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Critical competencies.

NAFTA. TQM. ASCAP. ROI. UBIT. CD-ROM. PPO. HMO. D & O as opposed to APLI. CO-BRA and OBRA. 401(k) and 457 and 403(b). E-mail. BPA or ABC. I bet most of these acronyms are familiar to you. In fact, as a profession, we have a burgeoning acronymic vocabulary.

What fascinates me is not only the special "learning" we do to master this vocabulary but the underlying expertise that association executives are called on to master in the normal course of their duties. No longer is it enough to know how to put together a dues structure or run a pretty good meeting. Today association executives find themselves challenged to be competent in international affairs, health insurance, employee benefits administration, copyright law, technology, investments and securities, and a host of other highly specialized areas.

In a recent series of focus groups, association executives spoke out on frustrations they are feeling as their associations are challenged to "be all things to all people." According to a report filed by group leader Annette Petrick, CAE, the executives "felt it was vital for their associations to focus on their most effective positioning in the marketplace, rather than just being a conglomeration of services and benefits that accrued over the years. The knowledge explosion in the last decade has, as they felt, created specializations inside of specialties.

"Keeping ahead of the information curve" and the emphasis on specialization is eroding "the quality of leadership needed for umbrella guidance and representation of an entire industry," the executives said.

In his manifesto for associations beginning on page 32 of this issue, management guru Tom Peters says to "beware of doing too much.... Choosing what not to do is the hard part. Most association agendas are staggering and therefore futile."

This rings true for me. But he goes on to say in this same manifesto that you should create on-line virtual communities, recruit members from around the world, and, in general, go about reinventing yourself and your association. How this is to be accomplished without developing renaissance man (or woman) portfolios is a mystery to me.

I only hope that as we struggle to transform ourselves into the "new" executives we don't lose sight of what's really important: identifying common interests among our members; nurturing those members into confident and competent leaders; developing warm and productive relationships among members; and elevating the collective self-esteem and worthiness of the industries, professions, and interests that we serve.

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Title Annotation:executive competencies
Author:Myers, Elisa Matulis
Publication:Association Management
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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