An Executive Director's point of view


October 10, 2017: Tattoos

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
A lively discussion about tattoos in the workplace is happening on ASAE Collaborate right now.

Some participants have invoked association dress codes that either prohibit tattoos or limit their visibility to what are considered "appropriate." A few worry about how tattooed staff will affect the image of the organization.

Others, whether or not displaying such markings, feel acquisition of a tattoo is a matter of personal choice. Once exec commented, "Sheesh. It's 2017, people."

Tattoos are no longer tiny imprints hidden on someone's inner thigh. Many people sport large, multi-colored artwork in very visible places. And body piercings, which are sometimes borne by the same people who opt for tattoos, are hugely popular and show themselves on many exposed body parts.

The tattoo discussion reminds me of the issue decades ago when employers looked askance at younger people's hair styles and clothes. They insisted everybody adhere to an image that had been created years before (by their parents' generation).

People who don't approve tattoos or don't like them - chill out. Don't demand that everybody look the way you want them to look. The world has changed and a lot of people show off tattoos all the time. It's no big deal.

So, hire the best staff you can find. And don't be so concerned about how they decorate themselves.

July 21, 2017: Yes, it happens here

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt

October 31, 2016: When religion does not belong

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
When I was CEO of a running association, the official starter at one race happened to be a minister (he wasn't chosen for that reason, he was merely a member of the event committee).

He wasn't told there should be no ceremonies at the beginning of a running event. No speeches, no announcements, no charitable pitches, no prayers, no national anthem.

The official starter should simply say something like, "Good luck runners. See you at the finish line," and blow the air horn, shoot the starting gun, or do whatever marks the start of the race.

Well, this minister said a prayer, and that ticked off a lot of runners. And he mentioned Jesus, and that offended many more people. Participants, many of whom were not Christian, believed they had come to an athletic event, not a church service.

Quite a few complaints appeared on post-event evaluation forms. Some of them were very surprising.

They can best be summed up by one participant who wrote, "I am Christian. I believe in God and I believe in prayer. But not at races."

Associations should adhere to that policy. Invocations, benedictions, prayers, moments of silence, and saying grace do not belong at association events.

Religious observance and practice is a private, personal matter, and should remain that way. It should not be injected into association events, even if you think a majority of attendees won't mind.

Stick to the subject matter of the association. In most cases, that will not include religion.

November 21, 2015: The audience is changing

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
Here's an interesting article about the benefits of multi-cultural marketing.

June 10, 2015: Speaker diversity

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
An Associations Now article reminded me of a gender diversity problem I had to deal with when producing an all-day program for a small association.

We recruited six speakers - three men and three women. Diversity was very important, as the majority of the audience was female, and they weren't thrilled about listening to men all day long.

Well, all three female speakers canceled the week prior to the event but promised to send substitutes. They did - they all sent men.

I made a bigger deal than I would have about the lineup when we kicked off the meeting. I didn't want the audience to think that program planning had just been a "guy thing."

Diversity - whether based on gender, race, age, or anything else - is not just symbolic. It tells the audience who you are and who you care about.

So take diversity seriously.

May 27, 2015: For men, too

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
When women are offered high-level, time-consuming jobs (especially those that require relocation), they often think first about the impact that position will have on their family life, specifically on the lives of their children.

Men should think about that, too.

Family matters are the responsibilities of both mom and dad.

April 21, 2015: Executions

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
The Society of Correctional Physicians is one of many medical associations that call upon its members not to participate in executions.

It has nothing to do with the legality or morality of capital punishment.

Doctors simply believe their mission is to cure people, not kill them.

March 03, 2015: The only one in the room

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
Many associations strive for diversity of race, gender, age, religion, or sexual orientation on their Boards of Directors. But despite their best efforts, they don't always succeed.

Here are some reasons:

1. People don't always want to be the only one of their group in the room. Having one person of color, or one woman, or one young person, or one non-Christian, or one gay man or lesbian, does not create diversity. It creates tokenism and fails to provide the "diverse" member of the group with the same supporting community the majority enjoys. And that "diverse" member may often be outvoted.

2. People don't always feel comfortable in a group when they know their only reason for being there is their demographic difference from the others.

3. People don't want to be pigeon-holed and expected to explain what "those" people believe. They want to be treated like everybody else.

4. One person does not represent an entire population segment. One person cannot, and may not want to, speak for everybody of their race, gender, age, religion, or sexual preference. And their views are not always reflective of those groups.

Diversity should be something that happens naturally, not something that is forced. If everybody on an organization Board hails from the same cultural group, there may be a problem with the selection process. The association should fix that, not just shove different kinds of people into leadership and then claim to have achieved diversity.

Board diversity is not just about displaying a "diverse" demographic head count, either. It's about creating a decision-making process that routinely includes people with different backgrounds and different perspectives, allowing the association to make better, and more effective, decisions.

February 10, 2015: When women speak

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
Here's what often happens.

Thanks to Joan Eisenstodt for pointing to this.

November 13, 2014: Men who don't think

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
Here's an account of an episode in which a man donned apparel that was inappropriate for a professional gathering (or any gathering, really).
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