I think those who start in association management after their kids pass the teenage years have the added bonus of the wisdom that comes from that parenting. Here are 7 association management techniques that come from having a teenager ...
1. Trust, but verify: I'm sure everything you hear from your teenager, your members, your staff and your vendors is true. But it's worth verifying from time to time. If a staff person says something can't be done it sometimes makes sense to ask a lot more questions as to why they're certain of that. Sometimes the question just hasn't been asked to the right person or the answer evolved over time but the information never filtered to them.
2. What works for one may not work for the other: If you have two teenagers you may find what motivates one wouldn't motivate the other, or what rewards one would not reward the other. Often with volunteers and staff we may do the exact same things to reward or motivate two very different people. Before giving every volunteer the same plaque, find out first if they even want a plaque. Ask a leader the simple question about what they want to accomplish before thinking you have that answer only in your strategic plan or past experience.
3. It's really not okay to break the rules: Sometimes I read association blogs and they suggest breaking the rules or operate in an association world with no rules - so I assume they don't manage associations. OK, everyone has read "Lord of the Flies" - it doesn't work. If you want to test the rules, then be prepared for the penalties for doing that. If you don't like the rules, then change the rules.
4. Get a tutor when you need one: It's widely realized that sometimes if there's an area where your need teenager needs help, you find a tutor. I believe you should hire a tutor your entire life. If there's something you don't understand, then find someone to teach you. I had an employee lacking experience with accounting - so I suggested signing up for an accounting class. He wasn't interested. Sometimes if you don't get the tutor you're really never going to fully learn or understand important aspects of association management.
5. Find the convincing argument: Teenagers try to master the art of the convincing argument - who's the best person to ask, what's the key thing to say that might work, if you get a no, what's the next approach. Association management is so much easier with those same practices - who's the best person to ask someone if they'd like to be a future officer (note: It may not be the chairman of your Nominating Committee), what are the points that matter to the person you're asking (versus the points that matter to you), if you get a no, then what's the next approach. Each situation should be considered unique and the elements of the convincing argument should be applied.
6. If they miss one deadline, they will miss others: If there's a deadline and it doesn't matter, then you don't have deadlines. Hopefully by high school the concept of deadlines is being constantly reinforced. I have found throughout my career that those who miss a deadline are going to do it again. There was a vendor who promised a proposal by a particular date - four weeks and multiple excuses later, still no proposal. Did I know after the first date went by that there was no reason whatsoever to trust the next deadline? Absolutely.
7. Shower the people you love with love: It's worthwhile to treat everyday accomplishments as accomplishments. Getting an A on a paper, looking adorable or doing something good are worth recognizing regardless of the age of a kid. Same is true with volunteers, officers and staff - if someone writes a great newsletter article, did a wonderful radio interview, ran a great meeting, secured a sponsor - tell them! When someone does something great, and even good, show them the love.
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