Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dealing With Your Chamber's Board of Directors

If you’re a Chamber of Commerce professional, you no doubt have heard of Frank Kenny and his weekly Chamber Focus Show on Google+.  This past Friday, Frank welcomed our own Annette Medlin to talk about "Dealing With Your Chamber's Board of Directors”.   In Frank’s own words, this one is “a must watch for any and all chamber professionals.”

During the show, a great number of topics and questions popped up including:

  • What to do when you have a personality conflict with your new chair or when a Board member “goes rogue”…

  • Strategies for dealing with disengaged or “problem” Board members, personality conflicts & HR issues…

  • How to deal with Board Development & keep Board members involved without micro-managing…

  • …and the IMPORTANCE of ensuring your Board sees you as a COLLEAGUE, and not “just a staffer”…!
NOW…without further ado…here’s the video:

We sincerely hope this helps.  Remember that there are resources available to you when you have questions or feel overwhelmed.  Of course you have peers all around you who we HOPE you’re tapped in to, but don’t forget about expanding that support group by joining Frank’s CHAMBER PROFESSIONALS page on Facebook or simply reach out to us for help.  Annette and I are contacted by Chamber pros across the country every single week to talk about challenges they’re having and looking for everything from help to advice to referrals for other resources.  We’re here to help and we’d LOVE to hear from YOU!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Discipline? You decide!!

I've become a traveling entrepreneur and a significant set of challenges has come along with that.
I love traveling, but my travel has always been here and there for a specific purpose either business or pleasure. This new travel is week on week, in and out of airplanes or hours and hours in the car.
I went for a jog this morning after a week of travel and it literally kicked my butt. While my feet were hitting the pavement I had an epiphany in the midst of the pain. If your life changes and you don't move with it there will be consequences that aren't what you want for your life.
We all know that we have to find a balance in our lives each day. A balance between what we must do and what we need to do for ourselves. Most often what gets sacrificed is us.

  • We eat too much.
  • We eat the wrong things.
  • We ride on a wave of stress from all the circumstances that are out of our control.
  • We abuse our vices; too much drinking or smoking, etc.
  • We don't sleep enough.
  • We don't get the right sleep.
  • We forget to do the things that make us happy.
  • We neglect our relationships and find them less loving.
  • We become more critical of everything and everyone around us.
  • We miss blessings; we forget to give thanks.

If you find yourself feeling like something is wrong and you just can't put your finger on it, the answer might be just as simple as stopping everything, looking honestly at what is going on in your life on all fronts and then applying yourself to the discipline of adjusting the scale to bring balance back.
Discipline, like pain, is a very individual thing. Reading about it, falling prey to trends in health and fitness, looking outside yourself for peace in your relationships is NEVER going to work. You must be very honest about what YOU need.

  • How much sleep do YOU need?
  • What foods make YOU feel healthy?
  • What activity works for YOU to keep you fit?
  • What gives YOU pleasure and makes you smile?
  • What do YOU need to give in your relationships?
  • What are YOUR spiritual or quiet needs?

As long as you look to other sources for the right way to take care of you, balance will be elusive and stress and physical issues will dominate. Take a hard look at what it is you need to do for YOU, do it every day no matter what or where you are. Start the day that way and finish it that way. If you waiver one day, then recover the next. Most importantly don't allow the fluid nature of life and schedules and emergencies and others, decide for you. Apply the discipline YOU need for YOU to live a balanced and joyful life!!!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Explode Your Membership With a Membership Drive

Want to grow your chamber's membership? Have you considered a chamber membership drive? In this edition of the Chamber Focus Show we discussed all the ins and outs of membership campaigns with expert Annette Medlin of Membership180.

We heard from our panel of chamber experts on their experiences with chamber membership campaigns. Watch this edition of the Chamber Focus Show before you do your next membership drive.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Struggle Free

Aristotle said "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit."
Why do we insist on struggle? Living in struggle, perpetuating struggle, being ruled by struggle. Challenges come, nothing we can do about that. But when the chains of challenge or frustration bind us, why do we resist?

What should our reaction to struggle be?

  1. We have to look at it in truth. Did we bring this on or is it real?
  2. If it is self-imposed, then stop it. That is not struggle it's just drama. A ploy for attention or to get out of responsibility.
  3. If this struggle is real, then breathe. Analyze it, look for solutions, trust yourself and stay positive, let it exist around you but not constrain you, deal with it head on, but DON'T resist it. These things are a part of life and we get through them because we ARE stronger than the struggle.

If we allow our struggle to rule us, a few things happen:

  • The more we resist, the stronger the bonds that hold us.
  • If we live in it, wallow in it, then we let it live and have no chance of moving beyond it.
  • It steals our joy.
  • It overshadows the good things in our life. The reality is that there are ALWAYS more good things than challenges. We just have to bring them into our awareness when the struggle feels great.
  • We lose precious time and we run the great risk of losing relationships, work, respect....

If as Sisyphus, we accept a life of pushing a boulder up the hill only to have it roll down and have to start over, then that is exactly what we will get. If however, we learn to eliminate the struggle we manufacture or to expand and relax into the real struggle, then we can get to the top of the hill and leave that boulder behind!! Stop pushing, start living!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Need a Hero

Several things have happened over the course of the last 10 days that inspire me. Sometimes it has to happen in layers like this in order for us to enter into an awareness of the little things that affect us in a big way.  This is the tale of real leadership.

A Mentor

A dear friend and mentor whom I had not seen or talked to in many, many months called me out of the blue and asked me to drive and meet him for lunch so he could “check on” me and so he could be confident that I was doing ok. I have watched this man for the entirety of my life in the chamber industry.  He is a leader, he believes in the work of chambers in communities, he has a long family history in the industry, he is passionate about professional development, about leading and supporting newcomers to the industry and he has ALWAYS taken the time to share his gifts with me. He has believed in me, even when I was having a hard time believing in myself. He has never asked for anything in return and has always made it clear that he is there for me whenever I need it.

An Ally

I got word this morning of the passing of a dear, dear man in the community I just served as Chamber President. He was only 55 years old, but they were an amazingly rich 55 years. I stopped to give mental tribute to this man and his gifts to community and to me.  As a chamber executive, you lead a very public life very similar to a politician.  It can be very tricky to discover who you can really go to in certain situations. So much of what you need to accomplish for your organization can be politically charged and sometimes controversial. That being the case, finding allies is a challenge. From the day I stepped on the job, this was a person I could go to and expect sound, unbiased, fair and balanced advice. We didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, but if I left him a message, you could be sure that he would call me back. If I asked a question, he would give me a thoughtful answer, even if it wasn’t the one I wanted to hear. If I asked for help, he would give it if it was within his ability to do so. He led with trust and honor and integrity and did it with a huge smile and an awesome hug. I miss the very thought of him not being at the piled up desk in his little cubby hole of an office……..

A Community

Yet again, our country was struck by an unnecessary tragedy that has left us all weak with worry and fear. We don’t understand why these things happen. We don’t understand why beautiful children are struck down. We don’t understand what would cause someone to inflict this kind of harm on innocent people. We are overwhelmed at how quickly a happy event can be turned completely around. And yet again, a community came together to help, to heal, to support and to encourage. Then, entering into the midst of all the chaos comes Officer John Bradley delivering milk to families with small children during the Watertown lockdown.

Who are the heroes in your world? The people who fly under the radar, who don’t want applause or praise, who do what they do because they have such a sense of pride in and commitment to what is happening. When have YOU had an opportunity to be a hero and missed it because you were just too busy to be THAT connected. Real leadership demands this of us, but we have to recognize it and step up.

Take the time to make quiet, heroic statements. Do something JUST because……

  • Something for your community

  • Something for your organization

  • Something to help another individual

  • Something to help an emerging leader or young professional on their way

  • Something to encourage

  • Something to support

  • Something to make someone smile and understand that they are not in this alone

Monday, April 22, 2013

Awareness, Acceptance, Ownership

We like to think we are tolerant. We acknowledge the differences between ourselves and others. We adamantly denounce bigotry. We make bold statements about how we embrace differences and applaud ourselves for our perspective and our balance and our ability to accept and honor diversity.

Well let me blow up your concept of acceptance.

You may think you are the most tolerant person on the planet, but are you really?

What's the reality??

When it comes to the theory of acceptance here's the reality.......

It's not just about others, you must ALSO be completely accepting of YOU!!

We must be prepared to accept all these things:
  1. Others, of course
  2. YOU, without question or apology
  3. The past; yours and others, both familiar AND strange
  4. The future; whatever it may be 
  5. The unknown; educate yourself on things that affect you, but don't get trapped in what may happen or can't be controlled
  6. Current circumstances; change what you can and need to, but you CAN'T change some things; it's ok that you are 5'8" and not 5'4", it's ok that your family are who they are........
  7. Differences; not just in people, but in positions and opinions
  8. What you are capable of NOW; where you are and what you CAN do
Getting real about the layers of acceptance is the first step. Let your awareness of each of these areas kick in and make a list of anything that pops into mind regarding each one. Take stock. Where are you on each point? Are you doing better on some than others? Are you warm and tolerant about the differences in others, but completely lacking in acceptance of your own status??

Unless you accept you, how can you truly be accepting in all areas. It is unacceptable to embrace diversity in all people except yourself. Do the exercise and then OWN the results. Acceptance does NOT mean settling or staying where you are. It DOES mean becoming accountable for tolerance both of others AND yourself. THAT is real growth!!


Friday, April 12, 2013

Acknowledging Chaos Without Living It

I am an avid labyrinth walker. Wherever I travel, I look in the labyrinth finder to see if there is a public site in the vicinity of my travels.  There is a soothing peace that happens when you walk the path. There is a deliberate requirement to silence your mind and to just put one foot in front of the other. Once I was walking a new labyrinth path in a community I was visiting. It was located at the front entry of a Lutheran Seminary. The path was beautifully laid out, there was a garden surrounding it with benches for writing or meditation. I was so excited. Then I put my foot on the path and realized quickly that the location was on an incredibly busy street and the traffic going by was very, very distracting. Needless to say, my mind became very distracted, I even got confused and angry that I was being distracted from something that was so important to me. THEN....THEN, I realized the lesson I was supposed to learn from this walk. I focused on the order of the path, I let the confusion surround me in my little cocoon, I quieted my mind, although still aware that the noise and clutter were there, they were on the outside. It was a WOW moment!!

Here are the symptoms of chaos......
You can't focus.
Everything is upside down.
People and projects are pulling you in all directions.
You feel like everything is hard, everything is falling through.
One difficult thing moves you right into another one.
Your remarks and conversations are ALL negative.
Your house, your heart AND your head are just a mess!

Been there? Done that?

Believe it or not there is order in the middle of chaos. The trick is knowing that and moving through the confusion back toward that order. Living in chaos is like being caught up in a tornado, spinning and spinning out of control. You may be the most balanced, positive person on the planet, but if you get swept up in the wind of chaos, it can be hard to instantly snap out of it!

10 Steps to moving back toward order:

  1. Understand that chaos will always exist.
  2. Keep your awareness finely tuned in to pick up the signals.
  3. Realize that only YOU can turn the tide.
  4. Accept the confusion, stop and sit in it, fully acknowledging it, but let it be on the OUTSIDE.
  5. Take inventory of everything that feels out of order. Make an actual list to refer back to.
  6. Start to put things in order. Begin with something as simple as stacking everything up on your desk or straightening the room you are in. Setting things around you in order will help you begin the process to returning your life back to order.
  7. Stop having negative conversations with others and with yourself. Make a firm decision to stop it and when you feel the negative creeping in, catch it and think about something that makes you happy or grateful.
  8. Take a hard look at your relationships and separate yourself from anyone that may be part of the overriding problem. It may or may not be a permanent separation, but at least get some distance for now.
  9. Work very hard to concentrate on just one thing at a time. One project, one task, one responsibility, one relationship. Prioritize them on your inventory list and start at the top and work your way down. This will help the confusion subside and help you begin to feel a sense of accomplishment again and control over what is required.
  10. BELIEVE that you can create order. You've acknowledged that chaos will always exist, but you certainly don't have to LIVE in it. This is your decision, under your control. Put everything in order that you possibly can, focus on order and let the confusion surround you but not engulf you.
Deepak Chopra says, "In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you." You can do it, I know you can. Knowing your "enemy" is always the biggest step towards eradicating it!!!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Busy Addiction

I'm so busy all the time.....
I'm sorry I can't help you, I'm so busy.....
I've been so busy I haven't had time to do......
I never have time to see anyone, or do anything, because I am so freaking busy.........
I'm glad SOMEONE has time to do fun things, I never get to because I'm so busy......

Can I just share something with you???

EVERYONE is busy!!!! Should I say it again? EVERYONE is busy and they don't need to hear how busy YOU are.
It's an addiction. You may not believe it, but it is. 

You use "busy" as an excuse for everything you can't do, forget to do, don't want to do, or wish you could do.

And.....when you use this crutch in a conversation, without intention you are communicating to the other person that it's all about you and that YOU are in fact more busy than they are or that they must not be as busy as you or they wouldn't have time to do all the things they are doing.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of addiction is:

"...the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse dependency consequences,or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors."

It goes on to say that this includes compulsions:

"Sometimes the compulsion is not to "do" something but to avoid or "do nothing" e.g. procrastination (compulsive task avoidance)."

The first step in a twelve step group is to "admit" that there is an issue. The steps also insist that you continue to engage in personal inventory. So, that's what I'm asking you to do for the benefit of everyone in your circle and to get you off the merry go round!

  1. Listen to yourself and become aware of just how often you use a statement that includes "I'm busy".
  2. If you find that you are using it frequently as an excuse, then......
  3. First admit you have a problem.
  4. Next, believe that you are strong enough to stop the cycle and eliminate those two words from your vernacular.
  5. Continue to take personal inventory and adjust when you fall back into the old pattern.
Try very hard to stick to the facts of the situation and communicate accordingly. It's about accountability and not taking the easy way out. It takes a little more effort, but it's honest. I'm not recommending you hurt people if it's a case of just not wanting to do something, but you can certainly try these:

"Gosh, I would love to, but I have something on the calendar."
"You know what, I thought I had prioritized appropriately, but it turns out I didn't and now I'm going to make every effort to get it done."
"That is something I would really love to do, I have to stop and take the time to put it in my schedule."

You get the drift!

Of course you really ARE busy, but no one wants to hear about it because so are they and frankly, you don't really want to hear how busy everyone else is when you run into someone who has the same addiction!

Breathe deeply, let it go and just respond honestly and simply, without the "busy" crutch. It's the best thing for everyone!  And, if all else fails, you COULD start a support group, because I can assure you that you are NOT alone is this!!! :)


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Shamrocks and Endless Knots

I don't know about you, but one of the first signs of spring for me is the appearance of shamrocks. Not the cutesy, campy ones accompanied by the ubiquitous leprechaun, but the actual plant showing up on the shelves at the grocery or home store. The minute I see one, I buy it and bring it home and watch its patterns. The nature of Oxalis, is this:

It loves light.
It closes its flowers and leaves at night and they reopen in the sunlight.
It grows toward the light.
It goes in and out of dormancy.

Hmmmmm.....a fascinating connection to life, don't ya think??

For this one period of time each year we are drawn to all things Irish or resembling Irish, whether that is our heritage or not. And of course, leave it to Americans to turn St. Pat's, which is actually a Holy day in the church, into an opportunity to spend money, drink heavily and host a festival!

But.......just but, if we go into it at another layer there are oh so many wonderful things to be reminded of during this "green" Irish celebration.

Although there isn't a lot documented about Celtic knots, they begin appearing around 450 AD, in a pre-Christian Ireland. This artwork is a series of knots with seemingly no beginning and no end. The Celts living during this time were very, very driven by nature and its patterns and indications. The knots seem to provide a visual representation of those concepts:

The endless cycle of birth and death.
The timeless nature of our spirit.
The endless change of the seasons.

If you look at life, your life, it is an endless cycle of beginnings and endings. Something new ends something old. We grow, we change. Our past becomes our story, but we live in endless beginnings. The seasons help us reflect on our change. Just like the Oxalis, we thrive most in the light, we lean into it, we open up to it, but occasionally when it is time for change to occur, we will fold in and lie dormant until the sun shines again and opens up a new beginning.

So, on this St. Pat's day.........

May you live in the light.
May you recognize change as a new beginning.
May you fall back and reflect in dormancy until the light draws you to new beginnings.
May you embrace the ebb and flow of life in its endless motion.
"May the blessing of light be on you—
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you
and warm your heart
till it glows like a great peat fire." (An old Celtic Blessing)

Monday, March 11, 2013

What Are You Waiting For??

So you know the story, or maybe you don't. Two men meet beside a tree, both waiting for a mysterious man named Godot. They talk, they wait, they walk around, they lie down, they exchange hats, they wait, along comes a boy who tells them Godot isn't coming. They leave and come back the next evening to the same spot and the same scenario ensues. We don't know who Godot is, they don't really know, the audience doesn't know. They wait, WE wait and well.......freaking Godot NEVER comes. And frankly, we leave the theater not really sure we understand what the hell it was all about.

Does that describe you? Are you meeting the same people every day, doing the same things, saying the same things, thinking the same things all the while waiting for something that NEVER comes. Are you coming back to the same scenario and repeating it over and over again and still whatever you are waiting for never comes.
Waiting is MADNESS..........STOP IT!

The phrase "waiting for Godot" has gone into the vernacular to describe waiting for something that either hasn't or isn't going to come. Remember Einstein's definition of insanity......."doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

There are many reasons we wait:
1. maybe what we want to happen will JUST happen
2. maybe if we wait it will be easier to make it happen
3. maybe if we wait, someone ELSE will make it happen for us
4. maybe we are wrong and we really don't want it to happen at all

The waiting is a crutch that allows us to remain, in stasis, in the event that what we think we want so badly will occur. The waiting is a cover for fear. What if we got it and didn't want it? What if it is the wrong thing? What if the risk isn't worth the reward? What if, what if, what if.......

Shake it off!! Do whatever needs to be done TODAY. Waiting is for sissies!!

1.  If it's worth having, then a little risk is a very small thing.
2.  Waiting is a waste of time. Time that you WILL NOT get back.
3.  If you move on it and you get it and you decide it's not the right thing, so what. NEXT.....
4.  If you get a few emotional bumps and bruises along the way, it just makes you tougher!

There are multiple benefits to be gained by pushing yourself beyond the fear. Each time you do, it becomes easier the next time. You build confidence and you begin to realize that you are bigger than the fear. You get a little angry with yourself for wasting so much precious time and you become less likely to waste that time again.

And so, as Lewis Carroll suggests, "The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things; of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings." Or.....

The time has come to make it happen today and stop waiting for Godot!

Peace and Hugs!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Overcoming Objections: When no is no.

We are in the middle of training volunteers to make sales calls for a membership campaign and I’m left thinking about this routine that membership sales professionals engage in daily. Membership organizations deal with rejection every single day. Often multiple times a day. We get jaded and hard from dealing with rejection. It goes with the territory. It’s not personal. A NO will NOT stop your pulse.

Admittedly, it’s hard when we are singularly passionate about something, and present it that way to a potential new member, and they still don’t buy it. We BELIEVE in what we have to offer, we KNOW that the value given from membership in our organization is a win for all involved. Our engaged members have incredible stories to tell about how the organization benefitted them. But clearly, not everyone feels the same way.

So what do we do? How can we successfully overcome objections and convert our presentations into new members? Not only new members, but ENGAGED new members and members that will stay with us for the long term.

Let’s start with your message. You may not even have objections, if you craft your initial approach just the right way.
  1.  Start strong.  Give an opening, positive story about what the organization is doing for the community, and blow up any objections BEFORE they explode in your face.  If you know there are some “usual suspects”…objections you hear fairly often already…then answer those in the very beginning so that the prospect can’t come back to use them and get you off course later.
  2. Don’t be apologetic. If YOU don’t believe it how can you expect them to?
  3. Ask questions. Make sure you understand what will resonate with them by asking questions specific to THEIR business. What keeps you up at night? This will allow you to customize the message to address specific concerns or needs. You cannot succeed with a canned, “one size fits all”, delivery.
  4. Don’t do all the talking. Ask questions and LISTEN to the answers.
OK, so you’re telling me you’ve done all that. You’ve been sensitive to the prospects needs, you talked about value, you shared positive outcomes from engaged members. They are STILL resisting; STILL saying no; NOW what?

Here are some common objections and responses to them:
  1. “I was a member, but I didn’t have time to participate.” You know, of course, that membership does NOT require participation. When you get this objection, and trust me you will, have a “value” answer ready for it. What do you do as an advocate, what do you do for the collective community whether they are a member or not? Give a specific story of some issue that you have advocated for or are as a voice for business. Make sure that they understand that their membership is an “investment” to insure that you are able to thrive in a healthy local economy. While others are working in their business, spending time with their families or having fun with friends, YOUR organization is out there going to the mattresses for THEM on their behalf!!
  2. “I dropped my membership years ago because I disagreed with something they did.” Personality and leadership differences can’t be changed. But really, would any of us want to be criticized today for some unfortunate decision that was made in the past. Times change, people change, circumstances change. Everyone should be able to make positive changes today that are not overshadowed by unfortunate choices in the past. Try an appeal for a second chance for a year with a 100% guaranteed refund at the end of that period if they still aren’t convinced. One caveat; make SURE to ask this prospect if they had reached out personally to the CEO/ED when they became frustrated with the organization in the past. Make sure they understand that if they disagree with something, the absolute first thing they need to do is call the leader of the organization. OPEN the door for positively receiving complaints and feedback regardless of what it is.
  3. “I can’t afford to join.” Have a dollars and cents conversation with this prospect. Show them the benefits that will put money in their pocket with a $$ figure attached to it. Make it affordable for them by working on payment options. Give them ideas of where to take it from their budget. Do you have marketing products? It can come from their marketing budget. Do they have staff? Your education programs would be a benefit and they could take their membership dues out of a professional development budget. Remind them that a membership is a tax deduction as an ordinary business expense.
  4. “There’s nothing in it for me.” Of course there is. Pull from several of the responses above. Again, ask questions and identify exactly what WOULD benefit them specifically. This objection can only be overcome if you customize an answer in response to “what’s keeping them up at night”. Ask, “What would make it easier for you do business?” Help them dig a little and they WILL come up with something that you have a solution for.
NOW, you’ve given the strong, positive delivery of value, you’ve given appropriate responses to all the common objections and they STILL say no. What now?

No IS an answer, and sometimes it is the answer we are going to get and that’s OK. If you’ve given it every shot, you’ve covered all the points above and then some, then just let the no be no. Say thank you for your time, please let me know if I can ever assist you in any way AND I wish you every success with your business! All with a smile and a positive attitude (remember this is NOT about YOU) and then MOVE ON!!!! Don’t let it slow you down, don’t let it cloud your enthusiasm or belief in your organization and certainly don’t let it stop you. There are plenty of others out there who will respond positively to your message!!!

Happy Sales!!!