An Executive Director's point of view


May 22, 2017: Act THIS way

Category: Decision-making
Posted by: David M Patt
Board members tend to perform their duties in the same ways they perform their jobs.

Corporate CEOs are very comfortable making major decisions and then letting others implement them. They keep their eyes on the big picture and let subordinates handle the details. They also feel free to shift direction whenever they feel that is called for.

Small business owners make those same kinds of decisions with ease, but then also carry them out. They don't like to delegate anything. They are accustomed to doing things themselves and not consulting with anybody about their actions.

People who generally follow others' orders are not always familiar with executive decision-making.

They are the detail people in their organizations and when they have to make major decisions, they often do it collectively, so they can share responsibility and gain strength from the support of colleagues. And they are loathe to stray from the original directive.

Folks who are not currently working may adopt the styles of past employers or simply adhere to the social etiquette of the current group.

Those who have served on Boards of large organizations, may be accustomed to large expenditures and staff leadership.

When their experience is in small, all-volunteer groups, they may assume financial resources will be scarce, Board members and other volunteers will do all the work (there is no staff), and everybody will be involved in even the tiniest decisions.

Sometimes, Boards will consist of members with a mix of working habits, and might grapple with the differences while debating or discussing organizational matters.

Whatever is the case in your association, it is very likely you will have to adapt to styles that are in conflict with yours and, perhaps, which you don't think are really appropriate for the group.

To succeed, you'll need to learn how your Board members think, and create painless ways for them to shift a little bit and do some things differently than they might have done without your nudging.

But reconciling the gap between how they act and how you think they should act is going to pose a significant challenge and one that will never be completely met.

So, be patient, and figure out how to make the best of a less-than-perfect situation.

April 05, 2015: Exercise good judgment

Category: Decision-making
Posted by: David M Patt
There is no pre-ordained solution for every problem, so don't waste your time searching for one.

Read this.

July 29, 2014: Gut instinct

Category: Decision-making
Posted by: David M Patt
Following "gut instinct" is not uncalculating decision-making. It's guided by the experience of the decision-maker and may result in wise choices.

June 04, 2014: Too much data

Category: Decision-making
Posted by: David M Patt
Some association professionals believe that it's best to make data-driven decisions. Deciding what to do based on the results of others is often seen as logical and more likely to lead to success.

But that's not always best.

Sometimes, decisions should be made because they are consistent with the values of those making decisions.

There may not be any data to influence some decision-making, the data may be based on unacceptable assumptions, or the data just may not be that applicable to a particular situation.

So, do what you think is best and what you think is likely to achieve the results that you want.

How you treat employees and contractors, how you interact with volunteers, how you negotiate sponsorship and vendor agreements, and how you conduct other association business should be based on what you think is best for your situation, not on what others report was best for theirs.

November 26, 2013: Speak up!

Category: Decision-making
Posted by: David M Patt
Don't be afraid to speak your mind - even if everybody disagrees with you. And even if "everybody" is the Board of Directors.

At one association (where I served as CEO), a vendor was suggested to fill a Board vacancy. Everybody on the Board - yes everybody - thought that was a great idea. The vote would have been unanimous.

I reminded them that the vendor had an economic interest in the work of our organization and would use the position to benefit his business. I asked them what they would say to the vendor's twenty-six competitors when they sought Board positions, too.

Nobody had thought of that. The suggestion was rescinded and no vote was taken. I prevented the Board from making a bad decision.

So speak up when you disagree. Otherwise, you may allow a bad decision to be made.

June 25, 2013: Question authority

Category: Decision-making
Posted by: David M Patt
Staff are often reluctant to question superiors. They think they must do what they are told.

But what if they are told to implement a bad decision?

An Executive Director should not want staff wasting resources on something that is not going to work.

So, if you are a staff person and you disagree with the directives of your boss, say so, and offer a better suggestion.

And if you are an Executive Director, welcome - and even encourage - disagreement. It may result in better service and a better product.

June 11, 2013: Discussion techniques

Category: Decision-making
Posted by: David M Patt
When engaging in group discussions, keep the following in mind:

1. In brainstorming sessions all ideas are NOT equal and all ideas are not worth considering. So don't be afraid to prune the list of ideas.

2. In collaborative decision-making settings, people often compromise too soon. Don't let good ideas get dropped just to avoid conflict.

3. When breakout groups are used in large meetings, minority opinions tend to be squelched early on, and never heard by the larger group. Unless you are striving for majority opinion, rather than quality opinion, don't let that happen.

May 29, 2013: Disagreement (gasp!)

Category: Decision-making
Posted by: David M Patt
Association professionals often don't like disagreement.

That may be because their groups generally consist of like-minded people. They tend to share opinions about the major issues facing the organizations.

Their differences are often limited to tactics, procedures, or logistics. But folks are usually in agreement about big picture matters. So, unanimity is considered the norm.

Organizations that deal with a broad range of issues, however, may experience very different dynamics. Policy positions may be fiercely debated and members may be found on different sides of hot-button issues.

Disagreement in those groups is the norm.

So don't cringe when somebody disagrees with the majority. Don't label dissenting Board members "renegades," and don't strive to make every vote unanimous.

Disagreement is normal. And it's OK.

December 15, 2012: Being different can pay off

Category: Decision-making
Posted by: David M Patt
See what this business did.

(Or was this just an excuse to take a day off?)

December 05, 2012: Information overload

Category: Decision-making
Posted by: David M Patt
Some association executives (not just the one linked here) tout curation as a means of reducing the negative effects of information overload.

They feel that association members often face too many choices, and the association can play a helpful role in narrowing those choices so members can make better selections.

Sometimes that is true. But not always.

When people are very knowledgeable about a product or strategy, they may prefer a lot of choices. They understand the information required to make choices and can make those choices themselves.

But when people have little or no knowledge about something, they may be less likely to make wise choices. In fact, they may even avoid choosing at all, because they don't know how to select from the many choices available to them.

That's when association curation is most valuable.

So, know when people want lots of choices and when they don't. Don't just curate everything all of the time.
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