Monday, March 28, 2011

How to define success?

By Virgil R. Carter

How does your association define success? Success comes in many flavors. Perhaps the important thing is to identify and implement what works for you. Thereafter communicate, communicate, and communicate.

So, what does your association value most? Is it performance? How about relationships? Perhaps its competencies or credentialing. Each organization is different when it comes to what matters most, not to mention why it matters to us. So, to define success, there has to be agreement on what matters most. The situation, which may change over time, has a lot to do with defining success. For example, an association in a protracted, downward financial spiral, for example, may define success very differently than an association whose growth has been 30% per year for the past five years.

Here are some important success categories, with suggestions how they might be used.

1. Strategy--Does our association have a sustained record of performance to plan over time (successful strategy is not measured in 12-month cycles and someone’s pet agenda for the year)?

2. Voice of the customer—Who are our (right) customers and how do you know if they are satisfied (yes, there may be “wrong” customers)?

3. Financial—Do we have sustained performance over time meeting budget or ending each year with positive variances (no margin, no mission)?

4. Business operations—What is the record of new program development and existing program retirement over the past 5 years (are you still doing what you did 5 years ago)?

5. Learning & growth—What investment do we make on a consistent annual basis for volunteer’s & staff’s learning and growth in their association roles (no investment, no dividends)?

When you have figured out what matters most to your association and how you will measure success, it’s time to think about annual communications planning and the year’s key audiences and messages. Key messages are important for association leaders—volunteers and staff—to focus on, repeat and reinforce. The messages help everyone to understand and stay on the same page.

There are many useful ways to define organizational success. And to communicate effectively about it. When there is consensus about success, your volunteers, staff and external relationships will thank you, knowing what to expect and how to help. How do you measure organizational success?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Crucial Conversations

By Virgil R. Carter

How are you at crucial conversations? Crucial conversations are those situations in which you are involved with others, in which the outcomes and the relationships are at stake.

Just about every non-profit CEO has been in crucial conversations. I remember one where 16 volunteer and staff leaders came from various parts of the U.S. in an attempt to settle and dispose of disputes between the parent organization and two of the subsidiary component organizations. You know the situation—it’s common in national and global associations. The meeting was important. The situation needed resolution, and all affected parts of the organization needed to move on to other, positive activities.

Fortunately, and due entirely to the positive and constructive leadership of all 16 participants, we succeeded. It wasn’t easy, but it was important and we reached unanimous agreement on all major points. That evening we had a “victory reception and dinner”, complete with a signing of a Proclamation of Achievement and Appreciation by all participants. They say all’s well that ends well, and we made sure we ended very well, indeed.

There’s a great book that helps address crucial conversations. Coincidentally, it’s titled Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes are High. Authors are Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler, published in 2002 by McGraw Hill, and subsequently a New York Times bestseller.

Building from their research on the subject, the authors define these crucial conversations as those that “occur when there is a lot at stake, when emotions are strong, and when opinions differ”. The authors suggest the importance in such situations of having a clear sense of desired results (outcomes) as well as a clear sense of the desired relationships when the crucial conversations are concluded. This is not a situation in which one may want to do ones thinking out loud!

You can Goggle the book notes or buy the book (or both). You may be better prepared for your next crucial conversation. Good luck!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wrestling with Burnout

By Virgil R. Carter

As a CEO, and the top leadership interface between your organization’s members, customers and staff, have you experienced burnout? Do you know CEOs who have gone through burnout? It’s no surprise that leaders, with the challenge of being responsible for planning and performance of their organizations, can become victims of burnout. The continuous, never-ending burden of top leadership can wear anyone down.

Are there some ways to reduce or avoid burnout?

A recent Internet article from LeaderPoint notes that while the weight of being in charge can overcome the most successful leaders, burnout is often a function of not delegating and working through others effectively. Harvard Business Review blogger John Baldoni is quoted as stating that the “best way to overcome the drive than made (CEOs) successful in the first place—the relentless pursuit of perfection—is to shift focus from one’s own success to the success of the executive team.”

Here are some suggestions from the article to help avoid burnout:

- Lead through others: Being a CEO widens the scope and increases the magnitude of the results to be achieved. Assign others the significant outcomes so that the CEO is not the bottleneck, consumed with personal problem-solving.

- Knowing everything: No CEO can do everything well. Accepting that no one can possibly know everything allows one to ask more questions, learn more and allows the work to remain with those show should be doing it.

- Enabling others: Motivating others is a challenge. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Instead, focus on the work to be done, the desired outcome and assign these to key staff. Big jobs with significant outcomes tend to motivate people.

The bottom line is about getting results, consistently over time. It’s hard to do that without the support and assistance from others. One of the best ways for CEOs to achieve success is to drop their invincibility posture. Successful leadership and successful organizations are not a solo act.

To read the article “Avoid Burnout by Focusing on Your Team”, by John Baldoni, go here:

Monday, March 7, 2011

So the next “cool thing” is going mobile, right?

by Mark C. Anderson

You’re ready to build a mobile website, make your annual meeting into a mobile app and start repurposing some publications as mobile content/apps. You want to be at the mobile edge of cool.

Let’s acknowledge that the world is rapidly moving towards consuming content on mobile devices.

• 10 million tablets were sold in 2010

• 60 million tablets will be sold (worldwide) in 2011

• Smartphones are the fastest growing segment of US cell market

First, instead of being caught up in “ready, fire, aim” consider developing a thoughtful mobile strategy to guide your investments of dollars and staff. And to aid you in creating a strategy, gather some information about your members and constituents. If you don’t know the following, it might be a good idea to gather data so you understand your members’ mobile profiles.

• Numbers of your members who have smartphones (broken down into iPhones, Android, Blackberry, Symbian, other).

• What they use their smartphones for (e.g., email, texting, web surfing, travel support,connecting to server databases, connecting to cloud applications, etc.).

• How often they refer to their smartphones on a daily basis.

• How often they upgrade their smartphone and what causes them to upgrade and change.

• Whether they dock and synch their smartphones to a piece of hardware (e.g., laptop) or servers or both.

• What information they receive from your association now that they would like to get on an app designed for smartphones.

• How many have tablets and how many are planning on getting tablets within the next year.

You can’t get all the necessary information through a web-based survey tool, so plan on running some focus groups to understand how your members use and want to use their mobile devices.

When you have that information, you can then begin to make informed, knowledge-based decisions about the kind of information you want to push to mobile devices and when it’s okay to have that information on a mobile website and when you need a native app that runs on a particular platform (e.g., IOS, Android, etc.).

You’ll be able to master the mobile Tsunami if you understand hour your members use mobile devices and how they hope to have information pushed to their mobile devices through apps.