Monday, December 29, 2008

Quote of the Day - Hope

From the movie "Milk": "You gotta give them hope."

Aren't associations supposed to be in the business of hope?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

7 Alarming Realizations about Facebook

Now I really enjoy Facebook, but here's 7 alarming realizations ...

1. I can see pictures of people I know professionally in their pajamas at Christmas. Since apparently everyone's kids took pictures Christmas morning and posted them along with tags on Facebook, I now know who wears holiday-theme pajamas to open gifts.

2. Marketers find my association Facebook site easily, and I'm removing them. What a pain. It's always been necessary to moderate association blog comments because of the enormous volume of marketing organizations (including scams) trying to reach our audience that way (we don't let them), and now they take "open" to mean it's okay to try to clog a discussion board with solicitations. Blah.

3. If you can't trust someone with email, chances are good they can't be trusted as a Facebook friend. You know, the ones who send "those" kind of jokes or want to recount times that need to be forgotten. Unfortunately, it's possible to imagine what would surface on the Wall by clicking the word "Accept".

4. People forget that all conversation is actually not meant to be public. Sending a personal email or making a call might remain a good first step if something is potentially controversial ... or private. Maybe the media might just find what's posted on "open" sites too.

5. That thought you can separate your private life from public life on Facebook is actually implausible. Unless you genuinely have no past, friends, or relatives outside of work - you may just find your association members will in fact get to see what you looked like in that ugly gym uniform in high school.

6. I know more about what my college-aged daughter is doing during the holidays from Facebook than from sitting in the same room with her. I told her she should feel free to remove ("unfriend") me - as my thought was maybe as parents we aren't meant to see whole photo albums of our kids at college and online postings with their friends. She tells me "everyone's mother" is on Facebook; so I'm not remotely unique or a stalker (because of the "News Feed" feature), and this is actually a part of how relationships work now.

7. One of these days I'm going to figure out how to be less traumatized by exposure. Or at least have the courage to accept that there's not that much that can be done about how much will continue to be out there, whether we think we're participating or not. Can we really be public but not public?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Quote of the Day - Life and Opportunity

This quote from the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" ...

"Our lives are defined by opportunities - even the ones we miss."

Our lives, and our careers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Who's reading your body language?

Actress Helen Mirren (who I love) was interviewed for television's "Masterpiece Theater" about her role as Jane Tennison on the "Prime Suspect" series. She said detectives are experts at reading body language, and she got this insight for developing the character from a policewomen prior to starting the series: [Note - I'd say the other side to each of these can give an appearance of being human - but depends on circumstance or profession as to how it's read]

Don't cry in front of others. Doesn't mean don't cry, just do it where you aren't seen.

Never fold your arms. It's an immediate sign of being defensive. Keeping your arms unfolded is a sign of openness. Helen said she went the entire "Prime Suspect" series never folding her arms.

Touch them. It "incorporates them into your power". So all this time I thought touching someone during a conversation was a sign of affection, and it's really a sign of power?

Hmm ... I don't even think email is entirely void of body language.

Picture from PBS Prime Suspect site

Monday, December 22, 2008

Don't believe everything you read (or I have a radiator to sell you)

After 400 plus blog entries, I have finally managed to appear first when searching my name on Google. This is no small feat considering my Googleganger, the crime-fighting Cindy Butts, manages to be in the London newspapers continuously (she shows up in my Google Alerts too).

However, I've also found that likely due to my association's acronym, sites that pull random info from the web to profile individuals may show me as the CEO of the Maine Auto Radiator Manufacturing Company. I'm including a picture of what that business makes for "muscle cars." Not only would it be a really terrible career for me but I do wonder if someone randomly searching my name wonders about my radiator expertise. (That would be zero.)

A few thoughts:

1. Do you search your name to see what shows up?
2. If you need a reason to blog, one is that it does move you up in Google search results;
3. Set up Google Alerts for your own name, and your association name, if you haven't already (note - you can also set up an alert for other people or organizations you may be interested in);
4. Don't believe everything you read. Sometimes it's totally wrong. Sometimes there's more to the story;
5. If you need a radiator for a muscle/other type car, the best I can do is send you a link.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Actually, you can help ... so help ...

Quiz: How many people do you know, who have never been association executives, who you believe understand what the profession is like? How many search committees and job descriptions adequately explain it?

Association management is a vast series of incredible contrasts – easy, hard, backward, innovative, fraught with peril, filled with opportunity, educational, elementary, rewarding, depressing, full of people, very lonely – and on and on. The group who can understand what it’s like are those who live it.

And because of that we can help each other from the unique understanding of the shared experience. For example, don’t ever pass up an opportunity to do something nice. If you can help another AE, then help them. If you can send a congratulatory or caring email, send it. If you’re doing a presentation and there’s an AE in the audience, tell everyone else there the kind of contribution that person makes. It’s going to make a difference to that other AE and could matter to their officers and members too. The ones who know can explain to those who can’t know.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What? How did THAT demographic happen?

Noticed a "View Insights" button on my association's Facebook page. Clicked it and got these demographics for our "Fans"- (since Facebook collects demographics on each of us).

13-17 - 0%
18-24 - 2%
25-34 - 23%
35-44 - 34%
45+ - 41%

My Insights:

1. The OLDEST demographic category is 45+. Exactly how does THAT happen?

2. I think sometimes we try to lead members to certain technologies (whether fax machines, or email, or social media) when the reality is they find it and learn it when they're ready. Like that expression "when the student is ready the teacher appears" ... And more seem to be ready for Facebook now, because so many peers (or kids) are using it, than even a few months ago.

3. Do you think to check the statistics of your sites and compare it to membership statistics?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Knowing it's wrong, and doing it anyway

It's icy outside, but I wore tennis shoes instead of shoes meant for the snow. I was in a huge hurry and putting on the wrong shoes was really easy. Knew it was a mistake, did it anyway, and then wondered what it would be like to function with a broken leg when later flying around on the ice.

There comes a point where the biggest mistakes are likely not a result of inability, inexperience or incompetence, but rather due to being too tired or too busy (or both) - and knowing it - and then flying around on the ice.

So what can be done?

1. Wear the right shoes. What effort does it take to avoid falling? Sleep, vacation, delegate - for starters.
2. Watch out for the ice. Certain areas of management have more peril than others. If you've ever slipped on ice it's a really fast and hard thud. Faster than you can Twitter half a word.
3. Catch yourself. After five minutes of insanity on the ice, it was clear something had to change. When you make an error or bad decision, fixing it right that minute is an option.
4. Slow down when the speed limit drops. When the signs are flashing a slower speed, slow down.

Monday, December 15, 2008

3 leadership tips

These among leadership tips (from an excellent past national association president) ...

1. Be prepared. There's no excuse for anyone becoming president and saying "I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to be doing". Read everything. It's the small print in the filed reports that you need to really notice.

2. Be humble. When leaders start to believe in their own greatness they're going to lose focus on who they should be serving. And may believe they don't have rules. They do (watch the recent news). Communicate with those you know will be honest with you, and be humble.

3. Be a part of a leadership team. If it's not formal, make it formal. Is power with one (president), or more than one? If you can't sell three or four others on an idea, how will you sell the members? Are they empowered to make decisions that may need to be made quickly?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Winning by flying under the radar

Something about all the lying, fake alliances and mean things the players all say about each other makes the television reality show "Survivor" more stressful than entertaining to me. But I do often watch the finale, including tonight as a high school Physics teacher from Maine was on (and won). When asked how they made it to the finals, a common answer is "well, I tried to fly under the radar ... "

A few thoughts:

1. Many go their entire association careers "flying under the radar." As a strategy. Like all careers, it's possible to retire having been really innovative, really risk-taking .... or really forgettable. And it's also possible to accomplish big things while needing to be "under the radar" to do it, that no one but you really knows.
2. Really bad and really good legislation/regulations can get passed "flying under the radar." As a strategy. I think it feels worse to lose something that way than an all-out battle. But it's a strategy for winning too.

Also, I'm genuinely not surprised someone from Maine won. For a small state, there's a large amount of talented people here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Good idea for personalized recognition

A picture was taken of me at a recognition event along with those who did the presentation (18 of my past 20 presidents). I received the framed, matted picture this week, which included short messages written onto the matting of the picture. The mat had been signed by everyone the day the group picture was taken.

I absolutely love it. Use this idea.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cutting business travel - there's more than cost savings

While reading a press release announcing an executive resignation, it includes this:

"She said in a statement, 'I have devoted most of my energy over the last 16 years to (organization) of which I am most proud to have served. At the same time I have spent most of my life "on the road" and have missed much of what was going on at home with my family and my beautiful grandchildren. While I will miss my many friends and colleagues at (organization), I am eagerly looking forward to spending some time at home and attending all the soccer games and ballet recitals I have missed for years.' "

If you were releasing a statement about you, could it include a similar statement? These times of consolidation and expense-cutting bring opportunity to seriously look at amount of travel. What can be done electronically, what meetings can be consolidated instead of stand-alone, what doesn't need as many nights away? You may find you'll get more than cost savings.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Something to steal from a hotel (and a notable quote)

Hotels increasing their in-room technology options are also making it more difficult to do things that were once actually easy - like turning on the television. I knew within seconds of picking up the remote that it wasn't going to be an easy process to just watch TV. The good news: there was a placemat sized, laminated instruction of "how to turn on the TV" in an easy to spot location. After pressing seven buttons (following along with the super-sized font instructions), I had a channel.

Something to steal: Does your association have technology programs no one can actually just easily use? How about easy-to-find and easy-to-follow instructions with a few basic words, in very large font, and a picture?

Notable quote: This link has a few hilarious things cranky traveler Scott Carmichael says about what he doesn't like about hotels. My favorite: "I'd also like to ask hotels to stop stocking the minibar with too many obscure products. Sometimes a guest just wants a damn Snickers bar, and is not in the mood for a $12 organic dried peach and carrot whey protein energy bar."


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The materials that will not go away (and other meeting annoyances)

Five meeting annoyances:

1. Not breaking the paper habit -- I was really happy when a Board sent Directors materials electronically. And they set them up in a really cool way on Adobe that I need to learn (with bookmarks).

When I got to the meeting there was a complete paper version waiting for me anyway. After the meeting I left the two notebooks full of materials (that I had electronically) on the table -- definitely didn't have room in my carry-on luggage and wouldn't need to refer back to those paper notebooks anyway. Explained in an email (when asked) that I left them on purpose.

Guess what arrived in the mail yesterday? The notebooks full of paper that will not go away.

2. Verbally reading what was mailed -- Another Board sends a lengthy General Manager's report in advance, in addition to other advance meeting materials. I used to print it out and read it. Quickly learned an hour of every meeting is listening to the General Manager go through every detail in that report. And a print out of that same report is always in a folder at the meeting for everyone.

3. Not checking the conference call dial-in -- One Board has a conference call option for those wishing to participate that way. The dial-in numbers are given to everyone in advance. I was recently tied up in the office and decided not to just drive the few miles away to attend in person. The problem - no one ever checked the conference call to see if anyone was on the line waiting. Anytime we give the dial-in number in advance, check it anyway - even if you aren't expecting someone to use it. It's an option you've already given attendees. Or, don't give the number to anyone except those saying they're calling in.

4. Filling time -- There are meetings that could last an hour, or under an hour. But sometimes staff and/or leadership "fills" time with demos or other presentations so that an entire two or three hours are filled (especially if large travel distances of attendees). My personal opinion is that it's much more respectful of volunteers if the business meeting happens, then adjourns so those who don't want all the demos can leave.

5. Announcing a change in end time -- after the plane tickets are already purchased and/or attendees are in the room -- There's nothing like arriving at a meeting and finding that the time has been shortened specifically due to the flight times of other attendees -- Often means rest of the attendees stuck with late flights (to accommodate the original meeting time) or expensive change penalties due to complete lack of early notice of that decision; or a great deal of the first part of the meeting is everyone checking alternative flights DURING the meeting and breaks. I'm all for any shortened meetings, but decide in advance how much time is needed to allow attendees time to adjust their schedules.

Off to a meeting ...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Clear Air Turbulence

After tonight's flight shook to and fro, the pilot announced we had hit “clear air turbulence”. Not able to see or detect. Good to know since I was already holding the hand of a man across the aisle from me (a stranger) – from fear.

Times when pilots can know turbulence is ahead, as a passenger don't you prefer to know it in advance?

What I know for sure:

1. Association management is packed with Clear Air Turbulence. It’s easy to be just smoothly flying along when WHAM, something unexpected shakes everything up. And maybe even damage.
2. When you know rough times are ahead, prepare the passengers. Things need to be secured, the flight attendants do need to sit down, and pilots need to have a plan.
3. Be sure you have someone to hold hands with while it’s happening. Finding someone to help you get through it is easier than the loneliness of worry.
4. If you need help, ask. It's out there. Maybe even across the aisle.