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Doing the right thing.

Doing the Right Thing

Quincalee Brown, CAE, believes that if you envision a goal, you can make it a reality. And that's how she has approached her varied and fulfilling career, moving from a professorship at Wichita State University, Kansas, to posts with the Montgomery County Commission for Women, Maryland, and then the federal government, and finally, to successive executive directorships of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Washington, D.C., and the Water Pollution Control Federation (WPCF), Alexandria, Virginia.

Brown chose each position because it offered her the chance to work on a cause she felt was important. And she believes she achieved each milestone because of a kind of personal envisioning: imagining what she wanted to do and making it happen. Executive director of WPCF since 1986, Brown now concentrates on influencing national water pollution control policy and regulations and promoting public understanding of how pollution affects the world environment.

"Quincalee has a rare capacity to relate instantly to the people she meets and to leave each of them with new information and insights," comments Elaine Binder, executive director, B'nai B'rith Women, Washington, D.C. "Throughout our long relationship [which includes Brown's tenures at both the Montgomery County Commission for Women, where Binder was president, and AAUW, where Binder served as Brown's deputy director] I have been impressed by her leadership capabilities, effectiveness in communication, willingness to be a mentor, and ability to focus on the essence of a problem and steer a course toward solutions."

Capitalizing on opportunities

These days, Brown and WPCF are riding the wave of public concern about the environment.

"It's not just that it's nice to have water to drink or bathe in," declares Brown. "The fact is that we don't survive without water and other such resources in a pure form.

"And the issue is not going to go away," she continues. "With society encroaching on the environment more and more, [scientists and others] who have dealt with environmental concerns in the most significant way say that if we don't solve these problems in the next 10 years, it will be too late."

Perhaps the most notable means WPCF has for tapping public concern is Water Quality 2000, a coalition of approximately 85 scientific, environmental, governmental, and industrial groups. WPCF started the group in 1987 to address current and future pollution issues.

Brown recalls, "We knew that if we could all get together as a coalition and come up with some issues we could agree to work on, we could have far greater impact than if we all worked separately, especially if [separately] we were all battling each other to make individual causes known."

As it begins its third year, Water Quality 2000 has identified a number of issues it feels need attention, and the coalition is now establishing recommended solutions for each one. Brown is satisfied with the level of cooperation the coalition has achieved despite the varied interests of its members.

Another of WPCF's awareness efforts is its public education program. WPCF educational materials explain such realities as the expense of making water safe for home use and how little of the world's water (only about 1 percent) is actually available for drinking. The federation distributes its public education materials through its member associations, utilities, and by individual order to schools and community groups. Among WPCF's most requested materials are publications on how to dispose of hazardous household wastes, such as leftover fingernail polish remover and various cleansers, and a series of school children's comic books featuring a character named Dino Saurus.

"If we can develop an educated citizenry, especially by informing children from an early age," says Brown, "we are well on our way to getting our message and objectives across."

WPCF informs the rest of the world about pollution control as well. An international organization - its present membership hails from 71 different nations - the federation hosts an annual meeting that draws attendees and presenters from around the world. It also produces three internationally distributed periodicals: a highly technical research journal, a wastewater treatment operations manual, and a general-interest magazine. It also publishes approximately six manuals of practice each year. One standards manual, co-published every three years with other water treatment organizations, has become the bible of the water pollution control industry, according to Brown.

"In ASAE's Associations Advance America campaign, one topic is how associations set standards to improve their industries," notes Brown. "Well, Standards Methods for the Treatment of Water and Wastewater sets the scientific and technical standards for every kind of treatment you can perform on water or wastewater, so it is important internationally to the business of protecting water."

Organizational networking

Industry executives from as far away as Eastern Europe (20 Eastern Europeans attended WPCF's 1990 annual meeting), government bodies, and others see WPCF as a reliable source of information and opinion on water quality issues. But how did the federation get to that position? Plenty of slow, hard work, says Brown.

Recently, for example, WPCF formed a blue-ribbon committee to focus solely on gathering information and opinion about the federal Clean Water Act, due to be reauthorized and updated by Congress in 1992.

"It's important for us to influence regulations as well as legislation," comments Brown. "A piece of legislation, for example, says that you must have only water of a certain purity going back into a river after use. A regulation may say that |pure' means that one toxic substance can be present at one part per quadrillion while another toxic substance could be two parts per trillion. Regulations get down to what actually has to happen for the legislation to be followed.

"What we do as a 501(c) (3) is provide Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency with the best technical information and analysis before they write laws. That's how we influence legislation and regulations relating to our field, as opposed to direct lobbying. We do this with approximately half a dozen issues each year."

Personal networking

While Brown has helped WPCF become a reliable source, she has pursued the same course as an individual. Association community networks and mentoring have offered her the opportunity to advance both her own career and those of others with whom she works.

"I've been involved in networks, both formal and informal, from the time I walked into this business, and I'm sure they're part of the reason I've survived. That may be true for a lot of us."

Brown entered the nonprofit world after a stint as a country government agency director. "I knew the education and the women's issues, but the association management I had to learn," she says.

Aside from several ASAE courses, Brown did her learning in networks. One, begun by an executive at the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C., gathered executive directors from eight or nine women's associations, including AAUW, for lunch once every month for three years. From this group Brown took away ideas on working effectively with both staff and boards.

Around 1982 Brown became more active in ASAE committees. She credits her tenure on ASAE's Key Professional Associations Committee in the early 1980s with helping her resolve legal and logistics issues at AAUW.

"Mentoring has been just as important as networks," states Brown, a member of ASAE's Board of Directors since 1985. "When someone you have worked with has gone on in your field and done extremely well, you feel like you have had some impact on that success. In this business I look around and see five or six men and women, now executive directors, who at one time or another worked for me.

"You need to be supportive of the men and women who work for you. And I've been fortunate to have been mentored myself. When I was with AAUW, for example, I had two exceptional women as presidents. They taught me a great deal, though they might not have looked at it as mentoring. I could watch them be so effective at what they did, and they were supportive of my efforts as well. That's also been true of some people here at WPCF. There are officers who really took me under their wings and taught me a great deal about an industry that I knew nothing about."

Having cut her management teeth in a women's organization, Brown feels strongly that such homogeneous groups can offer mentoring and personal support to their staffs and members and are therefore vital to society. While some critics claim homogeneous groups serve to cut off members from the very society with which they wish to integrate, Brown believes these groups serve the vital function of giving people a peer system to help them build strength to succeed in society at large.

"There's an old adage that people are more comfortable with those who share some important trait with them. Sometimes you may slice it on the basis of sex, sometimes on race, religion, or cultural origin. But the truth is that there are times when having one element in common provides you with a feeling of cultural connectedness. And in a world that's so frightening, where changes happen so fast, some of those ties are good to have."

Envisioning tomorrow

In terms of management style, Brown also sees some differences between people, particularly men and women. "The style that women are comfortable with may end up being the style of the future," Brown muses. "Men have become comfortable with a rather hierarchal, top-down style. However, this may become less acceptable to newer work forces.

"Generally speaking, women managers tend to be better at interpersonal communication, consensus building, and crossing departmental lines - in short, creating organizational structures that look like cobwebs when mapped out, rather than the traditional organizational chart.

"That may be the way organizations will have to look to survive with all the restrictions on resources - including a lack of entry-level personnel and well-trained personnel - that we all face in the next decade."

When asked what traits make her and other top women executives strong leaders and managers, Brown's response is quick and to the point: hard work and sacrifices. "We've made sacrifices; don't kid yourself on that. For example, many of us don't have children. We've had good educations, and we've worked very hard for a very long time.

"Communications skills have also been helpful to me; in fact I would say that if there's anything to emphasize to anyone, male or female, hoping to succeed at the executive level, it is this: Learn to speak comfortably and easily with people, be able to present yourself well in both public and personal forums, and be able to write with clarity.

"I do think there is some truth to the fact that women must be a cut above the average man in the field to be successful, but that's nothing unusual. Anyone must be a cut above average to excel."

Years ago, Brown sat down and envisioned what it would take to excel. She thought about the career she wanted: to work with substantive issues, issues that have social significance for the nation and the world, issues she could care deeply about. And yes, she even pictured an office overlooking water.

Now Brown's office at WPCF overlooks the Potomac River, one of the Washington, D.C., area's primary sources of water, symbolic of a resource that Brown and people like her at WPCF hope to keep safe and pure around the world.

There's a saying that "what goes around comes around." It seems Brown's vision has come around.

Amy V. Roberts is associate editor of Association Management.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society of Association Executives
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:interview with Quincalee Brown
Author:Roberts, Amy V.
Publication:Association Management
Date:May 1, 1991
Previous Article:The new state agenda.
Next Article:Technology, governance, and the year 2000.

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