An Executive Director's point of view


July 23, 2014: The sky is not the limit

Posted by: David M Patt
Growth for most associations and businesses is limited. The pool of potential members and customers may become exhausted. New audiences may need to be found or new products created for existing audiences.

But growth is not unlimited.

At some point, income or participation may plateau. And that is not always a sign of poor performance. It may merely be a sign of market saturation.

Posted by: David M Patt
Make sure you are prepared to work with a new Board or Committee Chair.

Before the end of the incumbent's term, meet with the next Chair (or with the person you think is likely to become the next Chair) to find out what that person wants to achieve in office and to figure out how the two of you can best work together.

You may have already developed a good working relationship, but that was in a different situation. As Chair, that person may think and act differently - and that may require you to think and act differently, as well.

So, get ahead of the curve and be ready. Determine how you can ensure that the Board or Committee - and the organization - can benefit from the service of the new leader.

February 04, 2014: Paper jam

Posted by: David M Patt
If the office copier becomes jammed when you try to use it, don't just walk away and leave the problem for somebody else to deal with.

Tell the person who is in charge of the copier, so you - and your co-workers - will be able to use it.

Act responsibly.

October 22, 2013: Death of the open office

Posted by: David M Patt
Lots of companies and associations have created "open offices" in recent years, tearing down walls and creating open space to increase "collaboration" and improve employee productivity.

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

Posted by: David M Patt
Remember that volunteers - including Board members - often take things personally. They don't always act professionally (after all, this is our profession, not theirs) when volunteering, talking, discussing, debating, or voting. They don't always understand that business is not personal.

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

Posted by: David M Patt
We've already talked about how an outgoing executive should leave a transition plan for a successor.

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

Posted by: David M Patt
I once thought my ideal desk would have no drawers, just a tabletop to work on.

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

Posted by: David M Patt
The controversial, now-reversed decision of the Susan B. Komen Foundation to stop funding cancer screenings for women at Planned Parenthood resulted in several of its affiliates refusing to comply with the original ban.

What would your association do if chapters ignored a national directive?

January 19, 2012: Who gets the money?

Posted by: David M Patt
Thanks to Cindy Butts for reminding us to update our insurance beneficiaries.

January 09, 2012: Cheap pizza

Posted by: David M Patt
The Board of Directors of a local association enjoyed the box lunches, pizza, and occasional pasta primavera that was catered for dinnertime meetings.

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.
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