’t forget the most important, body language (posture, eye contact, smile).

They then went into the five different negotiating styles.

  • Competitive - I win, you lose.
  • Accommodating - I lose, you win.
  • Compromising - we both win and lose some.
  • Avoiding - I lose, you lose.
  • Collaborating - I win, you win.

They gave two examples of presentation formulas and I was reminded of one I’ve used over the years.

I learned the UPPOPR method over 30 years ago from a manager who was Xerox’d trained.  For a copy of that template go HERE or for a blog post on the subject go HERE.

They spent a little time on story formulas, and go HERE for a past blog post on that subject.

They finished talking about language of leadership and separated that discussion into two areas - weak and power speak.

Weak speak - saying “I think” vs “I know” or “I feel” vs “I am convinced.”

Power speak - use straightforward language, without jargon, and keep your communications short and to the point.

Good luck in your next conversation!

Succession and Transition Plans

I recently read The Association CEO Succession Toolkit by Gary A. LaBranche, FASAE, CAE and want to focus on the transition and continuity plan template found in Chapter 13 of the book.

I have written before, in a blog post found HERE, about succession planning and the importance of getting your board involved in creating the necessary documents to follow should a transition happen.

While some chambers may use a search firm to help secure the next CEO most due the search internally and this book is a great guide to follow as you go through that process.

Some key discussion items addressed when facing a transition include:

  • Review your strategic value proposition;
  • Aligning a new CEO with the board; and
  • Ensuring that both the board and CEO are in sync with the new value prop or direction of the chamber.

As stated in the book, there can be many reasons for a transition:

  • Leave of absence
  • Death of the executive
  • Termination
  • Retirement

Chapter 13 does a great job of outlining the roles and responsibilities of the board and staff and has a template to use depending on what situation you are dealing with above.

It is a step-by-step guide on who is responsible for the different tasks needed to communicate a transition, not only to your membership but also your staff and community.

To purchase the book go HERE.

Make Presentations Work for You

The following tips and tricks for giving great presentations are from a breakout session I attended at an ACCE Annual Meeting.

They started out with getting to the point when creating your presentation.

Prepare, brainstorm, focus on your key messages, organize your thoughts into an outline, and create a storyboard.

What are the right questions:

  • Why should the audience care?
  • Who’s the audience?
  • Expectations?
  • Motivation?
  • Logistics?

Know what the room will look like, the lighting and your equipment.  Edit, edit, edit to your core message.  Your design should work in concert with your message.

Principles of design:

  • Images should reinforce the words;
  • Graphics create emotion;
  • Less is more, no loud background, use white space to your advantage; and
  • Know when to stop!

Other tips on creating you presentation - don’t be afraid to buy a pre-designed template.  Use the rule of thirds - derived from photography.  Make it easy for people to see wherever they are in the room

Speaking of photography - use original photos and not stock photos. It’s also a great way to get pictures of your members and showcase them in your publications or website.

Infographics are a great way to showcase the message you are wanting to deliver.  Canva is a great resource for a plethora of templates.

Delivery tips - Do’s:

  • Practice
  • Mistakes happen
  • Proof
  • Length matters
  • Don’t hide - get out in front of your audience

Speaking of delivery - stay on message, be sincere, believe in yourself, be authentic, be you!

Good luck in your next presentation!