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.

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 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.

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 info@imiae.com 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 info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.


Finding Our Strengths

Image Credit: Joshua Earle
Image Credit: Joshua Earle

Beth Wallace, administrative manager

What are your strengths? How can you use them in your daily job tasks or to help you find a good job fit? How can your strengths be best utilized to benefit the company and you? Many people don’t know their strong points or how to put into words what those strengths are, which can leave people feeling unfulfilled and unhappy in their jobs. StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a book by Tom Rath, with a corresponding quiz that includes personality and situational questions. The results of the quiz generate one’s top five strengths out of the 34 defined options. Rath’s method is based on the idea that focusing on and building your strengths benefits you more than trying to become better at your weaknesses. As he says in his book, “You cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”

Each of us in IMI Association Executives participated in StrengthsFinder to determine and define our team members’ strengths. As in many industries, there are periods of high and low volume workload – and we like to help each other out around the office. Who do I go to when I have a big project that requires thinking through the possible issues and problems that may arise? Knowing our team members’ strengths helps us identify our best resource for specific tasks. After learning my co-workers’ strengths, I know I could go to someone with Deliberative (a cautious, considerate decision making quality) as a strength to talk through the decisions that are being considered. Also, understanding how to work with and communicate with co-workers based on their strengths creates a more effective and efficient environment.

To make sure we fully utilized this resource, we all completed the quiz and met in groups to discuss the results. We dug deeper into our strengths and how they apply to our current position or in other areas the association needs help. The results were actually quite interesting to analyze and interpret. IMI’s mission is “Building Relationships. Delivering Solutions.” The two common categories that most individuals reported strengths in were Relationship Building and Executing. These categories align with our mission, showing that we have the right people to advance IMI’s mission. Others’ strengths fell into Influencing and Strategic Planning, both of which are very important to the success of IMI and our clients. The Influencers are wonderful people to interact with our members and Board of Directors; and we know we would struggle without our Planners that keep us moving and in the right direction.

Overall we were happy with the results and excited at the potential to utilize our strengths to help our associations grow and succeed. StrengthsFinder is also a great exercise for association boards or other volunteers to complete as a group. Recognizing and utilizing the natural strengths each of us has is a great way to maximize the impact of your team.

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.

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 info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.