Creating Strong Leadership Teams

2015-2-10 Creating Strong Leadership Teams
Image Credit: Joshua Earle

Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

Tom Rath’s book Strengths Based Leadership builds on the basic principles discussed in the well-known book StrengthsFinder. Gallup has studied the strengths of well knowns leaders from around the world for over 30 years. Their research – condensed into this book – discusses what strengths the most successful leaders have and what great teams (their followers) need and expect from exceptional leaders.

Many of us have read books about leadership and the five, seven or 10 characteristics of successful leaders. However, Rath points out that the fastest way to fail at leadership is to lead by imitation. In Gallup’s studies there is only one characteristic that all strong leaders share; successful leaders know their strengths and limitations. They use their strength like “a carpenter uses his tools.” A leader cannot be all things to all people. However, by knowing their strengths and limitations strong leaders are able to focus on what they do well and surround themselves with individuals strong in the areas where they are weak, creating a strong supportive team.

Building strong teams takes time and energy. Getting individuals with diverse, yet complementary strengths on a team is a good start. But that is not enough to make a team successful. Leaders must continually invest in each person’s strengths and build better relationships among the group. What are the signs of a strong teams? Gallup’s research shows that strong, successful teams share the following characteristics:

Focus on results – Instead of becoming more isolated during difficulty times strong teams come together. They gain strength from cohesion. They can argue, but in the end they know they are all working towards the same goal.

Prioritize what’s best for the organization – They consistently put what is best for the organization ahead of their egos. Once a decision is made the team rallies to help one another be successful.

Commitment to personal and work life – They bring the same level of energy to their family and social lives as they do to their companies. They feel their lives are balanced.

Embrace diversity –   A team that embraces diversity of age, gender, race, and strengths brings balance to the whole. Teams that are engaged view individuals through the lens of their strengths, thereby eliminating superficial barriers.

Magnets for talent – Everyone wants to be on a strong team. Your star players see that they can make an impact and demonstrate their strengths.

Effective leaders bring together a broad group of people to carry out an organization’s goals. In order to understand why leaders are successful it is not only important to understand what a strong team looks like, but why people follow that leader. From 2005-2008 Gallup polled 10,000 followers (average people). They determined that there are four things that followers look for in a good leader:

Trust – Once a trusting relationship is established people can complete projects in the fraction of the time and become a high performing team.

Compassion – Leaders that care about their team project a more positive energy. People want to follow leaders that exude a positive bias.

Stability – Transparency is the best way to quickly create a feeling of stability in a group.

Hope – Followers want hope for the future and guidance on how to get there. Knowing that things can and will be better in the future is an excellent motivator.

Knowing the characteristics of strong teams and understanding what teams look for in successful leaders provides us with the tools for better leadership and building more successful teams. Whether the team you work with is association or AMC staff, a volunteer board or committee members, knowing what makes a strong team and what they are looking for in a leader is the first step to creating strong leadership teams.

For more information on StrengthsFinder and strengths-based leadership check out this post.

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

Professional Development: For Associations and AMCs (part 1)

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

Jadine Sturgill, administrative manager

This is part one of a 2-part series on professional development based on a recent Association Chat (#assnchat).
At IMI we continue to advance our skill through professional development opportunities to be able to better serve our clients. When KiKi L’Italien hosted an Association Chat (#assnchat) on Twitter on September 23, 2014, about professional development, it was a natural progression for the IMI staff to discuss these questions together.

Q1. How important is professional development to your members and do they see it as part of your association’s role to provide it?

  • Professional development is key to our members; it is important that they stay up to date with the latest developments in their field. They do look to our associations to provide professional development more and more.
  • Review the results of any survey asking why people join associations and typically you will find “education and professional development” among one of the top four answers, so I would say it is extremely important to our members and they do expect the association to provide outlets for continuing their education. Also, a lot of our members work in a profession which requires continued testing and education to maintain their license and/or credentials. The opportunity to earn those credits and learn through a professional organization is one of the most important reasons to join an association.
  • Our members see professional development as an important part of staying relevant in our quickly changing world – and they look to the association as a great resource for that education.
  • The association is highly committed in providing programs aimed at empowering members to better serve their clients as well as teaching excellence within its industry; this is part of their mission statement.
  • The association offers many professional development opportunities to members, including individual certifications, company accreditations and monthly webinars. Many members take advantage of the offerings.

Q4. What are your own expectations on professional development? What are you looking for?

  • Professional development is key to staying current and up to speed in a world that moves so quickly. I personally like to learn about processes and programs that will assist with strategic and operations of the organization and personal leadership topics.
  • I look for professional development opportunities which have a return on investment; opportunities which help me to be competent in my profession, which help me to stay relevant and up to date and more effective. The pace of change is probably faster than it’s ever been – and if you stand still you will get left behind.
  • When I look for professional development resources, I look from a variety of angles. Can I add a new skill set? Can I go to the next level in a skill I already have? What is the information I need to make sure I am at my best for my associations?
  • My belief is that one should never stop learning. I am always on the lookout for ways to improve my own abilities and knowledge in regard to my position here at IMI, including, webinars, books, courses and articles offered by AENC or similar organizations that directly affect my job responsibilities. I also enjoy learning from my colleagues here at IMI; we enjoy sharing information.
  • I attend professional development conferences and webinars throughout the year to expand on my knowledge base. I always enjoy learning about the latest topics.

 “At IMI we provide an education budget and encourage each staff person to pursue professional development opportunities because we recognize it is good for employee retention and staff morale, it improves efficiency and productivity, re-energizes staff and overall helps us to remain relevant as an association management company. In general, we see professional development as an investment, not an expense.”                  

-Linda Owens, president of IMI


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

Incorporating Content Marketing on Your Association Website

Image Credit: Steven Lewis
Image Credit: Steven Lewis

By Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

Based on 4 Trends Reinventing Association Websites presented by Ray van Hilts, Director, Client Strategy and Marketing, Vanguard Technology

As content marketing becomes more and more popular, associations are uniquely posed to promote the extensive amount of content they have created over the years. Content marketing encompasses the sharing of content to drive profitability and improve brand loyalty, while attracting and engaging members and potential members.

There are two basic types of content an association can market: formal and informal.

Informal – Social Media, Micro Videos, Blog Posts

Formal – Fact Sheets, News Articles, Features, Emails, Webinars, White Papers, Evergreen Content

Associations tend to have a lot of formal content. One way to jump-start the content marketing process and leverage formal content quickly is to perform a content audit. Determine what content the organization has and where it is located. Then determine the best place for that content to live. If the organization is planning to share most of the content with members and non-members, creating a library connected to the association website can become a convenient way to archive, tag and potentially repurpose content.

During the content audit consider what content is relevant today. Evergreen content may be the basis for a best practices library or web page on your site. Fact sheets or checklists may assist a particular category of member with their processes and be featured on a blog, or given new life in an article. There are many ways an organization can repurpose content; videos, educational opportunities, newsletters and articles are just a few options.

Now that you know what formal content you have, what is relevant, and how to repurpose it, think about the best audience for marketing that content. Determine the best way to share specific content and who you want to share it with. Is this content for members only, or will it help the organization’s profile to share it with the public? Should members pay extra to access the content (such as an educational webinar), or is it included with their membership fee. Asking these questions will help you determine where the content should live and how valuable it is to the organization, members and the public. In order to have a successful content marketing campaign it is important to think about content as having value and being marketable. Keep the following Content Marketer’s Manifesto tips in mind:

#1 I am a Marketer. If you are creating content, you are engaged in marketing.

#2 I hold the hottest tool for retention – Content. Relevant content is the best way to create value for members.

#3 My content is aligned with the organization’s goals. I create content that achieves my organization’s goals.

#4 I am in the influencing behavior game. My purpose is to provide value through content to influence and drive behavior.

#5 I have an ongoing dialogue. Content topics are driven by ongoing discussion and listening to member’s needs.

By shifting your thinking and seeing content as a marketing tool to reach potential members and engage longtime members, the organization can begin to develop a structure and process for sharing content across many different platforms.

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

What’s Your Word for 2015?

2015-1-6 Whats Your Word
Image Credit: Bec Brown

Allison Winter, Administrative Manager

Each year, when new calendars are being unwrapped, we all tend to take the opportunity that a fresh start provides to create new goals for ourselves. However, no matter how hard we try to cut down on our carbs, we usually end up eating a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts in one sitting by mid-February.

In early January, we pick a handful of resolutions that will help us to a healthier lifestyle or to progress in our careers or to become better at organizing, etc. And though we all have good intentions behind our goal setting, they never seem to stick. Isn’t it frustrating? Why is that?

According to business owner and author Lara Casey, we generally end up ditching our goals because they are only surface level goals. Why would anyone resist drinking a delicious Diet Coke instead of their “New Year’s resolution” glass of water just because they have to? I don’t know about you, but my will-power isn’t strong enough to make me do something just because I have to do it.

So, how do we make a resolution “stick”? Casey believes we all need a deeper reason for setting the goals we wish to achieve. She suggests finding a single word that defines your vision for the year. While picking just one word for 365 days’ worth of goals sounds difficult, Casey provides several questions to help us get started. By answering the questions below, we are able to see a trend in our answers and pick a word that describes the general theme.

  • What kind of life do you want to live this year?
  • Where do you want to be when you’re 80?
  • WHY do you do what you do?
  • What is your mission?
  • What is your CORE?
  • If you could envision your best year yet, what does that look like?
  • 2015 is the year I (fill in your blank): _______

Last year was the first time I had heard of this trick. While I was a little skeptical at first, I found that returning to my word of the year was incredibly helpful. I was no longer setting goals I felt like I ought to set, but I created resolutions for myself that truly meant something to me. Each time I felt like I was veering off-track, my word of the year would remind me of the bigger picture.

This method works well for finding focused goals for associations, too. Try answering these questions based on your vision for your association, or pass them out to your association board! Taking a few moments out of your busy schedule to find a vision for the upcoming year will help keep your association on track for the months to come.

If you’d like to read a little more about casting a vision for the new year, I’d suggest reading Lara Casey’s post on the topic. Also, she just started her 2015 Goal Setting series. If you’d like a little inspiration, or would like a deeper look into the goal setting process, then this series is a great place to start.

Happy New Year!


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


IMI: All About Animals

Image Credit: André Spieker
Image Credit: André Spieker

By Adrian Emerson, Association Accounting Specialist and 2014 Chair of the IMI Association Executives Fun Committee


In a previous post, I discussed how IMI wanted to start a new charity program and the process I followed to develop a program for our team. Here’s an update on the second and third quarter collections.

For our second quarter project, we collected donations for someone in our office who was experiencing hardship. We purchased a large basket and filled it with all kinds of goodies, like gift cards and other items this person needed. She was thrilled with the outpouring and we were all happy to do it. These kinds of collections can be tough to coordinate but are just as important as the bigger charity programs already out there. We at IMI are proud to say that we will help our employees and their families when we can.

During our third quarter we chose to collect donations for the SPCA of Wake County. The SPCA of Wake County, located in Raleigh, N.C., was founded in 1967, and has rehomed thousands of animals during that time. Their mission statement is: “To protect, shelter, and promote the adoption of homeless animals; to provide education about responsible pet ownership and to reduce pet overpopulation through spay/neuter programs.” The organization operates solely on donations, and does not receive government funding. For more information, visit the SPCA of Wake County website. For this charity effort, I built a custom website at a third-party website called allows you to set up a website to collect donations for a small fee. They are connected with thousands of charities and can even help to set up a new fundraiser. We collected donations in August and September for a total of $225.

Now, I am gearing up for our fourth quarter charity project, which will be to collect donations for Backpack Buddies, a program coordinated by the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, located in Raleigh. This collection will be our final community service project for the year.

In 2014, IMI collected donations for the American Heart Association for Women, a co-worker, the SPCA of Wake County, and Backpack Buddies of Raleigh. I am proud of what our group was able to accomplish. We plan to do something similar next year with different charities. I urge you to set up a collection in your office, even if it is just placing a tip jar in an office common room or organizing a group to participate in a marathon. Every little bit helps, and brings happiness to those in need.


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

Create a Culture of Givers

Image Credit: Ilham Rahmansyah
Image Credit: Ilham Rahmansyah

By Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

These ideas are inspired by the General Session “Give and Take” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 10, 2014, presented by Adam Grant.

Adam Grant, author of “Give and Take,” says there are three kinds of people in the world: Takers, givers, and matchers. Takers try to get as much as possible from others. Givers go out of their way to support and help others with no strings attached. Matchers expect back what they give others.

A “giving” culture is a great atmosphere to cultivate in your organization. Here are some ideas on how you can promote “giving” in your office.

  • Fast action! Find quick and easy 5-minute acts of giving. Look for opportunities that bring high value, such as praise and recognizing givers, with a low investment of your time. This maximizes your giving without sapping your energy or hurting your own productivity.
  • Lead by example. Remember to ask for help so others have an opportunity to give.
  • Reward the givers. Change the reward systems to also recognize those that contribute to others’ successes rather than only those that strive to succeed on their own or possibly step over others to achieve success.
  • Start a Reciprocity Ring. Get a group together and instruct everyone has to ask for help with one project or task they are working on.
  • Remind team members that it’s a good thing to ask for help. Odds are, most people are willing to help if they are asked to assist.

Now that we’re in the mindset of helping each other, who should you ask for help?

  • If you have a “normal” project, stay close. Check with close contacts first because you know the same people and do similar things. Close contacts often can easily integrate into your project with little or no preparation.
  • If you’re doing something new, think outside of the box! Distance contacts have more of an effect when you reach out for something new because they know different people and do different things. Who is outside of your normal circle that could help?
  • Get the best of both worlds by reconnecting. Activate dormant ties, colleagues or friends that you haven’t connected with for a while. This will achieve “close” contacts you once knew and have something in common with, but who now know different people and do different things.


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

Make Your RFP Work for You

Image Credit: Lucas Theis
Image Credit: Lucas Theis

By Lee Campbell, Executive Director & Director of Conference

These ideas are inspired by the session “RFP Reconstructed” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 11, 2014, presented by Rachel Benedick, Mary Kreins, Christine “Shimo” Shimasaki.

If you are an event planner you know the Request for Proposal (RFP) is one of the most important documents in your arsenal and its contents can make or break your event.

Here are a few tips on making sure your RFP is as ready as you are.

Make Sure the RFP is Complete

Hotels need complete information about an organization’s conference program in order to offer the best proposal. Be thorough, but be concise.

It’s important to accurately reflect your conference program, needs, and budget. The hotel team will review all aspects of your information from the RFP to determine if your program is a good fit for the hotel, and vice versa.

Don’t Forget to Include Your History and Expectations

  • Organizational goals (e.g. What does your organization hope to gain from the event? How will you measure success?)
  • Expected number of attendees and the demographics of your group
  • History of the organization’s conferences the last 3 years
    • Hotel and city locations
    • Sleeping room pickups
    • Food & Beverage history
  • List of the expected and requested concessions
  • Date pattern
  • 3rd Party Information (will you secure your own AV Companies and Tradeshow Decorator Companies?)

Make Good Connections

Did you know? is a resource that hotels will check to investigate an organization’s history to determine if a partnership will be a good fit. Organizations can also use this site to register an official RFP document in order to connect with hotels.

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