Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Organization Management Insight from the Campground

I have been a camper my entire life. I got rid of my gear a couple of years ago and recently got the camping itch so I reinvested in my gear and I am writing this blog post from a beautiful, ocean view campsite at Myrtle Beach State Park on the coast of South Carolina. OK, I’m sure you are wondering what I could possibly have to say to you from that vantage point that could even remotely relate to the management of an Association or Chamber of Commerce. Guess what? Don’t we learn from everything?? OR shouldn’t we be open to learning from everything???

So here goes for the campers and the non-campers AND the people who think a low end motel is camping……..

Fresh perspective.

Whenever I set out on a camping journey I’m always surprised at how little I really need to do the things I do every single day. How many clothes, things, toys do I really need? Everything I need for a four day camping trip will fit very comfortably into my little Chrysler convertible. So it makes me stop and think about all the “stuff” that I surround myself with and why. The same is true in our professional lives. How often are we dragged down by unnecessary meetings, by having too many people involved, by using too many tools that should be making our lives easier, by having too many events when a few significant ones would be enough? Take some time and take stock of all the “stuff” that you manage and see where you can tighten up and simplify!

Getting outside of your usual surroundings.

This is my office, this is my desk, this is my telephone. This is what I do. These are my tasks. I do this every day. STOP IT!! Go to the neighborhood coffee shop and work for an hour or so. Take your lunch down to a beautiful spot and just refresh for an hour. I worked with someone once who believed in “management by walking around”. I LOVED it!! When was the last time you just strolled down your main street and stopped in businesses to just say hello? When was the last time you walked into your staff members office just to check in and not because you needed something from them? When have you popped by an upper level investor or had lunch with a local leader outside your usual? Get out and “manage by walking around”!!

Slowing down. Being deliberate.

Being intentional can be a real challenge sometimes. This work that we do forces a level of multi-tasking that is frankly not productive for even the person with that as a top skill. Trying to do too many things at a time may work for a while, but there comes a time in every single management situation where we must slow down, we must touch one thing at a time, we must be deliberate in order to be effective. Make sure you know when it’s that time.

Talking to strangers.

I was in the bath house this morning and got into a conversation with a lady from Ontario. It wasn’t an earth shattering conversation, but I discovered a couple of things about the world and about myself by just talking with her. When we teach networking we always talk about not hanging out with the same old crowd. When we, as Organization Management Professionals go to conferences or workshops, what do we do…….gravitate to the same old crowd. It’s comfortable, it’s easy, it doesn’t really require anything of us. So when you find yourself going down the same old, same old path, take a turn, stretch and find someone you haven’t spent time with. You can meet some pretty amazing people along that path and get some new ideas that you might not have otherwise.

Honing your power of observation.

You drive the same route every day, you go to the same routine meetings, you walk down the same sidewalks, you have the same conversations. Decide that today you will look out your window and see something new. Decide that today when you meet with your Board of Directors that you will learn something new from them or see something in them that you hadn’t seen before. This week when you attend County Council, look around and spot something that you hadn’t noticed. Getting into a rut is so, so easy and can make your brain lazy. Power up your intellect and walk away with something new.

You may NEVER raise a tent off the ground and you may not relish the smell of bacon cooking outside, but I still hope you can take this and apply it to your situation whatever it may be and that it will help you and your organization stay firmly grounded!!

Happy Trails!!


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Be Who You Are!!

When we take personal inventory of our lives there are some things that just are and there are many that we have the capacity to change. The same is true for our Organizations. I happen to be 5 feet 5 inches tall and there is absolutely nothing, aside from heels, that I can do to change that. My eyes are blue and while I suppose I could wear green contacts the underlying truth is……my eyes are blue. So when you take a look at your organization you have to do it with real honesty. There are things you can change and things you can’t and losing sleep over the latter is NOT going to provide the energy necessary for a strong Organization!

What we can’t change…….

Geography You live where you live. Spend time looking for ALL the positive aspects of your location and emphasize those.  What are your geographical assets? Take a look at other communities that are similar to yours for best practices that might fit.

Statistical demographics for your community. Organizations are a reflection of their community (or they should be!!). Who are your people, what is your economic outlook, who are your employers, what kind of education system do you have. You get the picture! Understanding your community should inform your direction.

History. When I was hired by my Chamber I was the 5th President in 7 years. There was a lack of faith in what the Chamber could do because it looked unstable. It was a community that didn’t really know what we did and in fact an Organization that didn’t really know. Folks, you absolutely cannot change what has happened before you and what you MUST do is stop worrying about it and stop talking about it!

What we can…….

Size. You can grow and you can shrink. Both are up to you. Understand what the market is, what your share of that is and then set some goals. As far as shrinking goes, concentrate on building relationships and active engagement with members and it will take care of that and the increase as well!

Structure. What are your systems? What works, what doesn’t? Use the good old S.W.O.T. analysis and you may find that there are basic structural issues that will make you better or hold you back.

Roles and Responsibilities. What’s your role in your community and what do they believe that you do as an Organization? You need to clearly understand this first before you can see to it that everyone else does. Chambers do you handle tourism? Economic Development? If you don’t you still have a role in those areas by virtue of being a business organization. Where is there something missing that would be an opportunity for you to shine and offer your community something more?

Presence. We say it ALL the time!!!! If you don’t actively tell your stories how in the world will they know who you are? Your “presence” or lack of is your job. Engage your community in the good work you are doing by telling them!

People. Staff, Board Members, Ambassadors, Program Volunteers. You have control over this. Make sure your systems are solid, your communication is aggressive, expectations clearly discussed and accountability maintained. If you’ve got all that then changing “people” is absolutely possible. Not always fun, but definitely possible!!

Take an inventory of your Organization just where it is today. The one thing we can ALWAYS change is our attitude and our response to the way things are. Act today on what you can change and accept the things you can’t. It’s healthy, it’s real AND it’s progress!!