Association boards come and go, and staff changes over time, but if you are intentional about your organization’s culture, your members can’t tell the difference.
This year’s pre-convention “deep dive” presented by Jaime Nolan, CAE, was a valuable reminder of how an association’s staff culture and experience trickle down to the membership and affect the member experience and, therefore, the member culture. I want to add a dimension to that, and that is the culture of the governing board. Leadership drives the culture of the organization. What your leaders do and say and how they behave set the tone for the entire organization. Imagine a positive culture where inclusion, helpfulness and community building are the norm. That leadership culture sends a wave that travels through the entire organization. The organization staff will feel supported and empowered; members will feel valued and get the help they need to thrive and, in turn, give back by stepping into volunteer and leadership positions.
Something occurred to me as I was reading the attendee comments after the convention: while WSAE has undergone many changes over the past two years, from board member turnover to a management company change, we are still the same welcoming and friendly group of association professionals and suppliers we have been in the past. It isn’t by accident. It is because we have articulated what our values and culture are, and what is important to us, and then made decisions accordingly. Our strategic plan is based on those values. Therefore, the changing of the guard, which will occur at the end of this month will be a nonevent for our members as we will seamlessly continue to deliver quality service to our members based on those values.
Don’t leave your organization’s culture to a chance. Evaluate and discuss it. Is it where you would like it to be? If not, go to work to change it. Put it in writing so that it can be communicated consistently to all levels of the organization. The game where you whisper a message into the next person’s ear doesn’t work here! Your organization’s strategic plan and policies already spell out the rules of the game, but the culture explains the spirit in which the game is played. A statement of your organization’s culture is a valuable gift to those who come after you.
Many thanks to the WSAE departing board of directors, Andrew Prazuch, CAE, Gary Kipp and Scott Hildebrand, for their contributions to WSAE. Our incoming president, Stacie Weedon, is already hard at work to ensure that the new board can hit the ground running at the strategic planning retreat at the end of this month. I can’t wait to see all the good things that we can do with her leadership!
Tiina Freeman, CAE
WSAE President, 2015-2017