Archive for the 'Leadership' Category

04
Jan
15

Bonus content: Event Garde e-news – January edition

Heidi Brumbach

Heidi Brumbach, CEO, Technisch Creative

Q & A with Heidi Brumbach, CEO, Technisch Creative

Q: New Year resolutions – Do you make them? Why or why not?
A: I try not to make the same old resolutions like “lose weight,” “get organized,” etc. If I make a New Year resolution, it has to be specific, the timing has to be right and the goal has to be realistic, as well as measurable.

Q: What do you consider to be the most valuable thing you own: when you were a child/teenager/now?
A: This might make me sound like a soccer mom (I’m not), but I absolutely love my Town and Country minivan. I love that you can hide the seats away and have an instant cargo van!

Q: If you could have had the starring role in one film already made, which movie would you pick?
A: I love having fun on the job, so when I think about how to answer this question, I don’t think of a character I want to play, but an experience I wish I could have been a part of. There are so many great stories about the making of “Caddy Shack.” I think that would have been the most fun movie project ever.

Q: You’ve just been hired to a promotions position at Kellogg Co. What would you put in a new breakfast cereal box as a gimmick?
A: I always used to like solving problems, like Ralphie with the decoder on “A Christmas Story.” I would probably go with some kind of time-consuming mystery or puzzle so kids would be distracted from their iPhones for a while. Maybe even something that forces human interaction.

Q: If you could play any musical instrument, what would it be and why?
A: I really love percussion. I played the drums in middle school, but gave it up to dance instead. I wish the show “Stomp” had been around at the time. I would have stuck with both!

23
Dec
14

Lessons in leadership from 2014

This guest blog post by Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, originally ran Dec. 22 on Associations Now. Athitakis has written on nonprofits, the arts and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History. You can follow him on Twitter at @MarkANMag.

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now.

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now.

So, what did we learn in 2014?

Part of me wants to say: Not as much as one would hope. Boards remain dysfunctional. Associations often are still slow-moving ships, particularly when it comes to globalization. Diversity remains a challenge. However, I don’t want to close out 2014 with a resounding “Bah! Humbug!”

Throughout the year I’ve spoken with plenty of association leaders, staffers and experts who are doing meaningful and path breaking work; look throughout AssociationsNow.com and you’ll see my colleagues have done the same.

So take the five lessons-learned below not as a lecture about how leaders have fallen short, but as reminders that there’s always work to be done; this list only reflects where I figure that work is most needed.

It’s never difficult to find a CEO who will bemoan his or her board in private, or do it under cover of an anonymous survey.

Globalization is less of a might-do and more of a must-do. In 2014 the ASAE Foundation released research revealing that many U.S.-based associations are still struggling to expand their reach overseas. (More research is to come in 2015.) As sticky wickets go at associations, this is one of the stickiest, but it’s also among the most promising in terms of financial growth — and, even if you’d prefer to focus on mission more than money, it’s where the future members and users of your services are, particularly in the Middle East. This needn’t be an overwhelming task — even focusing on a couple of products can move the needle.

Disengaged boards are a killer. Boards are too nice to the CEO. They’re neglectful. They don’t do enough to help a new CEO settle into the gig. It’s never difficult to find a CEO who will bemoan his or her board in private, or do it under cover of an anonymous survey. And I do worry, as I wrote back in May, that social-media herd mentality might trickle down into leadership, leading to groupthink. But for the moment, I’m looking at the bright side: There are plenty of associations doing smart work assembling and educating their boards to do meaningful strategic work in the midst of these challenges.

Man-ListeningListening is an underrated leadership skill. I tend to gravitate to this particular leadership theme without explicitly trying to; it just seems that so many shortcomings with CEOs boil down to errors of miscommunication and failures to listen. If an exec isn’t listening to what his or her staffers are saying, he won’t have a sense of what their ambitions are, won’t be able to capably review their progress and will struggle to keep them on board when challenges arrive. Listening is the easiest skill to pay lip service to, and perhaps the most difficult to master.

Diversity starts with you. Without question, associations have made great progress in recent years in making their staffs and boards more diverse. But the seemingly popular instinct at addressing the issue — to create a task force or diversity committee — can risk echoing the marginalization it was meant to eradicate. Executives need to own diversity as a core competency as much as membership and revenue — all the Lean In circles in the world won’t mean much if the guys at the top aren’t getting the message and boards won’t evolve unless they’re mindful of where they’re underrepresented.

The big organizations don’t have this figured out any better than anybody else. Corporate America is often carted out as a better model for associations, particularly when it comes to generating revenue — it’s the tacit message delivered whenever somebody says, “Our association needs to run more like a business.” True enough, corporate execs get all the attention from magazine covers (well, almost all). But you didn’t have to try hard to find executives in the corporate world struggle to stay on point as much as anybody else. I gingerly suggested in March that perhaps GM was on the right path in responding to its cars’ ignition-switch problems; the months that followed have only made a fool of me. Apple’s board structure was much celebrated, but I think there are more interesting governance questions than board size. And even large nonprofits can have a leadership crisis when the executive steps into contentious territory. Case studies from the big guns can have some meaningful lessons to deliver, but ultimately the approach that works is going to be the product of what you’ve learned from what you’ve observed in your own organization.

05
Aug
14

When your gut speaks, listen

vp_gut_feeling_signAs a mom, I’ve learned to recognize that feeling. You know, that feeling in your gut that something isn’t quite right. The kids are too quiet. Maybe a sleepover when my kid seems sluggish (and later gets sick) isn’t a good idea. After 12 years of practice, I’ve finally learned to listen to my gut.

So why is that so hard to do in the workplace? Because as a parent, I’m not faced with mounds of data, mission statements and internal politics.

I’ve written before about the importance of data. They can be powerful decision-making tools. Business executives love data, and expect their managers to analyze it to make sound business decisions – but not all the time, according to a new survey.

In June, Fortune Knowledge Group, which publishes Fortune, conducted a survey of business leaders to learn more about their decision-making habits, measuring the influence of cultural, emotional and situational factors in business decisions.

“Business decision-makers want to feel something positive,” said Christoph Becker, CEO and COO of gyro, a global advertising agency that partnered with Fortune Knowledge Group for the study. “After all, the choices made at work are the choices made in life; there is no separation. Work risks are personal risks. While hard facts inform our decisions, we are ultimately influenced by emotion and won over through our hearts, not data.”

More than 720 U.S.-based senior executives participated in the survey, all of whom directly influence business operations. About 80 percent of the companies represented in the survey have annual revenues of $500 million or more, while 41 percent reported revenues of $10 billion or more.

In short: A majority of the executives said they trust their guts when making decisions, and human emotion should trump data. Specifically, they indicated positive emotions – ambition, motivation and admiration – are stronger than negative ones.

When choosing business partners, executives said they value corporate culture and reputation above data. They suggested companies can make themselves more attractive by establishing a reputation for strong and open management practices, especially respect for employees, management credibility among employees and employee pride in association with the company.

In addition, 71 percent of executives reported they’re willing to make short-term financial sacrifices to build long-term relationships. Those relationships, executives said, should be based on trust. Interestingly, 42 percent said they’d rather do business with a company whose employees have “good interpersonal skills and emotional insight rather than analytical intelligence.”

201401-omag-instincts-1-600x411“Despite having more information than ever upon which to make decisions, executives still rely heavily on human factors when making most business decisions,” the researchers wrote. “Business decision-makers are, of course, using data to their benefit. However, especially when selecting business partners, executives are ultimately less analytical and more emotional.”

Later this summer, gyro will release complete results of the study. But for now, the take-home for associations should be that sometimes, your inner voice should speak louder than sales figures.

So when you’re building vendor relationships, investigate the company a bit. Are employees happy? What’s the company culture?

Don’t underestimate the importance of emotional intelligence.

29
Jul
14

Happy employees, big dollars

EmployEngagementI remember the first time a boss took me out to lunch for a job well done.

It was my first job out of college, and the editorial staff had just launched our newly designed magazine. As editor, I wrote and scrutinized thousands of words. I’m pretty sure the designer and I spent weeks staring at a computer screen and proofs.

I’m fairly certain the lunch wasn’t that amazing. But the conversation was. As a new college graduate, the praise tasted far better than the food. It wasn’t much, but at the end of the day, we felt appreciated and engaged in the success of the association.

The morale of the story: Engaged employees work harder and smarter. Happy, loyal employees are the backbone of a successful organization, or so it seems, according to a recent study by Gallup.

It found that companies with an average of 9.2 engaged employees compared to every one disengaged employee experienced 147 percent higher earnings per share than their competition. In addition, companies in the top 25 percent of Gallup’s database have significantly higher productivity, profitability and customer ratings and less turnover and absenteeism.

And it flows from the top down. The Gallup report found that managers are almost solely responsible for building employee engagement.

The problem: Only 22 percent of employees in the study indicated they felt engaged, with service employees feeling the least engaged.

So what’s the trick? According to Gallup: Measure the correct forms of engagement (emotional); hire the right managers, who should be expected to cultivate engagement among their employees; design day-to-day engagement opportunities, rather than build lofty goals; and find ways to connect with each employee.

It sounds easy, right? But it’s not. Managers need to be coached and encouraged to participate in professional development. Mentoring programs work well, according to those surveyed.

But what about associations?

Generally equipped with smaller staffs, it seems employee engagement should be easier to foster. That’s not always the case, as employees often juggle multiple responsibilities and wear several hats. Associations operate with less to do more, and sometimes, finding the time to foster engagement is tough.

thank-you“When it comes to recognition, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach,” wrote Tara Ericson, group vice president for Naylor, LLC, in the July 22 edition of Association Adviser. “I find the most success when I tailor the way I acknowledge employee achievement to how they want to be appreciated. Knowing your employees on an individual basis is the only way to know how to manage and recognize their accomplishments effectively.”

For example, Ericson creates a list of her employees’ favorite things – hobbies, restaurants and leisure activities – and refers to it when it’s time for recognition.

Also, she celebrates milestones – birthdays, marriages and births – and budgets for appropriate items.

“Sometimes, a reward isn’t justified, but your staff still deserves feedback,” Ericson said. “My rule of thumb is to say what’s on your mind. If a team member is performing well or not meeting expectations, I tell them immediately. Being direct and honest lets your team always know where they stand with you. It encourages better productivity and a more secure job culture by combating rumors and unjustified fears, and creates a constructive environment where coaching and open feedback are the norm.”

Ericson offers some other free or low-cost reward ideas:

  • Flex hours and telecommuting
  • Casual dress day
  • Public recognition
  • Reserved parking spots
  • Time off (leaving early, extended lunches, days off)
  • Happy Hours
  • Gift cards

At the end of the day, whether you have a large staff or a small staff, it’s important to remember that “an army of one” is a fallacy. Your association needs members, and your employees work to recruit and keep them.

As a manager or executive, remember that small gestures go a long way. So next time you’re craving a long lunch, or a lunch meeting at the golf course, ask your employees to join. You’ll do more than just foot the bill.

03
Jun
14

Engage volunteers, take a page from the magazine

“Busy.”

I suspect this is the four-letter word you last used in response to the question, “How are you?” And it’s probably not an exaggeration either. With impending deadlines at work, the various extracurricular activities of our children and our own attempts to maintain healthy lifestyles, there are countless commitments that draw down on our time.

And yet it’s incumbent upon each of us to acknowledge those who have helped us build extraordinary careers and give back to our respective professions in meaningful ways. Whether mentoring emerging professionals, serving on boards and committees or simply sharing with colleagues our best practices and lessons learned, every little bit helps.

Pictured with Bill Hamilton, president, Bill Hamilton Designs

Pictured with Bill Hamilton, president, Bill Hamilton Designs

Editorial Advisory Board

For the last year I’ve had the opportunity to serve on the editorial advisory board of Michigan Meetings + Events magazine. In some small way, my expertise and insights have helped shape a publication that serves as a resource to meeting and event planners and suppliers in our state.

And as a board member, it’s more than just a listing on the masthead of each issue. We attend board meetings to discuss details of the magazine—what we think works, what we think should be improved—and swap stories about the state of the industry.

We also vote for the magazine’s annual Hall of Fame inductees. Prior to that meeting, we nominate individuals in seven categories: Best Meeting Professional, Best Special Events Planner, Best Supplier, Up-and-Coming Meeting Professional, Up-and-Coming Special Events Planner, Up-and-Coming Supplier and Lifetime Achievement.

This year I was honored to nominate Katie Dudek, CMP as the up-and-coming meeting professional. By board vote, she was inducted into the 2014 Hall of Fame on May 29 during the annual Best Of Awards party. Dudek is a meetings manager for the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants in Troy – and she’s an exemplary role model for the meetings industry.

photoContent & Articles

As content and articles are developed for the magazine, I’ve also provided input on story ideas and recommended sources for specific stories. Additionally, I’ve written a column called The Meetings Coach for the last several issues. Following is a snapshot of the topics I’ve tackled:

But don’t take my word for it. If you’re not yet receiving Michigan Meetings + Events magazine, order your free subscription today. Similar publications are offered in California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas, as well as two regional publications (i.e., Mountain and Northwest).

Each issue includes the most up-to-date, need-to-know local intelligence for meeting and event professionals (and those interested in these topics). The Summer 2014 issue was just released here in Michigan. And exciting topics are on the horizon for this fall, including a piece from yours truly on exhibitor success guides.

Lessons Learned

The real takeaway here is that associations could (and should) take a page from the magazine when it comes to volunteer engagement. Following are my 10 lessons learned having been a part of this experience for the last year:

  1. Volunteers appreciate limited commitments given their busy schedules.
  2. And those with more time on their hands enjoy opportunities to scale up their involvement.
  3. Stronger products are produced with the help of volunteer insights.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of networking and the camaraderie that will grow among a group of volunteers.
  5. Be sure volunteer groups represent a good cross-section of your industry for optimal results.
  6. Busy work will not be well received; coordinate meaningful opportunities for volunteers to pay it forward.
  7. It’s best for volunteers to see and benefit from the fruits of their labor in a timely way.
  8. Recognition is always welcomed and appreciated.
  9. Loyal volunteers are often your organization’s best advocates.
  10. Volunteers like to talk; tight agendas and pre/post socials are your friend.

Tell us: How do you engage volunteers? Which of these lessons will you apply to your organization?

22
Oct
13

Big picture thinkers vs. detail doers

 

Allison McClintick

Allison McClintick, founder of FlightLead Consulting

I can’t imagine how scary it was for Allison McClintick, founder of FlightLead Consulting, to move across the country without a plan. A single mom at the time, she left her daughter with her father to start graduate school at the University of San Diego. No job. A few thousand dollars. And hope. That’s all she had.

But it was more than enough because McClintick saw the big picture.

And that’s what defines a leader, she said.

“The cool thing about leadership and management is that it doesn’t matter what the industry is; the concepts are the same,” McClintick said. “A leader helps to look at the bigger picture and to collect energy around where an organization is going. A manager, quite honestly, ‘manages’ all the details of where the organization is going. They are the day-to day-experts. But leaders are always looking at tomorrow.”

On Nov. 6, McClintick will give the keynote address at Destination Michigan’s Showcase of Ideas, which will be held at Eagle Eye Golf Club in Bath. A respected leadership expert, McClintick will help participants:  

  • Identify individual strengths and development areas for immediate application.
  • Describe the differences between a “leader” and a “manager” mindset.
  • Predict the ideal mindset based on a variety of different scenarios.
  • Illustrate how to smoothly adjust “styles” for better results when working with varying personalities.
  • Explain how to empower personal communication skills for enhanced group collaboration.

Read bullet No. 2 again. Think about your organization. What’s your role? Are you a leader or a manager? It’s not that easy, right?

Managers love details, organization, structure and a schedule, McClintick said. They’re sort-of the “type As” of the world. They like to know expectations upfront and dread distraction. As a “type A” person myself, I get this. And I’m guessing a lot of you do, too.

But instead of concentrating on details and execution, leaders see the big picture. And sometimes that means time management and organization fall by the wayside. Leaders tend to “wing it” (which can drive managers crazy) and they love networking. Oh. And comfort zones don’t apply often to leaders.  

And then some people are hybrids because, as McClintick says, leadership skills can be taught.

Obviously, it takes leaders and managers to make an organization work, but often communication styles clash. Leaders are great at managing diverse personalities. Managers? Maybe.

 And that’s where McClintick can help.

“First and foremost, leadership is an opportunity that applies to everyone on Earth,” she said. “It’s not reserved for specific people. Leadership is one of the most uniquely human, most powerful gifts given to us. It’s a choice we can all make and when we make it, truly amazing things can be achieved.”

There’s so much more I could write about this topic – I find it fascinating. And I will. But for now, McClintick writes a blog and hosts “Leadership Lowdown,” a radio segment on Michigan Business Network.  

Tune in and let me know what you think.

25
Mar
13

Overcoming your fear of “messing up”

It’s been several months now, but I was invited by Bryan L. Crenshaw, southeast zone adviser of the Michigan District of Key Club International, to present two breakout sessions on public speaking and confidence building at the organization’s 2012 Fall Rally in Wayland. As a former club president and district board member, I was eager to give back to this next generation of leaders and (fingers crossed) association professionals.

If you’re not familiar, Key Club International is the oldest and largest service program for high school students. It’s a completely student-led organization that teaches leadership through service to others. Members of the Kiwanis International family include Kiwanis (adults), Circle K (college students) and Key Club. Ultimately, Key Club members build themselves as they build their schools and communities.

Although I regularly speak to the association community, this younger audience was a new challenge for me. The process began, as it usually does, with an engaging content outline comprising key talking points. It included a brief welcome, a small group discussion, a self-reflection activity and a progressive story-telling activity in which participants practiced their public speaking prowess.

Of the various activities and discussions, I found the self-reflection to be the most enlightening. The students were given an index card and were asked to write down their confidential responses to the following scenario: “You’ve been asked to deliver a speech at your senior graduation. What’s going to keep you up at night in the days leading up to this public speaking engagement?”

Near the end of each session we spent approximately 10 minutes pulling these index cards at random and addressing the various questions and concerns that arose from the students. Since then, I’ve had an opportunity to more closely review and aggregate these responses. Of the nearly 200 answers, the one garnering the top spot – appearing 28 different times – was a fear of messing up.

Following are the six other top vote getters:

  • Writing and editing my speech – 16 responses
  • Forgetting what to say – 15 responses
  • Stuttering, slurring or mumbling – 14 responses
  • Content not good – 13 responses
  • Nerves – 12 responses
  • Saying the wrong thing – 11 responses

In the middle of the pack, between two and eight people said each of the following:

  • Won’t relate to everyone
  • Embarrassed
  • Trip/fall
  • Humiliated
  • Mispronounce a word
  • Appearance/attire
  • Topic
  • Not loud enough
  • Audience too large
  • Not breathing
  • Freezing up
  • Panicking
  • Throwing up
  • Fainting
  • Audio/visual equipment not working
  • Making a joke, but no one laughs

Finally, each of the following concerns garnered one mention each:

  • Changing people’s perspectives
  • Speaking with my hands
  • Going off topic
  • Not having eye contact
  • Face breaking out
  • Not getting a standing ovation
  • Won’t practice/be ready
  • Speaking in front of peers
  • Not delivering speech well
  • Hecklers
  • Physically shaking
  • Voice shaking
  • Talking too fast
  • Talking too quietly
  • Being booed
  • Ruining friendships
  • Going over/under time

So, my question to you is this: When it comes to your work (e.g., launching a new member product or service), do you have many of these same fears and concerns? How do you overcome them? In what ways do you and your organization create a culture that’s okay with “messing up”? What advice would you offer the next generation of leaders, college students and, ultimately, association professionals as they pursue their goals, dreams and interests?




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, hot yoga, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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