Race for Relevance

Image Credit: Canva

By Whitney Thweatt, account manager

As an association management professional, I find myself constantly wondering how to improve the association and member benefits. In an age of almost limitless free resources available online, associations are faced with the daily challenge to show value and relevance to both current and potential members. What are some strategies association professionals can take to address this challenge?

The book, Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations, by Harrison Coerver and Mary Byers, CAE, proposes five fundamental changes in the way we think about association governance and management:

  1. Overhaul the governance model and committee operations.
  2. Empower the CEO and leverage staff expertise.
  3. Precisely define your member market.
  4. Rationalize programs and services and focus on those that have the maximum effect.
  5. Build robust technology framework.

Not sure where to start? Here are five high impact ideas to implement in your association.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Association Relevant:

  1. Members and volunteers face a work/personal life dilemma. “I don’t have time” really means “I have better things to do with my time.” Volunteers expect a return on investment of time so make sure you are offering some short-time volunteer opportunities as well as ones that are worthwhile to the volunteer.
  2. The board should focus on potential and possibilities; staff on implementation. Ideally you should have a competency-based board made up of five or six people.
  3. Specialization is key. Associations should focus on their strengths instead of trying to be all things to all members. Members will narrow their memberships to those with highest return on investment.
  4. Concentrate on the products that deliver the most value. Unused services and unneeded programs have no value. Prune obsolete services and your message becomes simpler.
  5. Every association function can be enhanced or performed via technology. Not only can automating some tasks free up staff time for other important member projects, it may also increase involvement. Find out what technologies and services your members are already using and integrate current member resources into those systems.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Top Tech Tools for Associations

Image Credit: William Iven
Image Credit: William Iven

By Anna Morris, account associate

The Apple-invented adage “There’s an app for that” has never rung truer than in 2015 where there are apps, websites, and tools to assist any process or task imaginable. But sorting through all of the available “tech tools” out there can get just as overwhelming as managing your work day itself. To get you started, we polled our staff to pick their favorite tools that help in various areas of their day.

If you want to improve your organization, check out…

  • Basecamp – Working in association management often means you will have multiple clients with multiple upcoming events and multiple pressing deadlines. Multiply the multiples and you are left with a lot of to-do items to keep track of! Basecamp is a great project management tool that lets you create different “project buckets,” each with its own set of categories and to-do items with attached deadlines. Managers can create items and assign them to specific team members. Team members can comment on existing to-do items to ask questions or mark them as completed. You can even choose to view your outstanding action items for all projects at one—or just focus in on a specific section. This tool is a must-have for staying organized on a daily basis.
  • Google Calendar – Many other calendar tools and apps exist, but the tried-and-true Google Calendar platform is still one of our favorites. It allows you to make multiple calendars—each color-coded differently—and share each calendar with specified people. If you work with multiple clients, having one calendar for each client and adding the appropriate team members is a great way to keep people in the loop without cluttering their calendars with events that don’t apply to them. Add in the fact that Google Calendar seamlessly integrates with most smartphone calendars and you’re good to go. Think you’re a G-Cal pro? Check out these tips for more ways to maximize your calendar efficiency.

If you want to enhance team collaboration, use…

  • Dropbox – Dropbox became known as a tool to easily create shared folders and allow users to access large files from multiple computers. Recently, however, Dropbox changed the game by adding the Dropbox Badge that lets users edit Microsoft Office documents without leaving the Dropbox platform. This way, instead of having to download a file, edit it, and re-upload it, team members will always have access to the most recent version of a file and can see if someone on their team is currently editing it. This is a great resource for committee work projects.
  • Google Docs – Google has integrated their document-editing platform with Google Drive to let you store, share, and edit documents all from the same place. While these capabilities are similar to those of Dropbox, one of Google’s coolest features is Google Forms—with Forms you can quickly create easy-to-format surveys and have results automatically collected in a spreadsheet. This tool is great for quick surveys like collecting t-shirt sizes for conference attendees or collecting updated credentials for their name badges, where organizing the results is important but it would be too time consuming to set up a survey on a more extensive platform. If you are new to Google Docs, check out Google’s support page here for some handy overviews.

If you pull your hair out while scheduling meetings, try…

  • Meeting Wizard – Have you ever tried to schedule a board meeting with 20 people and tried to keep track of the best time in your head as multiple responses and conflicts come pouring in? Meeting Wizard eliminates the need for that mental strain by providing an interface for you to propose times, review responses, and then confirm the appointment with all attendees. Check out the Quick Start tool to take the stress out of planning your next meeting.

If all of your social media accounts are making you crazy, check out…

  • HootSuite – HootSuite lets you combine your social media profiles including Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ into one place. The free version allows for just 3 accounts, but the Pro subscription includes 50 social profiles for $9.99/month which should cover the needs of at least 10 association clients, meaning you could budget it in for just $1 per month per client. There are countless documented benefits to integrating social media into your marketing plan—here are 10—and employing a quality tool to help keep track of the various platforms is a great way to keep your head on straight.
  • TweetDeck – TweetDeck is similar to HootSuite but focuses just on Twitter, as the name implies. You can create columns for different handles, hashtags, or trending topics in order to stay on top of the approximately 500 million Tweets sent per day. This tool is especially useful on-site at a conference, where you can keep track of your event hashtag and respond to various threads of conversation in different columns.

If your daily work could use a design makeover, use…

  • Canva – Many design experts swear by Photoshop with its multitude of features and edit options, but it has a steep learning curve and the interface can be overwhelming for the casual user. Alternatively, Canva is a user-friendly tool that offers a platform to quickly design and export eye-catching graphics for things like social media posts or membership newsletters. It also hosts a Design School with tutorials to actually walk you through design fundamentals. If you’ve ever been super impressed by the branding of a conference or social media site, this is your chance to produce something equally impressive on your own. (Hint: The graphic for this post was made with Canva!)

If you want help keeping sight of the bigger picture, check out…

  • Grid Diary – Grid Diary is “the simplest way to get started with keeping a diary,” and overall is a user-friendly interface for keeping track of the little things throughout your day or week. With prompts for entering time with family, friends, and exercise in addition to work accomplishments, it’s a great way to remind us of the things we do outside of the work day to help make sure we are balancing our schedules appropriately. Unlike many of the other tech tools we have listed, Grid Diary is exclusively a smartphone app, so if you keep your phone nearby you will have easy access to keeping track of progress big or small throughout the day.

Those are our top tips for maximizing efficiency and productivity every day! What are you favorite tech tools we may have missed? Let us know in the comments below!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Simple Tips to Complete Your To-Do List

Image Credit: Canva
Image Credit: Canva

By Adrian Emerson, Association Accounting Specialist

Recently, I attended an interesting class presented by Emily Parks with Organize for Success, LLC, called, “Moving From To-Do to Done: Task & Project Management Tools.” The class was a combination of tips to get things done more efficiently and suggestions of software that can help. Did you know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different technology options to help with your to-do list? Of course, everyone has their personal preferences. Here is a brief overview of what I found to be the best tips to help get things done.

Decisions, Decisions.

With every task you must first decide what to do with it. Parks suggests four main options: Discard, Delegate, Delay, or Do. Making this decision should be done as soon as you get the task and update your task list as necessary as part of regular daily/weekly planning. Parks recommends the following four questions to help you determine what to do with a task:

  • Does this task move you or your company towards achieving goals? Or are you passionate about the task? If not, is its completion legally required?
  • Does the task require skills that you are exclusively qualified for or can others complete the task in an acceptable manner?
  • Could another person gain useful experience by completing the task?
  • Does this task really need to be done immediately?

To automate is to delegate.

Delegating does not always mean assigning the task to another person. You can also use technology to automate some tasks, like scheduling social media or blog posts and email filters to automatically move certain emails to different folders for later viewing or automatic filing. There are even some online services that use the simple format that if a certain action happens then you can have the service automate another action. For example, if you’re tagged in a photo on one website then you can have the same photo posted to another website.

Make it manageable.

Now that you are left with only the necessary items on your to-do list, here are some tips Parks gives to make the list easier to manage. First, break larger projects into smaller tasks and always give a task a due date even if it’s a month into the future. Next, group similar items together, like blocking off a section of time to make all of your phone calls for the day or clean up and respond to emails instead of going back and forth between tasks. She also proposes have a list of small action items that only take a few minutes, like making a phone call or reviewing an invoice, to be completed during small time blocks, like waiting in carpool or waiting for a meeting to start. Lastly, be realistic about what you can complete in a day. Parks says that on average you should only schedule to complete 3-5 tasks each day depending on your meeting schedule for the day.

Prioritize to stay focused.

Next you have to prioritize your task list, which for me is one of the more difficult things to do. Sometimes we are faced with emergencies and last minute requests, but Parks has strategies for those unexpected tasks, too. She advises two concepts for prioritizing tasks. The first is the Urgent & Important Matrix:

Image Source: Karthik Gurumurthy

It is suggested that Urgent and Important items be completed first, followed by Not Urgent but Important items, then Urgent but Not Important, and finally Not Urgent and Not Important items.

Another concept which can be applied in conjunction with the Urgent & Important Matrix is the Rock vs. Pebbles vs. Grains of Sand. The idea is that tasks that are Urgent and Important are Rocks, Urgent but Not Important and Not Urgent but Important tasks are Pebbles, and Not Urgent and Not Important tasks are Grains of Sand. Each day’s tasks should be a good mix of all three items. Think about it like this: A Rock can be something big and important like spending time with your family, then a Pebble can be something like finishing the laundry, which you would like to do today but ultimately can wait until tomorrow, and then Grains of Sand can be watching the newest episode of your favorite show.

Schedule for success.

Finally, you should plan your schedule of tasks weekly and revisit the schedule daily. Parks suggests that once a week you should create a schedule of 3-5 tasks for each day of the following week. Start with any tasks that were not completed this week and coordinate around meetings or other projects due in the coming week. Remember to plan out your Rocks, Pebbles, and Grains of Sand evenly. Parks goes on to recommend doing a daily wrap up at the end of each day. She suggests you take 10-15 minutes to review completed tasks and tasks that need to be rescheduled. Make sure you are prepared for the tasks scheduled for the next day, and request updates from team members as needed. She also advises tiding up your work space for fewer distractions the following morning.

Forward movement!

Finally, she says to celebrate the work that you were able to accomplish, even if you didn’t actually “finish” anything. Remember, they say starting a project is often harder than completing it.

For more tips about organization and information about Emily Parks, visit her company website: www.organizeforsuccess.biz.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

The Gift You’re (Probably) Rejecting

Image Credit: Sebastian Pichler
Image Credit: Sebastian Pichler

By Rachel Owen, communications manager

Nobody enjoys receiving criticism. Whether the “bad news” comes from a client, coworker or a friend, receiving negative feedback is not fun. We instinctively want to defend ourselves and reject the criticism. Unfortunately, that defensive posture often keeps us from gaining value from the experience.

Criticism is an often overlooked way to grow and learn.

One of the best ways that I have found to help learn from criticism is to consciously consider the feedback as a “gift.”

Why Feedback is a Gift

It’s an opportunity to improve.

Now that you know where the hot spots are you can make them better. When you receive feedback, always ask yourself “what can I learn from this?” You can tweak, reformat, regroup and make changes to come out better on the other side.

It shows us our blind spots.

Feedback, whether positive or negative, is an opportunity to see from an outsider’s perspective. If you do any sort of writing you know that typos hide from the writer’s eyes! Only a fresh set of eyes can help us weed out the mistakes. It takes an outsider to make us our best.

It shows a measure of trust.

Negative feedback is hard to receive, but it’s also difficult to give. When someone provides negative feedback it indicates they trust that your relationship is strong enough to handle a little friction. It also shows that they want you to succeed and they care enough to take the time to provide feedback.

It’s not all about you.

Criticism is just as much an insight into the critic as it is about you. Negative feedback is a snapshot of what makes them angry, what’s important to them, their pet peeves and their expectations. You can learn what makes that person “tick.” Listen well and you may be able to avoid future misunderstandings.

The next time you receive negative feedback, I hope you’ll think of it as a gift. Don’t forget to take one small moment to say “thank you.”

Related Posts:

5 Ways to Save a Bad Day

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Is Your Association Board Nimble?

Image Credit: Alex Jones
Image Credit: Alex Jones

By Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

The board for the Widgets of the World Association (WoWA) is having their monthly meeting. During the meeting the president announces that the National Thingamajig Association (NATA), a rival organization, has just released an online certification program. The program will provide NATA with additional revenue for years to come and may pull members from WoWA.

Let’s face it, in today’s fast paced world boards need to make well informed decisions quickly. The above example is fictitious, but the concerns are real. Deliberations that linger on meeting after meeting can be draining and leave your association rehashing the past, focusing on barriers to progress (like WoWA) while more nimble associations (like NATA) are focusing on the future, creating the next big thing. How do you get all your board members on the same page and help them make well informed decisions quickly and concisely?

Effective board members aren’t born, they are developed. Most volunteers don’t join a board knowing the skills needed to be effective, efficient board members. (In fact, a recent Stanford study showed that most nonprofit boards are largely ineffective.) Providing board members with effective tools, an understanding of expectations, and a common vocabulary is crucial to the success of any board. In addition, having difficult conversations about the barriers to success, before they arise, provides board members with a basic understanding and underlying foundation to become effective board members.

In 2014, I attended a session facilitated by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) Center for Leadership Development, at ASAE’s Conference in Nashville. The session presented by Bill Shepherd and Elaine La Chappelle outlined training materials developed by OREA to combat the problems stated above.

At just over two hours in length, the tutorials OREA developed – Nimble Decision Making – provide a basis for board training, a common vocabulary to work more effectively together, tools to communicate and help board members think more strategically, as well as a candid discussion of barriers that can derail a board. The video recorded sessions are divided into three tutorials, which provide flexibility of delivery, and include workbooks with activates, discussion topics, and template tools which keep members engaged.

  • Tutorial 1 – Emerging Trends and making timely decisions
  • Tutorial 2 – Barriers to nimble decision making and Inspiring behaviors
  • Tutorial 3 – Planning, communicating and monitoring decisions to evaluate results

The tutorials come with a facilitator’s guide, so the Executive Director and/or President can lead the sessions without bringing in an outside facilitator.

Through a donation to OREA, our organization received the materials and we implemented Nimble Decision Making last fall. I have found it to be well received and very successful. Since implantation our board meetings have become much more effective. Our board members understand what is expected of them and can now take ownership in meeting since they understand their roles. We have improved communication at meetings by instituting several of the tools provided in the tutorials, such as briefing notes, discussion guides and dashboard. Board members are more engaged and excited about their role in shaping the future of the organization and when the board needs to make a difficult decisions, such as whether to raise membership dues, we can have a candid conversation about the barriers that are holding us back, so we can move forward together as a united board.

We are now incorporating Nimble Decision Making into our new board member training and all board members will review the tutorials at a face-to-face meeting once a year to general discussion and keep their focus on the future of the organization.

For more information on Nimble Decision Making contact Elaine La Chappelle with the Ontario Real Estate Association Center for Leadership Development. Email: ElaineL@orea.com Phone: (416) 445-9910

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

20 Key Takeaways from the Book: “The Will to Govern Well”

Image Credit: Lou Levit
Image Credit: Lou Levit

Linda Owens, president

Book coverWhile studying for the CAE exam, I read the book, “The Will to Govern Well” by Glenn H. Tecker, Paul D. Meyer, Leigh Wintz, CAE and Bud Crouch. This book is intended as a handbook for developing strategies for change in governance, based on an extensive study of information collected from governance specialists. While analyzing the results of the study, three themes emerged as keys to developing the will to govern well: Knowledge, Trust and Nimbleness.

The authors begin by looking at why governance needs to change: to remain relevant and sustainable.

“Absent of a vision—a sense of direction and an understanding of where the industry and its members are going—an association exists in a constantly reactive mode. For a while it may retain its role as a viable information source for its members, but over time it will lose effectiveness as increasingly it learns about changes in the industry, profession, or cause at about the same time that members do.”

I’ve decided to summarize some of the key points I took away below, but recommend you buy the book yourself for the details:

Changing Governance Systems

“Board meetings should be a platform for dialogue and deliberation on issues of strategic importance, rather than an opportunity to review information already provided, redo work already completed by others, or set administrative and/or operational program policy without sufficient study of context, alternatives, consequences, or likely implementation realities.”

1.       Boards are wise to consider how much time they spend in Management, Operations and Activities as this will take time away from Policy and Strategy.

2.       Boards should ask themselves if their decision-making process elicits a continuous stream of information from members, prospective members, customers and stakeholders. They should strive to understand what is important to a broad community of stakeholders.

3.       Boards should evaluate their current governance system (including structure and process) to determine if it enables or hinders them from effectively changing priorities to ensure relevance to their members’ changing marketplaces.

4.       Boards should be able to define what constitutes value to their members. Instead of being power-driven, boards should strive to be value-driven.

5.       Boards who are moving from a constituency-based board to a competency-based board must remember that they still have to have a sufficient connection with their membership.

The Role of Knowledge in Governance

“Knowledge creating is the act of taking relatively random data from a broad spectrum and translating it into a meaningful, insightful context through study, investigation, observation, and experience.”

6.       Successful boards recognize the importance of collecting and using knowledge in their decision-making process. This helps the association establish itself as a knowledge leader which provides value to their members as well as the larger community.

7.       Successful associations must be committed to research. It should be budgeted as an ongoing functional line item.

8.       Successful boards constantly ask the following questions: Whom do we serve? What needs is the association best positioned to meet? How will the association meet those needs?

9.       Successful association staff members know where to find relevant information and know how to transform this knowledge into meaningful information to be shared with board members. Staff should be careful to give the right kind of information and to ask the right kinds of questions of the board—it should revolve around the execution of strategy and not operations.

10.       Successful boards are conscientious of time and therefore are less tolerant of information designed primarily to demonstrate how busy staff or committees have been.

11.       Successful boards are known to make their decisions and the rationale behind those decisions more accessible to their members.

12.       Successful governance is evolving from retreat-driven, product-oriented, traditional strategic planning to a process of ongoing strategic thinking.

The Role of Trust in Governance Systems

“Creating and sustaining a culture of trust becomes imperative for success as an association develops strategies for a more responsive and effective governance structure. Trust can be considered the alignment of what an association has promised with what it ultimately delivers to important stakeholder groups such as members, volunteer leaders, staff, legislators, and the general public.”

13.       Trust allows an association to eliminate needless controls which in turn increases nimbleness and responsiveness.

14.       Trust is strengthened as groups work together and create strategy.

15.       Trust is derived from openness and the communication of ideas. Therefore boards of highly competitive professions or industries are challenged to create a safe haven for those around the board table to dialogue freely about the issues that will mutually benefit the industry, profession, or cause the organization represents.

The Role of Nimbleness in Governance Systems

“Nimble organizations allow thoughtful groups, guided by strategic principles, to determine whether the work they propose to do in support of the organizations’ agreed-upon outcomes fits within the parameters of strategic direction and governance’s intent, without having to seek permission from management or governance before they act.”

16.       Nimble associations have strategic plans that are focused on delivering external value and benefit to members.

17.       Nimble associations have clear focus.

18.       Nimble associations should have a set of boundaries based on values, which then empowers association staff to make decisions at an operational level without direct board involvement.

19.       Nimble associations should have a process for analyzing their portfolio of programs and services and aligning them with its future strategy.

20.       Nimble associations have a commitment to leadership succession so they will be able to pass the baton to future leadership successfully.

That’s it… Check the book out!

Want some more quick tips? Check out 21 Tips for Better Board Meetings.

What type of books are you reading at the moment and are there any you recommend to those involved with governance? Tell us in the comments!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

21 Tips for Better Board Meetings

2015-3-10 21 Tips for Board Meetings
Image Credit: Timothy Muza

Linda Owens, President

One of the great things about working for an AMC (association management company) is the ability to draw from other association management professionals within the company. At IMI, we take advantage of this benefit by intentionally scheduling brainstorming meetings to share ideas across the different account teams.

The theme for one of our recent meetings was Board Meeting Tips, Questions and Concerns. I walked away with this list of 21 Board Meetings Tips:

Board Agendas & Packets

  1. Align the agenda with the strategic plan.
  2. Review the strategic plan and outstanding board deliverables at the beginning of meeting rather than the end.
  3. Include an ongoing and regularly updated Excel spreadsheet of deliverables (what needs to be done, who needs to do it and projected completion date) to be addressed at the end of each meeting.
  4. Combine all documents into an Adobe binder and then use the bookmarks on the side for easy navigation during the meeting. Note: some board members may prefer to have original Word, Excel, etc. documents instead so they can edit them throughout the board meeting.
  5. Consider adding supplemental documents to a central repository area such as Central Desktop instead of including them in the conference binder.
  6. Work with board members, staff, etc., to create issue papers and discussion guides before bringing an idea or recommendation to the board. An issue paper should provide background on the issue, a list of pros and cons to be considered along with a recommendation for the board’s consideration.

Minutes

  1. Create a cheat-sheet about when a motion is required and when it is not. This is especially helpful to share with new board members or can also be included in the board packet for easy reference throughout a meeting.
  2. Practice “documentation, not elaboration” when drafting minutes. Remember there are legal reasons for not including too much detail, so leave out the conversation and names.
  3. Use the line number feature in Word when drafting minutes for easier proofing and corrections.

Webinar vs. Teleconference Meetings

  1. Research the pros and cons of teleconferences vs. Webinars. More and more boards are moving away from teleconferences in favor of Webinar meetings as it allows everyone to view the agenda and any supporting documents.
  2. Consider recording the meeting and reviewing it later to take notes as it can be difficult to take notes and show the needed documents.

In-person Meetings

  1. Include a printed agenda packet and also project on the screen. This allows you to create an electronics-free zone so people aren’t distracted checking email, etc.
  2. Allot time at each in-person meeting for training/leadership exercises. Include video clips to highlight the “theme” of the exercise.
  3. Provide fidget toys to help meeting attendees relax, stay focused during long meetings, and think creatively.
  4. Encourage meeting attendees to turn their name tent on end to signal their desire to speak.
  5. Print the association’s mission statement on the back of name tent so it faces the board member.
  6. Include Roberts Rules cheat sheet at back of board binder which shows ways to move discussions along. Note: anyone on the board, not just the president, can help with this. Incorporate indicators such as holding up a red paper or other item to wrap up conversations when off topic.
  7. Use a time-keeper.
  8. Assign seats, strategically setting out board tents ahead of time, as needed.

Other

  1. Staff should excuse themselves from executive sessions whenever staff performance or the AMC’s contract is being discussed. Staff should plan to stay in all other executive sessions to take minutes unless asked by the board to leave. Note: it is generally a recognized practice within the association management industry for executive staff to stay in the meeting when the board moves to an executive session.
  2. Encourage a 48 hour discussion period during online voting to give participants from different parts of the world time to weigh in before a vote is taken.

Do you have any additional tips to add to the list? If so, please share in the comments below!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

5 Ways to Save a Bad Day

Image Credit: Ewa Stepkowska
Image Credit: Ewa Stepkowska

Rachel Owen, communications manager

It happens to all of us. Traffic from a terrible accident on the highway makes you late for an important meeting. You receive a harsh email out of the blue. A conference speaker cancels at the last minute and you’re left scrambling for a replacement. Or, if you’re like me, you release a project you spent weeks working on and then discover there’s a typo on the front page. Sometimes, if you’re really unlucky, it all happens on the same day.

What can you do to get back on track when your day is off the rails?

Take 5.

Take a break. Get a change of space for a change of perspective. Go breathe some fresh air. Grab a cup of coffee. Do what works best for you to untangle your brain from the issues in front of you for 5-10 minutes.

Get it off your chest.

If you enjoy journaling, write down your concerns on paper. If you’re a talker, find a private place, like your car, to call up a friend and spill some feelings. Text a friend. Whatever you do, be discreet. You don’t want a misunderstanding in the office to make a bad day even worse.

Work on the things you can control. Let the rest go.

Mistakes are frustrating but they can be really great opportunities to find the weaknesses in your system. Don’t be afraid to examine where the problems originated from and work out a way to avoid them in the future. It’s only a true “failure” if you don’t learn anything from it. But, don’t kick yourself over something that’s out of your control.

Remember the wins.

Be careful not to let frustrations overshadow the things that are going right today. Take a couple minutes to recognize your accomplishments and wins for the day. I have a “Thanks and Kudos” file where I save kind notes from clients and coworkers. When I’m feeling discouraged, I look back at those notes and see that there have been many, many high points in my journey. It’s a good feeling.

Make a recovery plan.

Missed a meeting or a deadline? Call the person to apologize and reschedule. Too many projects vying for your attention? Make a list of your tasks, prioritize them, and handle the most important tasks first. You may not be able to accomplish everything you hoped to do, but with a little strategizing you can make the best of the rest of your day.

How do you get back on track? Please share your tips in the comments below!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Tips for Working from Home

2015-2-3 Tips for Working from Home
Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura

Whitney Bertram, Operations Manager

More and more companies are offering employees the ability to work remotely, whether it is full-time, a few days a week, or just as needed. The technology available, such as call forwarding and remote access software, allows this process to be fairly seamless.

Anyone who works from home will probably agree that it has its benefits as well as its drawbacks. As a full-time remote employee, I have found the following tips to be helpful:

  • Set regular office hours. Maintain defined work hours and don’t accept phone calls or respond to emails outside of those hours. Set boundaries between work and personal life. Don’t allow work to consume your life.
  • Designate a workspace. Dedicate an area for working so that you feel as if you are “at work” when you enter that space.
  • Utilize a project management system to track status of tasks. I use Basecamp which allows each person on my client team to update the progress they’ve made on various tasks. This ensures nothing falls between the cracks.
  • Get up and move. Take breaks. Go for a walk. Play fetch with the dog. Schedule breaks to maintain your sanity and improve focus when you are working.
  • Schedule routine meetings with your team. I meet with my team every Monday morning. Working from home doesn’t allow me the convenience of stopping by someone’s office to touch base. Establishing set check-in times helps to keep the lines of communication open.
  • Talk to people. Pick up the phone to touch base with a co-worker. Meet a friend for lunch. Work for an afternoon at a coffee shop.
  • Stock your home office. Keep tools that will help you get your job done. Make sure you have pens, paper, ink and anything else needed. I have an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier that allows me to be more efficient. I don’t have to head to FedEx every time I need to return a signed contract.

Lastly, the common work from home tip I’ve ignored:

  • Get dressed. I have found I can work just as effectively and efficiently in yoga pants as I can in a skirt and heels. Find what works for you and supports your needs.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Professional Development: For Associations and AMCs (part 2)

Image Credit: S. Charles
Image Credit: S. Charles

Jadine Sturgill, administrative manager

This is the second in a 2-part series on professional development based on a recent Association Chat (#assnchat). Click here to read part 1.

Read below for more helpful thoughts about professional development from the IMI staff.

Q6. What are some good examples of professional development that you’ve seen associations provide?

  • Many organizations offer professional development via seminars, workshops, publications, and break-out sessions at conferences, online courses, case studies, white papers, journals, and information on their website shared only with members. They also keep members up to date on industry trends and how to deal with them.
  • There are numerous avenues of professional development offered to the members: free monthly educational webinars, educational tracks at the two annual conferences, an onsite Webinar Library, and individual certifications. The committees are dedicated to providing best practices resources and white papers. The website is continually being updated with member advisories, legislative alerts and headlines that affect the members’ industry. The weekly newsletter and bi-monthly magazine provide continual information from industry experts both nationally and globally located. Surveys are created and distributed to get member feedback for further development and improvement of best practices. A strategic planning meeting with the board of directors and executive director occurs annually to evaluate the progress and to set goals for the association for the following year.
  • Webinars are very effective – they can be provided at a low cost and members can participate from their offices.

Q7. How are you investing in your own professional development this year?

  • I try to attend at least one free, online webinar a month on a topic of interest to me; such as Tracking Social Media Success, or Five Things Your Members Want from Their Association Website. I like to read articles on what is trending and books. I was fortunate to attend the ASAE conference this year and I like to hear what my colleges are learning and share with them so we can all benefit.
  • I make every effort to attend ASAE’s Annual Meeting & Exposition and AMCI’s AMCs Engaged meeting. In addition to these two meetings, I am also an avid reader and subscribe to quite a few ListServs and I’m a social media junkie who follows hundreds of folks within the association management industry.
  • I set aside a small block of time each week and a larger block of time each month specifically for professional development. It’s an appointment I make to better myself – and therefore bring my best to my associations.
  • Being a member of AENC provides me with educational webinars and articles on a weekly basis. I am also committed to reading a number of industry-related books and considering taking some courses this year that will improve some of my computer skills and organization abilities.
  • I plan to continue attending events and webinars that help me make progress toward my goal of earning my CAE.


We hope you enjoyed IMI’s in-house #assnchat. If you haven’t tried #assnchat on Twitter, give it a try! You may find answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.