Provocative Questions for Volunteer Leaders.Some soul searching is in order as you ponder the issues tied to your leadership role.
The special Leadership Issue of ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT generally seeks to encourage, educate, and help the volunteer leader be more effective and comfortable in her or his role. If you are seeking comfort, turn to the next article. The questions that follow are designed to provoke you, challenge you, get a bit in your face. In my work with associations, I find that too many leaders are unaware of or are ignoring some of these critical questions.
Not intended to stump you, these questions are actually aimed at productive soul searching. As you assume your leadership role, they can guide you in thought and bring to the surface fresh opinions and creative ideas.
Once way of making the most constructive use of the following list is to respond to each question with your gut reaction gut reaction n → reacción f instintiva
gut reaction n → réaction instinctive
gut reaction gut n → . Then go back and contemplate the issues further, from various angles. Note the development of your initial thoughts.
If reading these questions has you scratching your head and coming up with questions of your own, this article will have been effective. Knowing the right questions to ask is half the battle of leading.
Ready to get started?
Probing your overall role
* Do you really know what you are getting into? Did you get to see a job description before you chose to take the "job" of volunteer leader? I don't mean the brief blurb blurb
A brief publicity notice, as on a book jacket.
[Coined by Gelett Burgess (1866-1951), American humorist.]
blurb v. in your bylaws The rules and regulations enacted by an association or a corporation to provide a framework for its operation and management.
Bylaws may specify the qualifications, rights, and liabilities of membership, and the powers, duties, and grounds for the dissolution of an . I mean a job description with the criteria for selection, the list of expectations, an estimate of the time and commitment needed, and a description of your role as it relates to the other parts of the organization's governance.
* Do you understand how profoundly different the role of association chief elected officer is from the role you play in your current business or profession?
* When did your board last discuss and reach a consensus on the relative roles of the board and the staff? When did your board last talk about and agree on where the association is in its life cycle? Would consensus on these matters eliminate or lessen some of the conflict on specific issues?
* How good is your organization at saying no to member requests for resources? Do you set clear priorities or do you spread your resources thin by trying to be all things to all people? Does staff know when it can say no to a member and be sure of leadership support?
Focusing on specifics
* In membership recruitment efforts, wouldn't it be better to emphasize other benefits in addition to advocacy? Why do you tout Tout
To promote a security in order to attract buyers.
To foster interest in a particular company or security. For example, a broker might tout a security to a client in the hope that the client will purchase the security. your association's role as an advocate for the trade or profession to nonmember prospects, when everyone knows they can get a free ride on those efforts? Do you really think guilt-tripping them will work? Has it worked so far?
* When has your association taken a public policy position that was significantly contrary to your members' economic interest, doing so because it was the right thing for the country? Associations of physicians and dentists, for example, have frequently supported measures that promote the public health and decrease their members' business. What about your association? What has it done to justify its tax exemption tax exemption, immunity from the requirement of paying taxes. Federal, state, and usually local law provide exemption from taxation for a wide variety of organizations, usually not-for-profit, such as churches, colleges, universities, health care providers, various ?
* What is the public policy rationale for granting your organization tax-exempt status? "We've always had one" is not an acceptable answer.
* Hospitals and HMOs have gone from being not-for-profit corporations A not-for-profit corporation is a corporation created by statute, government or judicial authority that is not intended to provide a profit to the owners or members. A corporation that is organized to provide profits to its owners or members is a for-profit corporation. to being for-profit corporations A for-profit corporation is a corporation that is intended to operate a business which will return a profit to the owners. A for-profit corporation, depending on the jurisdiction to which it is incorporated, may be operated either as a stock corporation or as a non-stock . Will the day come when your organization will undergo a similar transformation? What will be the consequences?
* Suppose the law were to change and net investment income or net trade show revenue were to become taxable? Would you waive the tax exemption? Would the members care? Would they know the difference?
* Do you really know what things cost? With, on average, one third of an association's costs pinned to personnel, is the dollar value of the staff effort charged to programs, projects, and activities?
* Do you know the costs that are attributable to governance? What would your members think if they knew the full costs (direct costs including reimbursed expenses of participants and the general overhead costs overhead costs
see fixed costs. ) of maintaining the organization's governance structure?
* One of the benefits that an association provides to its leadership is the networking, fellowship, and collegiality col·le·gi·al·i·ty
1. Shared power and authority vested among colleagues.
2. Roman Catholic Church The doctrine that bishops collectively share collegiate power. of participation. But how much should such products be subsidized sub·si·dize
tr.v. sub·si·dized, sub·si·diz·ing, sub·si·diz·es
1. To assist or support with a subsidy.
2. To secure the assistance of by granting a subsidy. by the membership?
* If associations are primarily in the information business, what's to keep a dot-com from eating your lunch?
* You have demonstrated through your service to the association the value of active volunteer participation and its positive impact on your business or profession. Is the association staff's volunteer participation in their professional and trade association encouraged and funded?
Examining governance and leadership
* If your organization is facing an increasingly volatile world, what is the point of strategic planning Strategic planning is an organization's process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy, including its capital and people. ?
* How nimble is your organization's decision making? Given your organization's infrastructure (board, standing committees, ad-hoc committees, task forces, sections, councils, and the like), can you move fast enough to survive?
* Do you know what an action-oriented agenda is and how to use a consent calendar to minimize time on trivia and focus on important issues?
* Do you spend too much board time listening to information reports that you should have received and read in advance?
* Do the issues you wrestle with have varying impact on your members, depending on where they are located geographically? My bet is that the answer is no. If I am right, and your governing board Noun 1. governing board - a board that manages the affairs of an institution
board - a committee having supervisory powers; "the board has seven members" is made up of representatives of geographic areas, why is that the case? Wouldn't a board of individuals selected for their talents, knowledge, skill, and expertise be a better idea?
* When has your board done any self-evaluation? Have you discussed how meetings can be improved?
* When is the last time you had any formal board development or training using outside professionals to help? Do you think an outside perspective might help your board think about how it might become more efficient and effective?
* Are you familiar with the newest thinking in association governance and leadership (such as John Carvers
John Carver (1576–1621), Pilgrim leader and the first governor of Plymouth Colony, born probably in Nottinghamshire, England. Policy Governance Policy Governance is John Carver's model for Boards of Directors.
Carver maintains that his is the only systematic theory of boards ever produced. Early in his career, Carver began to search for a reliable guide to the work of a board. Model and strategic thinking as opposed to strategic planning)?
* Are you ready to confront the issues that have been dodged by the organization for too many years because they were perceived to be too disconcerting dis·con·cert
tr.v. dis·con·cert·ed, dis·con·cert·ing, dis·con·certs
1. To upset the self-possession of; ruffle. See Synonyms at embarrass.
2. or divisive? Or do you want to take the traditional "not on my watch" position of your predecessors?
* Do you realize that, despite your long climb up the volunteer structure, the organization is not yours to control during your tenure in office? Do you understand that you are really a steward of the organization, helping it to establish and reach its goals, not your goals?
* Do you realize that the board and, in many cases, the committees are the worst possible focus groups for evaluating proposals for goods and services In economics, economic output is divided into physical goods and intangible services. Consumption of goods and services is assumed to produce utility (unless the "good" is a "bad"). It is often used when referring to a Goods and Services Tax. ? Do you recognize that board and committee members are not representative of the membership because they are more committed and involved than the average member?
Contemplating the future
* Has your association really thought through the impact of the telecommunication revolution? What happens, for example, in a few years, when broadband is everywhere and you can link with full-motion video Video transmission that changes the image 30 frames per second (30 fps). Motion pictures are run at 24 fps, which is the minimum frequency required to eliminate the perception of moving frames and make the images appear visually fluid to the eye. and crystal-clear audio? How will that change education and governance?
* Most service clubs are losing members in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. and are growing in Eastern Europe Eastern Europe
The countries of eastern Europe, especially those that were allied with the USSR in the Warsaw Pact, which was established in 1955 and dissolved in 1991. and the Pacific. Why? Is it because the environment that permits them to thrive (business is local, you live where you work, and there is limited opportunity for community service) is declining domestically and growing elsewhere? What could reshape the environment of associations that could cause them to thrive or to wither?
* What question should your organization be asking itself that I didn't think of?
Henry L. Ernstthal, CAE (1) (Computer-Aided Engineering) Software that analyzes designs which have been created in the computer or that have been created elsewhere and entered into the computer. , is president of Ernstthal & Associates, Washington, D.C.