Monday, June 30, 2008

Honestly communicating big screw-ups

Early in my career our for-profit subsidiary had a really bad roll-out of a new but important program in a part of our state. We arranged a forum and the president participated to get local feedback. It was all bad. He came back to my office and said we needed to immediately send out a "we screwed up" letter saying we were sorry, acknowledging that we knew exactly what went wrong, and what steps were being taken in the future. It actually didn't matter that it "wasn't our fault" - if the end user has a really bad experience they deserve the apology and then the organization can decide what to do about the fault part.

Members are far more forgiving if there is really honest communication about screw-ups - especially if they're already aware of it ...

I recently got this email from organizers of a convention: [emphasis and identifying deletions mine]

"The convention had many successes ... We had 288 participants under the age of 25. Our check-in/registration process was one of the best ever, especially in the face of record turnout. We had record participation by advertisers in our program book. We had a record number of exhibitors. The hospitality suites on Friday night enjoyed great attendance ....

The convention also had a number of shortfalls. First and foremost, we made a mistake in [X] .... Second, when a system error caused a delay in the [X], we did not have a back-up approach ready to turn to immediately. Neither of these mistakes will be made again and I can only say I am sorry for these decisions. We also know that there are many other areas where we have room for improvement. For example, communications from the [organizer] to [attendees] were not good, the lunch distribution process did not work well, the [organizer]-provided shuttle bus process produced some unfortunate upsets and off-site [attendee] facilities were not properly secured. All of these, and others that will likely emerge, will be corrected through our convention debrief process.

We know you have other comments and suggestions and we want to hear from you. Your input is greatly valued, and your dedication to the [organization] is what will make [X] successful in 2008. Please help us by sending your comments so that we can make future conventions more enjoyable for you. You can email your feedback to [email] .... Thanks in advance for your help."

Had I attended this event, this communication is exactly what I would want to hear. Anytime an association annoys or inconveniences members who participate in our programs or products, this is an example of the right way to apologize and improve.

Separately ... they had encouraged first-time (and repeat) attendees to send posts for their blog, and a few were really quite brutal (including one who used the "f word" several times) - and they posted all of it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Social Media: Results of our YouTube Contest

Tonight (in the rain, at a public event we sponsored) my association announced the winning videos in our "Your Piece of Maine" social media campaign. We're thrilled with the quality and range of videos submitted. Asked the public to create and submit a video (up to 3 min.) to YouTube showing/telling why they love, or want to own their own piece of Maine. A separate prize for members participating in the contest (many of those excellent too). For any association that hasn't yet started engaging the public in social media campaigns, it's significantly different from just engaging the membership.

Here's a viewer with the winning videos:

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Association Politics and Volunteering: Quote of the Day

This quote from a volunteer youth basketball coach says it all:

"I can think of several reasons to not volunteer as a youth basketball coach. Time or the lack thereof ranks high on the list, as does politics and personality conflicts. But, no matter how long that list is there is one thing that makes it all worth while. As I did in my first season, I promised all of the families one thing - at the end of the season their daughter would be able to give a sincere hug. And the hugs are what make it all worth while ... I cherished every moment of the season." - Neenz Faleafine


1. In a nutshell -- the reasons people stop volunteering or seriously consider not volunteering are "time, lack thereof, politics and personality conflicts" ... and lack of reward. In this quote the reward is the feeling you get from hugs when playing sports and the joy of making it a positive experience for the kids and their families. In associations, the reward is ... what? It's up to us as association executives that when volunteers participate with us that we figure out how to make them feel rewarded.

It could be showing them where their involvement specifically made a difference (e.g., continuing to communicate outcomes of their decisions AFTER the committee has stopped meeting), making sure you're only having committee meetings if there is something relevant to work on, providing volunteer recognition -- and seriously, anyone who believes that people "don't care" whether they are recognized should think again -- they do. I believe it's part of "being human". If they're not feeling hugged at the end of the season, they're not showing up the next season. And they're probably going to tell everyone else how bad the experience was too. Word of mouth actually works stronger on the negatives than the positives.

I love the quote because I'm so certain of its truth: If we give people ONE reason to enjoy volunteering, they will overlook the "long list" of reasons not to do it.

2. Why would any association executive bemoan the fact that "politics are played" in associations? Were you honestly expecting otherwise? It's a given. Not just in associations, but EVERY organization and EVERY volunteer group -- schools, scouts, little league, women's groups, country clubs, theater groups, and where I found more politics than anyplace I've ever volunteered in my life -- when I was a Trustee of a church. The skills you might need to pass a law in a legislature or city council are the same ones you actually need to get a motion passed at a volunteer group or to get an idea moved forward or to get a school to approve a class trip. If you work for a volunteer organization there is absolutely no reason to think that politics are not part of everything. And good ideas do not just get magically embraced. Anywhere.

3. If you're a volunteer coach, a player, or even a parent on the sidelines, your hugging skills are going to improve. This season I can remember one of those double-overtime scores where "our team" won a playoff game. And a huge group of parents (including me) were in a huddle (like the last episode of "Mary Tyler Moore") jumping up and down in a huge hug ... for a really long time. And the same thing was happening with the girls on the field. And the kids/coaches on the sidelines. Doesn't get much better than that. And even when you lose, you hug.

ASAE just started a "vodcast" (sounds like doing something with vodka) -- short videos (under 4 min.) of association news and info. First one is on the upcoming release of their "Decision to Volunteer" study/book -- Click here to watch.

Friday, June 27, 2008

AE hell: Public displays of .. um .. intense affection

Yesterday I got an email from a colleague that prior to a class two students (in their thirties) decided to roll around on the lawn (one on top of the other) behind the building and outside the window of where the class was held. And then during the class they talked and GROPED each other. And what suggestions do I have for how to handle it.

Well if class is over, there's really nothing to be done unless contact saying "just wanted to let you know that a number of people in class were incredibly uncomfortable with your behavior." But what SHOULD have happened is that the instructor needed to handle it. If it was me I would do a total stare-down and say (in a tone) that it's really important to pay attention; OR I would tell the class we're taking a 2-minute break and immediately talk with those students privately; OR during the impromptu break I would tell the staff they need to immediately handle it.

Where the situation is considerably more impossible for an association executive is when it's on a dance floor at a convention event ("dirty dancing" taken to extremes including "extreme" kissing), or if a couple is actually caught "in the act" in what they thought was a meeting room "no one was using" or something happens "under the table". Dance "behavior" is getting raunchier -- and when it's a professional event (and attendees are aged 18-80) there are people who just don't want to "watch it" -- and there's no avoiding it when people WANT to be watched on the dance floor. So what's the solution? Do we tap them on the shoulder and say "get a room" or "you're really making some here really uncomfortable" -- or do we put up a "no lewd behavior, please" sign? And you KNOW how receptive anyone who has been drinking a lot is to behavior suggestions ...

As for the "I didn't think anyone would know/catch us" situations, being caught is often penalty enough -- but I don't think an association can really find a way to prevent that -- it would be quite awkward to either announce or have in meeting materials "in case you didn't know, our classes, banquets and dances are not for sexual activity."

And the final nightmares are the DJs, comedians, hypnotists or actors who go a bit too far with unsuspecting members. One DJ asked me if I wanted an "adult version" and I was quite shocked to see what options DJs have to "liven up" events (I said NO), or comedians with adult humor (which are really popular), or events where showgirls/actors might sit on someone's lap, kiss them, etc. with staff staring like "uh oh, I hired someone to give a public mini lap dance to a member"? After one of my UH OH moments, I ensure contracts with entertainment are REALLY CLEAR if the show is G, PG or R/Adult -- and if there is adult content (which can be fine for adult events) it's REALLY helpful to TELL your attendees that (especially if kids might be there too - so parents and others can make an informed decision in advance) -- such as "Note: Entertainment includes some adult content/language.

And that my friends is what makes association management what it is ... one day you're passing significant laws that benefit the industry, the next day you're trying to stop 2 students from groping in class.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gotta love this speaker intro (and more)

Looking for a speaker's intro today, and found this:

"Official Terry-Approved Speaker Introduction - Use to introduce Terry at your event -
Here it is: 'Ladies and gentlemen, Terry Watson!' That's it!"

This is an exemplary site for meeting planners that I wish all speakers had. His site includes:
1. Calendar with dates of availability (I often don't have flexible dates);
2. Site to download course objectives, timed outlines, handouts (to submit for continuing education credit) - they provide document passwords;
3. All his A/V needs;
4. Short video (I'm adding to our convention Facebook page - with his OK);
5. Pictures to use with promotional materials; and ....
... his 5 word intro!

If you think about it, we sell students on the speaker BEFORE they get to class ... So why not just get right to the content ...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

8 things no one tells you about balancing association exec and parenting

While in my current association position I've also moved from being pregnant to having a daughter weeks away from college. I can mark stages in her life AND my association position on the same timeline. Here's a few things I had to learn along the way ... to balance being an association executive and being a parent ...

1. Your members are likely parents too. Sometimes there's a theory that officers and members expect association execs to be only hard-driven and all-business. You can do that and be a parent too. They get it. They're likely parents too. Earlier this year my daughter had me pulled out of a meeting because she got a disasterous hair style 2 hours before a big dance. I told the committee I had to go ... and why. I know my effectiveness has not been destroyed because it might be really clear to my members that I'm human too.

2. Even when you think you have absolutely no more time, you have to have time for volunteering. And get your kids engaged in volunteering. I'm not sure there's anything that improves my understanding of what our members expect from me than what I learn by being a volunteer (including officer) in other organizations. But I could do some of it with my kids. If I work on a campaign, they can stuff envelopes and do lit drops with me. If I taught Sunday School they could help develop lesson plans and teach with me. If doing bingo at a nursing home, they could help residents mark off squares too.

3. You might just be networking a little bit too much for someone with kids at home. There's an expression that 90% of success is just showing up - well show up at home. It's really tempting to continuously do the fun times with the work colleagues and friends, but there might just be someone at home waiting to go on a bike ride. Some AEs convince themselves they're building their future by going to a lot of conferences and spending lots of time at happy hours. No, your future is wearing pull-ups and water wings and wants some more lessons.

4. When you're on the stage getting a big award, you're either going to apologize to your family - or not. A colleague once won a big award and as part of the speech apologized to his family for missing so many family events for work. One of my all-time favorite colleagues resigned from his association position the next opportunity he had telling me he never wanted to be on stage giving that speech. It is possible to attend your family events and have a job that involves national travel and/or a lot of work hours - but it takes scheduling and sacrifice. If you need to save money so that you can fly home from a conference just to trick or treat then get back on a plane for the rest of the meeting, then do it. I don't personally think it's reasonable to skip an entire (work-necessary) multi-day meeting because of something one night at home, but I do think anyone can generally miss one day or one night of a week-long business trip/conference to show up for something that matters to their family. It's expensive and hard to do, but do it anyway (if you can). And use your vacation time to go their sports games. The day they "make the big play" you'll want to remember it the rest of your life too.

5. To everything there is a season. For the optional travel parts of my position throughout my career (attending staff education, participating in national task force meetings, facilitating, speaking, etc.) I've limited and expanded time I "optionally" contribute based on what my family does or doesn't need any given time. There's plenty of travel that isn't optional, i.e., an essential part of my job - but this is about OPTIONAL trips. When my kids were little it had to be huge for me to spend any "extra" time away. And I knew I'd have the rest of my life to give more. And I did. Say no when you need to say no. And turn off your technology a few hours a day at home. You can turn back on after they go to sleep.

6. Social media is your friend. It's so much easier to parent with instant messaging and text - by far the easiest way to communicate with kids. Those who use social media with their kids already know how it can improve their association communications. Ask members why they started texting - it likely wasn't for a business purpose or because someone told them it was a "cool app" - but rather the way they reach their kids. And I confess I've sent an instant message to say it's time for dinner instead of just walking upstairs. So I was more than prepared for the first member who instant messaged me.

7. Parenting benefits the association too. I completely understand when volunteers explain limitations they have with volunteer time because of kids. And all those life lessons we teach kids can play out organizationally too. Remember that "All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" analogy - well, holding hands and playing nicely are very good advice. So are the warnings you give your kids about the Internet. What you learn personally can help you professionally. You need both.

8. Kids grow up really fast. OK, everyone tells you that. And they're right.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tale of Woe: 3 AM Text from a Speaker

My entire day was thrown off because the speaker for an education course sent a TEXT message that his flight was canceled (at 3 AM) instead of calling. For a 9 AM class. And the person the TEXT was sent to doesn't sleep with his "device". So, morning mayhem.

And what's on the registration form of everyone who signed up? Their office phone number. Which works if people are in the office; and they often aren't if they've signed up for a 9 AM class.

Lessons learned:
1. Ensure the instructor knows the right way to provide notification in the event of a problem. It may not occur to someone who always uses text messaging that there's a time to use the phone number to wake someone up instead of using it to send a text ( ... like 6 hours before class when you're a thousand miles away and it's the middle of the night, for example);

2. Ensure students give cell phone info and/or home phone info on registration forms - in event need to contact students before a class. (Not all students check email throughout the early morning so that has limited help).

My parenting as AE advice (noted yesterday) is still ahead. But today I was all about tracking and moving. And now I'm going to bed. Without my Blackberry. If you text me something important at 3 AM, I just might not respect you in the morning.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Association Executive - as Parent

A good friend emailed me this morning saying I had to read Ann Landers' column (now known as Annie's Mailbox, written by longtime editors as Ann Landers died years ago). It's a poem about a child leaving for college, a situation we're both in this summer. And it made me think about advice I'd give to other association executives who are balancing their jobs and parenting; and volunteering.

Members often make decisions about volunteering based on commitments to their kids too. [Note: I'll be very interested to see what
ASAE's new "Decision to Volunteer" study/book has to say about that topic too.]

So today the poem, tomorrow the advice:

"Dear Annie: My daughter leaves for college in the fall. Many years ago, you printed a lovely poem called "Hold Fast the Summer."
Can you reprint it? — Carmel, Ind.

Dear Carmel: With pleasure. Here it is:

Hold Fast the Summer
by Mary W. Abel

Hold fast the summer. It is the beauty of the day and all it contains.
The laughter and work and finally the sleep. The quiet.
Oh September, do not put your weight upon my mind.
For I know he will be going. This son of mine who is now a man -- he must go.
Time will lace my thoughts with joyous years. The walls will echo his 'Hello.'
His caring will be around each corner.
His tears will be tucked into our memory book.
Life calls him beyond our reach -- to different walls.
New faces, shiny halls, shy smiles, many places.
Greater learning -- he must go.
But wait, before he leaves, be sure he knows you love him.
Hide the lump in your throat as you hug him.
He will soon be home again -- but he will be different.
The little boy will have disappeared.
How I wished I could take September and shake it, for it came too soon.
I must look to the beauty of each new day, and silently give thanks."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

How to write a thank you note

The Simple Dollar blog has these easy tips for writing a perfect thank you note ...

The format:
1. Always start with Dear;
2. Say thank you (either start with "Thank you for" or express comment "It was wonderful seeing you .. , then lead into thank you)
3. Express what you plan to do with it or what it means to you;
4. Build towards a future connection ("I hope we can ...", "I hope to hear ...")
5. Sign it in friendly way ("Thanks again,")

1. Must be in writing
2. Must sound natural (try typing out first, then write on note card)

When to send:
1. Response to a gift
2. When you interview for a job (even if it didn't go well)
3. When someone does something meaningful for you

If you check out the comments section on that blog there are other samples of thank you notes that can work for gifts and following job interviews.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I never ...

Today at a funeral a husband started a eulogy with this line, "I never wrote a love letter to my wife, but today I am ... "

If there's something you haven't done or haven't said, don't wait too long.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Didn't I just see you with your clothes on?

One of the more interesting aspects of the business meeting dress code debate is that typically wherever that meeting is held can often lead to seeing fellow attendees in very casual (or no) clothes anyway.

For many years our national association held conferences in Hawaii, and that led to the "opportunity" to see not only our own leadership in bathing suits, but everyone else's leaders (and our colleagues) in bathing suits too. But even if it's not Hawaii or Miami, many hotels now have hot tubs, fitness areas with swimming pools, or may be near water. Water equals bathing suits. And fitness centers can mean gym shorts and tops that look like (and are) sports bras. And those who golf or run are going to wear shorts - in the elevator, in the lobby, etc.

Then there's spas that are inside business hotels/resorts. While checking in with two colleagues recently the spa attendant told us the thermal water area (or whatever it's called -- really warm pool with a waterfall) was "clothing optional." I actually never thought about having a business meeting turn "nakation" (a new term for clothing optional vacations) but we were given that choice.

Some spas have co-ed waiting areas, and I once waited around with a CEO of our national association (a man) with both of us in robes sitting on some giant lounge bed along with the other treatment people. We had spent the prior 8 hours together at a conference table in professional dress.

My thoughts:
1. Most retreats and off-site business meetings really are casual these days (shorts, khakis, etc.) - ask the organizer to tell everyone that;
2. Conference attendees WANT to be casual, but sometimes organizers tell them they have to be business casual or business dress. Not sure why it matters to be dressed up if just sitting and listening most of the day. We find better conference "moods" when dress-down;
3. Certain cities - for example, always DC and sometimes Chicago, are just more business attire driven than other cities. If meeting in DC you really can run into a Member of Congress so it's just respectful of position to dress accordingly (yes, I ran into multiple Members of Congress -- who know me -- while wearing loud madras shorts on a flight to DC so don't do that anymore). Many Florida and California cities are naturally casual; as are some industries. So it would be more natural to wear running shorts to an association of runners than to an association of attorneys;
4. Often with in-area meetings that are only part of a day (versus full day) it's most appropriate to wear business attire because members are still working before or after the association meeting. I believe it's respectful to dress in whatever professional manner the members often dress to meet with their clients - as that's what they'll likely wear to your meeting; (anyone who genuinely doesn't know what "business attire" is -- check what your members wear when they're working);
5. Unless actually in a bathing suit, professional clothes should not show the same amount of skin (some people really haven't figured this out?) -- low cut clothing on professional women in professional settings is often considered a promotion/credibility killer for obvious reasons. And what's the deal with flip flops? There must be thousands of styles of sandals that can transition easily into business casual without looking beach casual. A rule of thumb can be if it works at the beach it likely doesn't work in the office.

And don't wear a tie if it's called casual. I have colleagues who might just have to find scissors ...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

AllTop: Headlines and Posts for Nonprofits

There's a great site that has the headlines of "top blogs" in many areas -- from entertainment, to sports, to moms, to blogging, to nonprofits ... to many other categories:

FINALLY -- a site that compiles many blogs related to running nonprofits -- and shows last 5 headlines (along with links to posts) of each -- in a time-saving format. Note that many are specifically focused on philanthropy and charitable activities - but many headlines on practical aspects of association management, fundraising, and social media too. Bookmark this:

Here's a few interesting posts I found on the
nonprofit section of AllTop:

1. How the
wrong hire can derail a healthy organization (Nonprofit Quarterly);
YouTube Nonprofit Program (Gift Hub);
3. Nonprofit
Auctions take a hit ( Nonprofits);
4. Where
young voters get their information (The Agitator);
Fundraising Secret #20 - Asking people to do something specific (Extreme Fundraising Blog).

Special thanks to
Maddie for the info about this site.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

ASAE: Read along - part 3 of 3

Part 3 of 3. Pull out your 6/08 ASAE magazine if you want to read the whole articles ... and read along with Cindy ...

9. Pg. AM1-17. Eighteen pages promoting a conference. OMG. Walk the walk. If we want to "green" our organizations, we all need to look at what paper we're using for what purpose. For example, there's no reason why a 3-hour "block party" during the conference needs a FULL PAGE in the magazine. I'd rather have that page be used for content. Or use the money to decrease the cost to attend the conference - in these economic times, cost matters.

10. Speaking of missing content ... Did you know ASAE has a PAC? I found out when saw a contribution to ASAE's PAC on my national PAC's agenda, but otherwise as a member of ASAE I didn't know it. One thing we sell BIG in our industry is the need to have the PAC be part of the organizational CULTURE, using every available membership communication to explain/sell the value. Should find some space on the block party page (or somewhere else in the magazine) to MENTION a PAC exists and what it does!

11. Pg. 79 - Small Scale - Financial policies. Section for those with small associations - written by association execs in those associations. Article explains why CEO needs to learn QuickBooks, have internal controls, use program-based budgets, importance of clear financial policies and duties, and need for efficiency. A funny line starts with "schedule time with yourself to ...." Ah yes, the ol' why don't I meet with me since I'm the staff doing this and the staff in charge ...

12. Pg. 83 - CEO to CEO - lessons from least favorite job. First note is images are sketches of association execs instead of their pictures. (I have no idea if they look like that but had a sense I wouldn't want to be sketched.) Points given are definitely true - a) details matter; b) "some people really are just evil"; c) don't be a whiner; d) the person who interacts with the members has key value position; and e) "ask yourself regularly if the job you have is the right fit."

13. Pg. 87 - Now online. Highlights of the ASAE website. Top newsletter article entitled "Seating Chart Magic". WHAT could that be? I haven't looked, but interesting it's #1! [UPDATE: Just checked. It's a PAC fundraising article about seating people with common interests together!]

14. Pg. 112 - Lessons from failure. Association exec accidentally mailed every speaker at a conference what every other speaker was being paid, and then had to increase the honoraria for the lower paid ones since they found out. Ouch. Lesson is no matter how incredibly busy we are, have to find time to double check what's being sent out. Very good point.

If you're not a member of ASAE and getting the magazine, it's worth the dues. Here's the link to join.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

ASAE: Read along - part 2 of 3

Part 2 of 3. Pull out your 6/08 ASAE magazine if you want to read the whole articles ... and read along with Cindy ...

6. Pg. 34. Legislative Fly-in Success. Two things definitely agree with: 1) Have to ensure the group is "asking for the order" and talking about issues germane to the visit. Members of Congress have limited time so have to communicate on-point and focused; 2) Essential to understand and appreciate the very important role of Congressional staff on association issues.

But really disliked the part about the "game" to collect as many Congressional staff business cards as possible. If you send 30 members to a Hill Visit and they're all trying to collect business cards from as many legislative staff as possible, that is just embarrassing in my opinion. Success might better depend on identifying who has existing relationships - rather than everyone trying to build a new relationship.

7. Pg. 37. Interview Questions - by the applicant. If you were interviewing someone who handed YOU 19 questions in writing to answer including wanting to know YOUR relationship with your boss, what YOUR personal office hours are, YOUR personal employee benefits, and more - would YOUR reaction be positive or really, really negative?

8. Pg. 52. Case Study on the "Fake" Deadline. Do you have ANY sympathy for any organization that tells its members and/or the public there's a competition deadline (e.g., scholarship programs, competitive grant programs, award programs, contests), and then creates a separate, secret internal deadline (specifically for those who miss deadlines) in the name of being "member centric"? There's 3 pages worth of internal and external chaos/issues on "making an exception" in the case study. My opinion: Suggest they all flip to Pg. 41 in the magazine about "ethical compass" (an excellent article). Consider what message is being sent to those who really believe the deadline was truthful. If you want to talk trust and transparency in organizations - are you being truthful with the membership? How about your competition deadlines?

Stay tuned for part 3 ...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Read along with Cindy - part 1 of 3

I pulled out the 6/08 issue of the ASAE magazine to read during a long, hot wait on a plane. As mentioned before, I've only attended one ASAE conference, hold the CAE, and would be a member even if the only benefit was their magazine. Love the ASAE magazine. But like any magazine the articles in any given issue interest, challenge, instruct, appeal to or bore based on the person reading it and their own expertise, experience and interest level.

So if you want to read along with my thoughts on a few details, pull out your 6/08 ASAE magazine and here they are:

1. Pg. 9 - Goodbye letter/advice from long time staff person. Includes "10 wishes" for the profession (e.g., "communicate authentically" and "have courage.") I wonder if the list would read the same if giving advice when not leaving - or does leaving change the advice? Maybe each of us should write our advice list now and then compare it to what we write when we leave? One wish said "minimize process". Actually I remember when ASAE was merging 2 organizations; because they sent out an ungodly amount of info about it for a really, really long time. Those at the epicenter of organizations deeply care about governance - those of us in the masses don't. Just want meaningful services. Good lesson on what not to do, as easy to believe members might care about things they really don't remotely care about.

2. Pg. 18. Guide to IRS Governance Paper. This is what ASAE magazine best at. The one page legal explanation of a wide range of details all associations need to know about. This one summarizes what IRS expects related to Form 990 (e.g., conflicts of interest, whistleblower policies, etc.). Excellent to give to new association execs and boards too.

3. Pg. 20. Online learning. Are a few choices missing on why high schoolers MIGHT like online learning? How about - no teacher watching you, greater opportunity for "open book" exams, can have game on at same time as class - the "more class options" and "to get extra help" aren't top choices that came to mind (unless the "extra help" is their friend talking on computer headset, texting or calling while they take the online class). Just a hunch - could be wrong of course.

4. Pg 22. Blog Roll. Out of 10,000 or so associations represented by membership in ASAE they couldn't find more than one Association CEO who blogs? I'm not surprised as I can hardly find more than a handful either. Sorry, but my job is actually not similar to the CEO of Sun Microsystems. I like reading about peers and associations in the ASAE magazine. If there aren't 2 more (out of 10,000) association execs engaged in social media, then that's the real story to write about.

5. Pg. 24. Association CEO in Transition. Very interesting article about those who decide it's too stressful, time consuming, or no fun at the top as CEO. Result of examples is they take lower position in another association that plays to their key interest area and strength or they become consultants. Reminds those who excel in a senior staff position that being "at the top" could mean significantly giving up the part of the position they like the most or giving up more of their lives than willing to give up. Many CEOs organize staff positions to have others handle certain operational things when don't have time/significant interest in that part of the job - but some will lose passion for the position. Changing your own job description is another option to downsizing out of the association. Really good article to seriously think about what you're doing or what you're wishing for.

This is part 1 of 3. It was a long wait on that tarmac. More comments I noted on other articles in days ahead ...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Employee Benefits and Confusing Options

Today's most emailed article from the online New York Times is "A Primer for Young People Starting their First Job."

The author says: "To the employers who are about to put them to work, however, I urge you to take another look at the pile of employee manuals that detail all your fabulous benefits. They’re boring. They’re confusing. And they start in the middle instead of defining things from the beginning .... I offer a proper primer on health insurance, taxes and retirement plans for employees starting their very first jobs. Please pass it out with my regards."

The article provides a really good overview of options and how to calculate potential decisions. Might want to send it to new employees, or even existing employees?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

You're on -- what's the message?

Four flights, 4 different flight attendants, 4 different attitudes.

1. The informer. Flight attendant told us about the plane itself, including the engines, expertise of the companies building them, and how the plane's technology would ensure a fast and safe flight. I told him I thought the info was interesting; and he said reason he gives is thought passengers are more likely frightened of/on small planes, and the more they understood how the plane helps them, the more he believed we'd enjoy the flight. He's right, it worked.

2. The someone else's fault. The next flight had the second engine off while sitting on the tarmac so really really hot waiting. Flight attendant proceeded to tell us how we weren't getting peanuts, not getting pretzels and it wasn't his fault but corporate decision to eliminate. And the coffee is really bad since sitting so long so he'd have make a new pot. And decision to leave engines off aren't his choice, but we'd be getting cooler after take off (90 minutes away). Complete with head shakes and frowns.

3. Forgettable or not funny. The third flight attendant did everything the way it's always done so completely forgettable. Except making a "joke" about how "in case the flight turns into a cruise" before explaining the flotation devices.

4. Queen of rules. The fourth flight attendant just couldn't stop talking. And all the talk was rules. Rule after rule after rule. Took all the standard language and made it even longer to be sure we understood the rules. And told us what rules would be told to us later. Even times that didn't call for rules turned into rules: "this cart weighs 150 pounds so if you plan to go into the aisle while I'm serving don't be surprised if you get mowed down like a lawn mower" or at end of flight "did I just heard seat belts dangle? Buckle them right now, I will tell you when it's time to unbuckle your seat belts".

Any given day association executives also have a choice about what to communicate and how to communicate. Will you: 1) inform your members and give them transparency so they have faith in your organization; 2) constantly complain about what's going wrong and always include that someone else made the bad decision; 3) be so predictable you're forgettable - or worse, don't take serious situations seriously; or 4) give so many rules that it's all the members hear?

You're standing in front of passengers all the time too - what's the message?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Providing Contact Information

Last night I got to hotel really late to realize I didn't have my laptop anymore. Those who know me know it's practically handcuffed to me, so the possibility it could really be gone was shocking ... but real. Didn't have a cell phone message so called my office voice mail and there was Ryan at the Hertz desk telling me I left it at the airport rental car counter. Of course it was 11PM and I was an hour from the airport, but back I went to get it.

Had my cell phone number been in my Hertz record instead of my office phone number I could have saved 2 hours of "extra" driving last night. I'm going to update everything that's stored about me for contact info on various sites to be sure they have cell and not office phone.

You might want to check your stored contact info too.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Best career advice. Ever.

Best career advice I ever got - from a past president: "Don't tell us the canoe tipped over, tell us how to get to shore."

Seriously, no one ever wants to hear only the problem, they want options for solutions.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

OMG - what happened to the bunnies and penguins?

When I first started doing presentations about how to incorporate free things on the Internet into business (a really long time ago), I even added a few minutes of showing free online greeting cards - which at the time was bluemountain. There was space to customize messages; and choices were very wholesome (like Hallmark) - bunnies hopping and maybe penguins dancing. Being free, unique and customizable was a big feature at the time.

Then other online postcards became available, and my personal favorites were the New Yorker cartoons. They were free too, and definitely related to business. And favorite ones could also be ordered as print cards.

Recently I found another free online card site named someecards, with the tag-line "when you care enough to hit send". Probably 85% of the ones looked at I could actually never send to anyone either because the situation really would not appear in my life OR for fear the database gods would store that forever and hold me accountable for it. Some are really funny and I could send; others would be in the category "now if I didn't want a future career in association management I know exactly who this one would go to". You might want to check it out but be warned some of the content is graphic.

I asked a teenager if she'd ever heard of someecards and apparently they're either on Facebook or something raunchier is an option as a "bumper sticker" on Facebook. So naturally I'm thinking there's some new tool for me to try and I was being completely talked out of even LOOKING at them. Bumper stickers get posted on sites for the many hundreds of social media friends any ONE teenager (or others) may have to see.

Not only are we way past the bunnies and penguins ... now can just openly post whatever the e-card/bumper sticker message is on a public site instead of "sending" it anywhere. Live and learn!

Note: Hallmark now has print cards that can be customized with both pictures you upload and music.

Another note: Do you think ANY association social media site will ever have the same level of engagement/success as any ONE teenager?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Moving your community to Facebook ....

Here's link to an article with reasons companies give up doing their own internal "communities" and opt-for established sites like Facebook.

Reasons listed for building community on Facebook:
1. Built in audience;
2. Built in viral features;
3. Minimal community management hassle;
4. Minimal development costs;
5. Rapid roll-out.

With downside including:
1. Don't own it;
2. Limited to their platform features;
3. No data ownership (can send messages, but can't get email addresses);
4. Competitor can do same thing.

Good summary.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Is a kiss more than a kiss?

I'd like to thank David Patt for posting a topic that completely cheered me up from my week-long gloomy mood, called "No Kissing". And it's not that I agree with it - it's just one of those topics I never would have thought to blog about until I read his thoughts.

So here's an excerpt from David: "Men should not kiss women when presenting them with awards or introducing them as speakers. Kissing suggests a sexual relationship or attraction, not a professional one. Men should relate to women in the same way they relate to men. Shake hands when greeting or congratulating them ... Remember, female executives are your peers, not your dates."

My thoughts:
1. Totally agree that it would be really odd for anyone to kiss someone who is a program speaker as part of the intro or between panelists.
2. I think it's perfectly fine when an award presenter or others on stage who actually know an award recipient kiss them (on the cheek). When I got a big award I think the only one at the long national leadership head table on stage who didn't kiss me was the hired parliamentarian I'd never met.
3. My experience is that (some) women kiss women out of affection so should they relate to men the same way they relate to women? I still think yes. I also think about zero romantic sparks fly. And that it's not misinterpreted by others.
4. There are some people who really prefer not to be touched by anyone (and don't even like spas!), so being kissed would be way out of the question.
5. What reports say makes another professional believe a woman is looking for a date and undermines credibility is the intentional deep-cut cleavage look. But that's really rare to find in any professional setting.

Other thoughts:
1. There are a lot of really bad handshakes out there. I really, really notice handshakes especially if they're really, really bad. A kiss on the cheek can be really forgettable, but not a bad handshake.
2. If someone I had a really long professional relationship with (such as a past president) started shaking my hand hello, I believe I'd miss the hug or kiss part. And when I say long professional relationship, there are some I've known more than half my life and spent huge amounts of time with. But the same is true for more recent relationships too. Isn't the affection the good part of what can come of a professional relationship?

3. Developing genuine affection, and even love, for colleagues of both sexes does happen. It's not romance, but friendships can be strong enough that they're in your heart. And that's a good thing. A male colleague who could have died earlier this year told me he loved me at a recent business conference, and I said I love you back. And I do. And I'm confident he says it to men he loves too. At some point you're just confident enough in your own skin and you've lived life and death long enough there's no down side to expressing care. And it feels really, really good to say it and not just feel it.

Thanks David ... fun topic. What do you think: Is a kiss more than a kiss?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Complete the Association Social Media Survey

Jeff De Cagna who frequently speaks and writes for ASAE, and blogs, and does other consulting things is part of an effort to try to analyze trends in association use of social media. Conducting an association social media survey. Obviously only one person per association should respond.

Even if your association does a limited amount of social media, your response can help. Plus you can get a copy of the results when compiled. And maybe even win a gift certificate to Amazon.

While it warns it's "long", it took me under 5 minutes to answer (maybe that's long for some?) Here's the link to Jeff's site - then you need to click "Take the Survey" to access. Thanks!

Ignoring the rules? How's that working for you?

While waiting at my son's school this morning, I listened to a line of high school kids one after another try to not get a tardy slip, with a series of explanations, even though late for school. They all got tardy slips. As I was leaving one of my son's friends came strolling in with a coffee coolatta (10 minutes after the bell rang). I'm guessing he just took his tardy slip without any comment. Other than the comment the coolatta sent.

The odd thing about watching this is that it freed me from how terrible I'd been feeling about enforcing a deadline. Gave many weeks to be on time.

Responses from the high school attendance monitor sounded familiar:
* You know the deadline;
* Yes, there are penalties for being late;
* Instructions not followed;
* Helps to start early if don't want to risk being late;
* The school didn't cause the problem that resulted in delay;
* No, can't "bend/ignore the rules" for one person;
* Allowing others to be late isn't fair to the people who are early or on time;
* Yes, things can go wrong, but you're still late.

And I wondered if they're learning a lesson that may help them succeed later; or if it's miss the high school deadline today, and miss the association and/or work deadline tomorrow.

Associations hear the same reasons for many things with a time deadline - dues bills, course credits, scholarship deadlines, competitive grant application deadlines, early bird pricing, legal/filing deadlines, etc. And associations have to comply with numerous time deadlines too - IRS filings, PAC filings, bill payments, etc.

The whole concept of ignoring the rules ignores there really are rules. Life is full of rules. Some with more serious penalties than others, some result in missed opportunity. Want to ignore the rules or test the deadline? Go ahead. But every day the attendance monitor (or the association, or some government entity) is handing out their tardy slips.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Changing the URL to sell Social Media

I noticed at the movies tonight that one preview for an upcoming movie ended with a[moviename] URL instead of the typical www.[moviename].com. I'm going to use that more too. Might be easier to bypass the "what's Facebook" thing if just keep sending people to Facebook via a link for info.

Educating use of social media is a challenge.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Don't fish off the company dock

Ever heard this expression before: "Don't fish off the company dock"? Translation: "Don’t sleep with or date your members or your vendors. Disaster, a broken heart or a lost job waiting to happen."

Special thanks to my colleague and friend CG who shared an upcoming presentation she's giving to association execs that includes this and many, many other pieces of advice. You'll be reading more of 'em here in the future!