Chairman/CEO Partnership

Yes, I said partnership in the title.  At the end of the day, if you don’t have a partnership with your chief volunteer, you’re not in a good place.  Not for you and not for the organization.

We all know that the board, led by the Chairman, sets the policy and direction of your chamber, but it is the CEO that implements that policy with his or her staff.

The strength of the relationship between the Chairman and CEO will have a direct impact on the success of the chamber and its program of work.  You must have open and regular communication with your board Chairman.

And then there’s – Trust!

Without it you will have no partnership.  You must both come from a place where you trust each other.  You both need to be accountable for the work of the chamber and its success!

The CEO gets a new Chairman every year.  And each year that can bring new challenges and opportunities in the relationship between the two.

The Chairman and CEO should always stay focused on the two being aligned, focused and share the same vision for the Chamber.

For resources on the Chairman/CEO partnerships go HERE.

Elements of Good Governance

I was recently reading the 2020 ASAE’s Board Brief and was fascinated by the chapter on governance and the research done by their Foundation on the subject matter.

The data’s interesting and they broke it down into the following areas:

Policies and Procedures – make sure your manuals are well documented and followed.

Structure and Function – what is the size of your board and is it working as well as how man board meetings are you conducting a year?

Diversity Goals – do you have a plan and are you tracking your progress?

Self-assessment – are you surveying your board members and asking how they feel about their participation and effectiveness?

Performance Evaluation – do you have a formal reporting mechanism to your board or membership of the results?

Goal Setting – do you set goals (think scorecards) as a way of tracking your goals?

Preparation and Training – are you conducting that board orientation for new board members outlining their responsibilities: Duty of Care, Loyalty and Obedience (which I’ve written about before and can be found HERE)?  And are you giving outside training on how to read a nonprofit’s financial statements?

For the original source for the article go HERE.

Foresight vs Strategic Planning

I’ve read a lot about this recently and I think I’ve finally put my head around the difference.

ASAE has a website dedicated to the subject matter and it is a term that has surfaced, at least in my association management reading, in the last 5 plus years.

For me, in a nutshell, foresight is an exercise in trying to identify what the future will look like for your organization.

Many chambers are doing the 2025 or 2030 scenarios with interesting results.  In other words, think what could it be?

Strategic Planning is the process of analyzing the current landscape, through and environmental scan, a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, and determining a set of goals, strategies and tactics, usually 1-3 or 3-5 years out, on achieving those goals.

Most of us are just trying to get through the day with the limited resources we have but I would suggest that if you spent the time, with a facilitated board retreat, you too would benefit of looking to the future.

I’m sure by now you’ve all read the ACCE’s Horizon Initiative: Chambers 2025?  Well that’s just around the corner.  It’s time to do the 2050 exercise.

For more information on the Foresight work by ASAE go HERE.

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!

Culture of Innovation

Megan Lucas, President and CEO of the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance moderated a discussion on the culture of innovation as it relates to our organizations.

Basically, it's the idea of taking something that exists and make it unique, different, and better.

What’s holding your organization back in innovation?

The following items were discussed and an honest conversation was had on the challenges we all have in trying to be innovative for your chambers.

  • Longevity of staff;
  • Ego’s;
  • Attitude;
  • No shared vision, not on the same page, no buy in from staff;
  • Lack of prioritization;
  • Unwillingness to take risks, status quo;
  • Fear of future and longing for the past;
  • Stale leadership;
  • Time based on current work load;
  • Lack of trust; and
  • Silo’s and remote staff.

Then the discussion moved on to ways you can share the vision internally or externally:

  • Publicity - COPE (create once publish everywhere) in all your collaterals, ribbon cuttings, press releases, backdrops, email signature line, and invoices;
  • Staff meetings - updates on culture and strategy, make it a screen saver;
  • Put it on your coffee cups, note pads;
  • Hashtags;
  • Visuals around your building - use the space on your walls to share your vision for staff;
  • Share a vision award for staff; and
  • Create a dashboard outlining the vision for board members and share at every board meeting.  At every meeting have a board member report on each of your pillars (economic development, advocacy, leadership, education, etc.).

So what is required to build an innovative culture?  You must have:

  • An open mind;
  • Be creative;
  • Have trust;
  • Be optimistic;
  • Be acceptive;
  • Show passion;
  • Have a safe environment to share;
  • Accept wild ideas;
  • Be honest;
  • Have accountability;
  • Show a tolerance for risk; and
  • Demonstrate the ability to follow-through.

Good luck in innovating for your members and community!

Intentional Leadership

One of the best speakers I've ever heard, over my 25 years in association management, was Carla Harris, a Keppler Speakers presenter on Intentional Leadership at the ACCE Annual Meeting in Long Beach.

She started by giving one of her pearls.

"Currency comes in the form of performance and relationships.  You need a sponsor within the organization, which is not your mentor."

Once you perform, you now get to relationship currency.  You need to build relationship currency with everyone you touch in the organization.

Yes, it’s office politics!  She defines that as you must invest in relationships in your professional environment.

She then went on to talk about the 8 things that defines Intentional Leadership!

  • Authenticity - your competitive advantage.  You can only be you!  The ability to meet people where you are, what you live and understand who you are.
  • Building trust - go to territory’s unknown.  You must deliver, that’s how you lead, that’s trust.  They will follow you!
  • Clarity - you must build clarity around something (quarter, month, week, day).  Explain that here’s where we’re going and you can help.  Today, we’re just trying to do this!  Define the goal.
  • Create other leaders - to help you execute your program of work. Allow your team to shine.  You must be willing to let go!
  • Diversity - you need diversity in your teams.  It’s a way of thinking.  Lot’s of ideas are needed from different perspectives.  Perspectives are born from experiences.  You need to start with a lot of perspectives (generational, cultural, etc.).
  • Innovation - you must be intentional on innovation and teach your team to fail.  Push the envelope.  Celebrate the failures.  You learn from failures and you build on that for your next successful endeavor.
  • Inclusion - solicit people voices.  You need to get their input.  Look at all sides of an issue.  People want to be heard, I hear you, I see you!  
  • Voice - you must exercise your voice.  When it’s not right, call a thing a thing.  You must speak to the pink elephant in the room.

Success does not just happen.  You must be intentional on creating and defining your own scorecard and over deliver on it.

Carla's final statement, "you must own you!"

Chambers and Economic Development

I attended an incredible breakout session at a recent ACCE Annual Meeting on how to message your chamber and economic development program of work, moderated by chamber executives who are recognized as leaders in the field.

1.  They stated that the chamber is the voice of business and visionary for the community at large:

  • Communication and marketing are key.  You can never communicate enough.  Many chambers are doing both and it is important that all staff should know what the other side of the house is doing (chamber - events, etc, economic development - jobs).
  • You need to work with your city manager to make sure all are on the same page.  Stay ahead of the issues as they pop up.
  • Your chamber’s workforce efforts are economic development for the community.
  • Think about your external vs internal communications.
  • Translate economic development work into the chamber sales team.
  • Start up company vs local bakery - it’s all about Commerce.
  • Economic development is new dollars to the community.  Chamber is advocacy for those small businesses already in the community.
  • The theme is not to separate the two - build a community! Don’t call out individual events or programs of work.

2.  What are some the trends in the debate of bringing the two together as a new entity:

  • Grow and sustain the local economy is the new message.
  • Whether you’re at a chamber event or economic development meeting you talk about what the other group is doing.
  • Meet the projects?  Coming out party for the new deals to hit the community and talk about how you landed the deal (workforce, road built, etc.).  The workforce piece is the chamber deal.
  • Black box - confidentiality in economic development is a real issue.

3.  Using metrics to tell your story:

  • Run economic models for the new company to see if the company should get any incentive money based on what they are bringing to the community.
  • These metrics can tell your story on how it will impact the local community (sales at the local stores, taxes, real estate community, etc.)

4.  Money and where does it come from:

  • Public and private funding.  No consistency on what chambers/economic groups are doing.
  • Straight contract with the city.  As a general rule if you’re doing both get 2/3 from private and 1/3 or less from the city.  You don’t want to be beholden to the city government.

5.  Once you land a company how do you get them involved in the chamber?

  • Hopefully they will support both organizations.  It’s sensitive!  You need to be careful on the quid pro quo issue.
  • Get them involved in your programming and not necessarily a chamber member.
  • Chamber relational not transactional which is the economic development group.
  • Chamber can throw an event where that new company does not want to do that.

Final comments made were you always should think regional - not just inside your city limits.  They talked about a number of resources to help you tell you story: Inplan, RIMS, etc. sites that can run your modeling scenarios about your communities.

At the end of the day, our job is to grow and sustain the community we live in - communication and collaboration is key.

And their final comment, never burn a bridge!