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Board Governance

"Be a Strong, Visionary Leader in Tough Economic Times . . .
and Use the Lessons Learned from Today to Position Yourself for Tomorrow"

By G.A. Taylor Fernley, President & CEO

Yes, things are a bit unsettling in both our business and association lives. What should leaders do to combat this relentless stream of down economic news? One option might be to crawl under a rock and hope it goes away. Another (and far more preferable) option is to use those lessons learned from this period to refocus and position yourself for prosperous times ahead. The advice being offered here can be used effectively in an Association Management Company (AMC) environment, such as Fernley & Fernley, as well as by those associations or professional societies that operate with a paid staff or standalone environment. In fact, members of the Board of Directors (volunteer leaders) can take advantage of the tips offered below to improve overall operations from their perspective as well.

Here are five "best in class" ideas to help you in this journey; to include:

  1. Communicate – Communicate – Communicate

    Be totally transparent with your associates/members. They are bright people. Do not underestimate their knowledge of what is going on around them. Use staff/board meetings, newsletters, blogs, and 1-2-1's to keep them posted. Finding a way to communicate with and understand multiple viewpoints in tough times is far more important than doing so in good times.

  2. Solicit Feedback

    Reach out at every turn to get input from a variety of sources, internal and external. Create focus groups to identify potential problems and develop creative steps to make improvements to ensure that customers/members are being served well.

  3. Keep Things in Perspective

    Many younger associates/members have never been through a recession before, much less one of this magnitude. Your business or association has weathered bad economic times in the past and came out stronger for it. That's a key fact that needs to be conveyed over and over again. Don't sugar coat the situation; talk from the heart and reinforce the fact that "this too shall pass." And it will.

  4. Engage Associates/Members in Seeking Creative Opportunities

    Our associates/members are a wealth of information . . . if only asked. We in management or leadership roles are not the keepers of all the knowledge. Reach out and ask for input for areas to improve and you will come away with not only ideas, but creative solutions. Try it . . . you might like it.

  5. Be Resolutely Optimistic

    Like it or not, you as a leader (volunteer or paid) are a role model. Show me a negative leader and I will show you a business or association that is heading south fast. If you cannot be optimistic, stay at home. When you walk through those doors, remember that you are the one who sets the tone for the organization.

Coping in a difficult economic cycle comes down to leadership, pure and simple. What your associates/members want from you is a sign that, while things may be difficult now, they will get better. Put another way, we are just in the midst of a brief economic blip on the radar screen. With proper management and discipline, we can look forward to putting this period behind us and prepare ourselves for new opportunities on the horizon. And, more importantly, use those lessons learned today from this temporary “blip” to position yourself and your organization (business, association, or professional society) for an even brighter tomorrow.