As a Meeting and Professional, I hear this on a regular basis. As a Nonprofit Association Professional, my first response is usually – be competitive in your rates. But, the longer that I am at this, the more I realize that I am designing experiences for my members, and that means more than saving a few dollars. There is a saying, “Stop tripping over dollars to pick up pennies” and as Nonprofit Professionals it is easy to fall into this trap. All of this came to fruition as I balanced two different contracts for an upcoming conference.
So, what was the tipping point in these two contracts? Spoiler alert, it wasn’t money. It was something completely intangible and so much more important – culture. Culture is so much more than organizational goals and values, it is the passion that trickles down from the top of the organization into every single employee. It can be seen on the smiles that you encounter at the front desk of a property and felt in the care that is given by all the levels of staff. It’s DWYSYWD. I became familiar with this acronym “Doing What You Say You Will Do” during a Leadership Challenge workshop where we talked in depth about Modeling the Way as a Leader. DWYSYWD is about trust and credibility, and I don’t know about you, but those are pretty high on my checklist when I consider partnering with any supplier.
Back to those contracts. Really they were quite similar – F&B, room rates, and technology where all on par, so it was truly an apples to apples comparison. It wasn’t until visiting the second property that I truly experienced a culture of service. At a lunch meeting with the Salesperson (who was amazing in and of herself), the General Manager came and introduced himself (so far, nothing that cutting edge). Then he suggested an appetizer based on his experience, went to the kitchen to place the order himself, and proceeded to serve us, himself. All while demonstrating the utmost respect and admiration of his staff. That General Manager practices DWYSYWD.
A few years ago my family was eating at Texas Roadhouse and I pointed out that all the staff were wearing shirts that said, “I Love My Job!” I commented to my daughter, 8 at the time, how nice that was to see such passionate employees. She rolled her eyes and said with a synasism that should be reserved for a much older, jaded person, “Mom, they have to wear those.” Before you are asking for business, ask yourself an important question: Are you are wearing the shirt because you have to, or because you can’t wait to get up and go to work everyday? And let me tell you, if you are doing it because you have to, it shows. If you want to, then that is the culture that I want to align with my association and my members.
Time management for event professionals sounds like an oxymoron. Let’s be real friends, we have the fifth most stressful job in the US. If I had the answers to how we can better manage our time, I’d be a millionaire. But disclaimers aside, there are some simple steps you can take today to start being the master of your time.
First things first, stop wearing busy as a badge of honor. If you are sending emails at 1 AM, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Instead, wave the white flag, there is no shame in ASKING FOR HELP. How can you do that if you aren’t part of a big team? Surround yourself with the best and brightest, luckily you are part of an amazing network of meeting professionals with MPI. Take some time to build your own peer group. Look at MPI to start building your cohort and reach out to similar orgs for people who do what you do. There is no need to start from scratch every time – chances are someone has been where you are and can offer advice.
Secondly, stop multitasking, it’s actually not doing you any favors. What you’re actually doing is task switching and science tells us that we are losing 40% of our productivity when we “multitask” – nobody has time for that! You are literally changing tasks 160 times a day and all those interruptions cost US Businesses $588 billion annually. Instead, consider breaking your tasks and meetings into 15 minute bites and rewarding yourself for staying on track with a 15 minute break! Organized Audrey has some great resources here that can help get you started.
And while your at it, pay better attention. Turn off your phone, disconnect from social media, use a timer to keep meetings on track, find a quiet place to work (can you telecommute one day a week?), and separate work from home to the best of your abilities. Making these small changes actually reduces stress and increases productivity. And remember, the first day of any new routine is always the easiest, so make sure you find an accountability partner who you are checking in with to stay on track past the first week.
Take an inventory of what your biggest time wasters are – email, social media, meetings? Is there something that you can say no to? Take a close look at what you are involved in and be strategic about where you are spending your time. But don’t be too hasty to cut out volunteerism in your professional organization, involvement in MPI pays for itself, it certainly has saved me both time and money thanks to the relationships that I have built.
One of my favorite MPI Indiana seminars was lead by CJ McClanahan, he reminded us that we all have the same 24 hours in a day, it’s about how we choose to spend them. You have the power to decide where you invest your attention and energy for the maximum impact. So, start being more strategic and less distracted, and you might inch a little closer to achieving the ever-elusive work-life balance.
After spending the last four days immersed in the CMM program I am both overwhelmed and impressed. It was intense, in a good way. I had read some of the drama around the evolution of the course and wasn’t sure what exactly to expect. I can now say with confidence that the level of professionalism is above and beyond anything else meetings and events related that I have experienced outside an actual college/university course.
It’s not cheap, and that is for good reason. You are immersed for 4 straight days with your peers and three faculty from the Darden School of Executive Education from the University of Virginia. And there is lots of reading, group exercises (not the lame ones where you can ignore the directive and just gossip with your table either, actual deliverable conversations!) and even more introspection, and (for me, the first time in like 20 years) homework. And that was just the four-day part.
As I got back into the groove at work today (which I would strongly advise not doing – take a vacation day – you will need it!), I took a moment to Link-In with my classmates and begin digesting some of the valuable lessons learned during the first phase of my CMM experience. I look forward to involving my whole team at work in my CMM project and sharing the results with all my MPI Indiana friends.
My advice to you, if you are considering making the leap and applying for the CMM program, is to just do it. I get it, you’re busy, two work days out and a weekend away from friends and family is no small sacrifice. But I would argue that investing four days in your own personal and professional development has a much higher payout than simply 96 hours. Henry Ford had it right – if you are willing to commit your time and talent to life-long learning, then what you can achieve is limitless…but you have to take the first step.
June 30, 2016 marked my last official day as a member of the Meeting Professionals International Indiana Chapter Board of Directors and I couldn’t be more appreciative of the lessons learned and the opportunities afforded me throughout my decade of membership and service in MPI. When I started my career as a meeting planner with little to no experience in the events industry, I quickly realized that I needed a support network of peers to guide me along the way. I joined MPI in 2005 and have surrounded myself with the best and the brightest in this industry – and as the current Vice President of Training for LeadingAge Indiana I can say that it has paid off!
I have always been a firm believer in continuous professional development, after all it is what I do for my own association and what I hope to promote to the MPI Indiana Chapter members. I began my leadership journey back in 2009 when I received my CMP and then went on to obtain my Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation in 2014. Now, as I stood at this crossroads in my career, I took time to seek out guidance from some of my mentors and one in particular challenged me to look for the next milestone in my career. That milestone is the Certificate in Meetings Management (CMM).
I know there are some skeptics who see certifications/certificates as simply an alphabet soup after your name, just another way to brag about what you’ve accomplished. And, if you obtain them simply for those reasons, then they are just that – a string of letters. But, if you look at them as part of this leadership journey designed to continually challenge yourself to grow both personally and professionally – they are so much more. The CMM is an intensive customized study program that incorporates a participatory training program from university professors associated with the Darden School of Business from the University of Virginia. This multi-phase program is about introspection as a leader and mastery of business and professional skills that reach far beyond simply planning meetings.
I knew that there was real meat behind those words as I received my first assignment – a leadership 360 inventory that requires you to really focus on your strengths and weaknesses, while also taking into account feedback from your peers, managers and direct reports. If you have never had the opportunity to participate in a 360 assessment, I highly recommend investing in the process.
Over the next several months I plan to share with you take-aways from my journey through the CMM program, in hopes that it will inspire you to look into taking the next step in your own leadership journey. The program may sound expensive, but it has always been my experience that when it comes to professional development you get what you pay for! And don’t forget to check out the scholarship opportunities available through the MPI Foundation. I am lucky enough to be the recipient of one these scholarships and in turn I want to share the good work that our MPI Foundation does by supporting the growth and advancement of MPI members.
I look forward to sharing my CMM journey with you and please don’t hesitate to let me know if I can answer any questions.
After 17 years in nonprofit association management and 40 years on this earth, I am still learning some of the most important lessons in life from my 10 year old. A few months back Lily competed in a Geo Bee – for those of you not familiar with this concept, it’s like a Spelling Bee but swap out words for geography facts. When she first came to my husband and I asking to participate, my gut reaction was, NO. See, Lily inherited her sense of geography from me…and that is not exactly something to brag about. Plus, this meant more homework, more afterschool activities and most certainly tears. But she persevered, went to all the after school meetings, watched National Geographic videos and worked on the homework.
And then came the Geo Bee. The morning of the competition I told her she didn’t have to do it if she was scared, there is no shame in bowing out gracefully. But she refused. I reassured her that I knew how she must be feeling – nervous, overwhelmed and even scared, she replied by saying, “Mom, you don’t understand.” And you know what, she was right. When was the last time I pushed myself out of my comfort level or tried something that had a high probability of failure? Honestly, I couldn’t think of a time in recent memory.
So, how did it end up? She didn’t make it to the championship round but there were no tears (from Lily, although not all the kids walked away unscathed). She dusted herself off, took the loss like a pro and was ready for the next challenge, no worse for the wear. She didn’t get a ribbon for participation or even a certificate. Her prize was the realization that she saw something through to the end.
This isn’t a story about stick-to-itness with a happy ending, it’s about not letting fear of failure hold you back. Can you imagine the possibilities in the association world if we all had a Lily mindset? My challenge to myself, and you, is to stop being so scared. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” So, what’s your Geo Bee going to be?
Last week I was out of the office for some personal and professional development. As I reflect on the time that it took to set up out-of-office alerts, change my voicemail, review staff guides for work events that I wasn’t able to attend, I paused to question whether or not it was all worth it. The short answer is, yes.
The nature of our jobs as association professionals, whether we are directors, planners, suppliers or students, is one of constant juggling. There is never a “good time” to be away. Someone will always need information, or a contact, but mostly your time and attention. And guess what? They will be patiently waiting when you get back. I know it is not easy. Officially I am the Vice President of Training for LeadingAge Indiana, but on any given day I am also a graphic designer, marketing specialist, trade show trouble-shooter, mommy, wife, Girl Scout co-leader, church lector, Rett Syndrome Advocate, ISAE member AND IMPI Past President. No matter how hectic my day, I continue to make time for my professional associations and all the valuable connections and education that are a part of belonging.
Recently I saw a quote on Pinterest that said, “Stop the glorification of busy.” So I pinned it. And now I am working on believing it. There is always more to do and less time to allocate, but we are really doing ourselves a disservice if we do not purposefully stop and make the time to invest in our professional and personal development. So set that “Out of Office Assistant”, change your voicemail message and clear your calendar for at least a day.
I challenge you all to get more involved in your professional associations and make a commitment to continuing your development. I would argue that you can’t afford not to. Leaders aren’t born, and each moment you take towards bettering yourself is a step closer to becoming the leader you were meant to be.
Recently I was reading a discussion on ASAE’s Collaborate Forum where someone related a story about a group of Past Presidents of their organization joking about forming a group of has beens (their words). They would call themselves “We Used to be Special.” As a Past President of my own professional organization, I had to chuckle, I could identify. I even joked with a previous Board Member that we should make ribbons or buttons that said something to that effect. Then, I thought about it some more…that’s not really funny at all, it’s kind of sad. What are we doing as association professionals to ensure our volunteers feel like they still matter after giving so generously of their time and talent? Do our volunteers feel like we bleed them dry and then relegate them to a has been status?
So, as one who believes if you aren’t part of the solution, then you are part of the problem, I decided to take some action. Here are some pretty basic steps that you can take TODAY to make sure that your volunteers continue to feel valued even after they have completed their terms:
- If this is the first time they are hearing from you in a few years, I suggest humility (that is going to be my approach). I am creating a Past President’s Newsletter to keep our rock stars in the loop. We believed in them enough to lead our chapter before, I am guessing they are still pretty awesome. And all that history! Let’s not let that go to waste.
- Now that you have communicated with your lapsed volunteers, really truly connect with them again. I’ve heard from Past Presidents that they still want to be involved, but they really don’t know where to start. Or, they only have an hour or so to spare and aren’t sure how they can still contribute. These are the Rock Stars of your association – it is in our best interest to re-engage these volunteers! Our plan at IMPI is to create ad-hoc task forces and promote our mentoring opportunities to harness all that awesomeness.
- Take the connecting to the next level. Pick up the phone and invite these amazing volunteers to the next networking event or encourage them to serve as a panel speaker at the next Chapter lunch. Either way, make it personal. An email newsletter alone does not say we miss you and value your service. Some of these previous volunteers haven’t been to a Chapter event in years and the faces may look quite a bit different, and that can be intimidating. Ease them back and introduce them to the many members who will likely be star struck by the introduction.
- And I’m not talking about “We used to be Special” badge ribbons. You’ve created an ongoing communication plan, extended personal invitations and begun the engagement process – don’t drop the ball. Announce them at the next Chapter meeting, share their stories in the Chapter newsletter and thank them – early and often.
I can’t say if this equation will work for every organization, I can’t even say if it works for mine, yet. I’ll keep you posted. I plan to implement Operation “You Still Rock” this month for IMPI. Your suggestions on how to make this as successful as possible are always welcome.
I have a bad habit of letting trade publications pile up on my desk. No more. From here on in I am going through them right away and pulling out the articles I want to read and recycling the rest. As I went through a year and half worth (realizing that the Big Trends of 2014 most likely are no longer relevant and I didn’t have the budget to implement many of them anyway – phew) I saw many personal development articles bestowing the virtue of saying NO – the fact that NO is a complete sentence and that we should all use it with more frequency and with vehemence. Which certainly puts me in an awkward position as my title of this blog is, The Case for Yes. Instead of going back to 2013 or even 2009 (I found a few of these gems in the publications mix – remember when Green Meetings were the hot trend?) to find justification for this blog, I decided to put my own spin on why yes is the new no.
As I embark on my term as Immediate Past President of the Meeting Professionals International Indiana Chapter (IMPI) Board of Directors, I begin to look more closely on succession planning for an organization that I not only believe in but have been an active member of for 10 years. If I hadn’t said YES to joining the IMPI Awards Committee 9 years ago, that ball that lead to me serving as President this past year would never have been put into motion. I never would have some of the most amazing mentors or my most dear friends.
For all intents and purposes I was the perfect candidate to say no, I was super pregnant, ready to be a first time mom, only in my job at LeadingAge Indiana for a few years and still learning the ropes, and I didn’t know anyone in the organization. But I said yes. And I am asking you to do the same.
So, let’s say you don’t have aspirations to be your organization’s President, should you still say yes? YES! But first, ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s in it for you? Or as the PC way would be to say “Define Your Goals”. What is your 2 year plan with the organization? How will being a member help you personally or professionally? If you don’t get involved, you won’t see the benefits of membership, it’s just that simple. The difference between being a committee member and a BOD member is determined by your ultimate goal.
- Know your limitations. If you only have an hour a month to commit to the organization, then Board service is not for you. A task force might be appropriate or a short term assignment. But I would challenge you if you say you only have an hour. Why? What else fills your time? Is this organization really that important to you if you can’t find more than an hour? Maybe it’s not (that isn’t the answer that I am looking for, but you need to be honest with yourself).
- After a year of volunteerism, reassess your commitment. Are you better for the time and the talent that you have shared with the organization’? Is your organization better off because of your commitment? If you can answer yes then it’s time to up the ante. If you answered no, then it’s time for some self-reflection.
We have all heard the quote “Ninety percent of life is just showing up.” But being a volunteer isn’t just showing up, it’s doing. Maybe there are some selfish reasons to say YES, but at the end of the day it is about getting engaged. Satisfied volunteers don’t do it for the glory, they do it for personal and professional development and the betterment of their organization. That is one strong partnership.
As I embark on the next chapter of my IMPI experience, I thank those who took the time to share their time and talent, to mold me into the volunteer that I am today – I am, and always will be, a work in progress. When all is said and done, my involvement with IMPI won’t earn me a badge, but it does make me a partner in the success of the chapter, and for that I will always say Yes. No is so 2014. Are you ready to say YES?