An Executive Director's point of view
October 22, 2013: Death of the open office
Well, that's not always a good idea.
In the 2013 Workplace Survey, conducted by architectural firm Gensler, more than half of all employees reported being disturbed by others when trying to focus. And that should be no surprise.
Open offices invite interruptions. They expose employees to unwanted noise, music, and other distractions. And they ignore the need for private conversations with other employees, or with therapists or gynecologists.
"Collaboration" can be achieved without forcing everybody to work in one big room. And "collaboration" is not always related to employee productivity.
So, do what you think is best and don't just follow the current fad.
August 08, 2012: Taking things personally
If they don't get what they want, they may be offended, feel hurt, sulk, or criticize those who didn't agree with them. It's not because they are egocentric or think everything must be done their way (although, that is sometimes the case).
It's because their volunteer efforts are very personal to them and they often react as they would if something was amiss in a personal relationship.
So, don't be afraid to disagree with them and don't feel obligated to support what they propose just to make them happy. But don't talk down to them, either. Don't label their ideas "amateurish" and don't simply dismiss their proposals.
Be nice to them and tell them how much you appreciate their support and their effort.
Then show them how their proposals fit or don't fit into the association's plan and find a way (if their involvement is beneficial to the organization) for them to be a part of something that does fit into the association's plan.
July 24, 2012: Transition tip
It's also important to leave files in a form in which they can easily be found. For example, don't place a marketing program file in a folder marked "Board" because it triggers your memory of the ideas that were raised during a Board meeting.
Your files are going to be used by somebody else from now on, so organize them in a way others are likely to think, not in the way you have thought.
May 24, 2012: The ideal desk
My computer and printer would sit on a stand behind my chair, so I'd just have to swivel around to use them. The computer would store most of my files and the printer would be able to copy small jobs and scan documents.
The tabletop would be wide enough to allow people to pull up chairs for short meetings. My paper files would sit in open cubbies along the wall. A landline would drop down from the ceiling. Everything would be instantly accessible.
Well, I found that I actually needed some drawers, for stuff I didn't want sitting on top of the desk and for documents that required security (like financial and personnel files). File cabinets proved to be more accessible than open cubbies. And telephone lines dangling from the ceiling would have been unsightly, bothersome when I stood up, and expensive to install.
So, I eventually opted for a desk with drawers, with a landline on a ledge abutting the desk (I reserved my cell phone for out of office use). The computer and printer were able to rest on a stand behind my chair. Everything was handy, even though I'd have to open drawers to get some of those things.
When designing your work space, wherever it is, make it as efficient as is practical. And you'll probably need more than just a laptop and a cell.
February 05, 2012: Chapter revolt
What would your association do if chapters ignored a national directive?
January 19, 2012: Who gets the money?
January 09, 2012: Cheap pizza
Board members didn't want a fancy, sit down meal. They just wanted something to fill their tummies after work so they wouldn't be thinking about food during evening meetings. Pizza was their favorite.
But when they reviewed financial statements and realized how much money was spent feeding them (It really wasn't that much, but it was still more than they thought necessary), they directed staff to cut expenses. They even said they'd eat cheap pizza.
So cheap pizza is what they got. The association saved money, but Board members no longer enjoyed dinner.
They soon decided that higher quality food would be OK, as long as it didn't cost too much, and the old culinary policy was restored.
Boards all have different styles and some do want the fancy, sit down meal. But when it comes to budget cutting, feeding the Board may not be the place to be stingy in any organization.
November 03, 2011: What's our role?
We are skilled and talented, and know how to blend member and staff resources to achieve organizational success.
But members (usually through their Boards of Directors) don't always want to let us do the work of meeting member needs.
They don't want to feel like they've turned their organizations over to outsiders - even if better results can be achieved.
So they try to do a lot of things themselves, and they don't always succeed.
But don't members have a right to bumble their way into failure? After all, associations belong to the members. Aren't we just "hired guns?"
Eric Lanke's thoughts about Race to Relevance made me wonder if we are really promoting our own interests in association life, rather than our members', and simply protecting our value and our professional opportunities.
We like to think the priority should be improving association effectiveness, but members may have other priorities. Or, do they simply define "effectiveness" differently than we do?
October 30, 2011: Throw it away...later
They keep printed documents and printed-off electronic files thought to be important enough to save but not important enough to file immediately.
They toss them into a "save" bin (a drawer, cabinet, or box - out of sight) and review them several months later. Most of the documents will no longer seem important enough to keep, so they'll just throw them away.
Perhaps the "save" file should have been labeled "save, temporarily."
September 26, 2011: Panic attack #2
So, the recently-hired secretary resigned and we had to replace her and also find a new "office."
By this time, I had been elected Board President, so I appointed a search committee to advertise the position and interview applicants. I also thought it was the perfect time to locate a real office, even if it was only desk space in someone else's shop.
But the Board panicked again. Directors were worried about not having an office IMMEDIATELY!
One Board member quickly offered space in the basement of an apartment building she managed. Since the site was zoned for residential use only, we could not hang a sign in front of the building nor identify our presence in any way. And we would have to enter the office through a rear alley gate.
I had intended to search for an office myself, arrange a tentative occupancy deal with another organization, and present it for Board approval. But this offer made that impossible.
So, I scheduled a Board meeting in the basement of the apartment building. I did not set up any chairs - everybody had to stand. They could see the laundry sinks, the building's washer and dryer, residents' storage sheds, and the drain at the center of a gently sloping, tile floor. The space was very clean, but it was...a basement.
I asked, "Is this where you want our organization's office?" They looked around, hesitated, then meekly answered, "Yes." The vote was unanimous, so we moved our meager belongings into our new basement office.
Soon after, we hired a new part-time staff person who worked from the new "office."
NOTE: When my term as President ended, I gladly turned over leadership to my successor and I did not remain on the Board.