Tuesday, October 28, 2014

You Should Be Very Scared......

“Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within.”

Eric Liddell___Chariots of Fire

I was on the phone with a client today and found myself ending the conversation with an admonition about the work that needs to be done with regard to the upcoming calendar. We are just three short weeks away from the “Holiday Olympics”!! It’s a long distance event that runs through January 19 and it’s mandatory for ALL. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Years and MLK…….

Remember we are in the “business business” and that means that our members are focused on a few other things besides us during this time. Namely, their business! However, we still have our “business” to do, and I’ve been there. I know that members can check out during this time because there are just too many other things going on. Some of you may have year-end invoicing which is, of course, critical to budgets but not necessarily top-of-mind for them! We can’t get caught short by not being prepared for the marathon.

So how can we run the distance with grace, dignity and some modicum of efficiency??

Review. Take a comprehensive look at all projects, events, meetings and strategy sessions that occur during this time frame. Really look at them. What’s necessary, what can be postponed for a couple of months, what can be canceled altogether……. DO IT NOW! This is NOT the time to start something new.

Prioritize. Shuffle those things around and make sure the absolute MOST important get pushed quickly to the top. Only commit to things that are critical. Put everything, EVERYTHING in your calendar and make sure the entire team is clear on changes and what’s important. You can’t manage expectations if no one was aware they were changing. Beyond staff calendars, make sure that you communicate clearly, to anyone who is affected, any change to the organizational calendar.

Focus. When the stress of these joyous occasions starts to creep in, recognize it for what it is and get on top of it. Go back to your list. Do what must be done. Stay with one thing to the end and don’t let yourself get distracted by all the additions to the schedule both personal and professional.

Relax. People please. I beg of you. Each morning when you sit down to your desk, sit silently for a moment, close your eyes if you are comfortable doing that and think of ONE thing that you can do THAT day for YOU that will help you relax. Go outside and sit on a bench for goodness sake. I don’t care how big or small it is, just do it.

Commit. Make a promise to yourself and recommend the same to your staff and commit to holding each other to it. Promise that you will remain calm, stay on track, recognize and recover quickly when you derail, be kind and pleasant and remember that your members are in exactly the same spot as you!

Oops I forgot Festivus (for the rest of us)………anyone celebrate that one?? I’m hoping this blog post will help you avoid “the airing of grievances”! As Eric Liddell said in the quote above, run your own way, but know that the power to reach the end comes from inside. Dig deep, be prepared, pace yourself, do what you have to do and breathe!!

Off to the races!!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Effective Chambers of Commerce One Step At A Time

“Have a bias toward action…..let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.”  ____Indira Ghandi

I believe that one of the biggest distinguishing elements between a really successful Chamber of Commerce and one that struggles is the presence of systems. I also believe that the absence of standard systems is one of the things that makes it difficult for any Chamber professional to walk into a new job in the industry and just get down to business. Throw those statements in with the reality that we never, ever get “out of the weeds” in this work and what you end up with is a lot of pretty frustrated although well intentioned folks. I know, I was one of those people and I work with you now every single day!!

The main obstacle to overcome is just getting started. You may have one operational system or you may have 20. They may all be perfectly functioning or they may need to be completely rewritten. They may exist and just sit on the shelf. Again, you just have to take that first step, make it a manageable one that you are committed to and then put action behind it.

Take a look at this sample list of systems in order to analyze where YOUR organization currently stands:
  • Personnel Handbook

  • Board of Directors Handbook

  • Onboarding protocol for new members

  • Retention/Engagement Plan

  • Data collection protocol

  • Orientation and Annual Strategy sessions for Staff, BOD and key volunteer groups like Ambassadors

  • Strategic Plan and/or Annual Program of Work

  • Financial Management Plan

  • Ambassador/Membership Committee Handbook

  • Succession plans for Staff, BOD, and Committees

  • Communications Plan
After taking a look at these the first thing is DON’T beat yourself up if they don’t exist. Feel free to congratulate yourself if they do exist, but ONLY if they are regularly reviewed AND you are accountable to them!

  • Make a list of what’s missing.

  • Prioritize them in order of what YOU feel is most important.

  • Take that top priority and PUT THE REST AWAY!!

  • Research the industry for samples of plans in that area.

  • Make your list of steps to accomplish it and a timeline to keep you on track.

  • Communicate to all involved.

  • Assign or delegate anything that can be.

  • Start AND complete the first task!!

  • Move on toward completion one task at a time, but GET IT DONE!
Move your organization to the head of the class by establishing systems that will help it function efficiently and effectively now AND will maintain it through any transition or change in leadership that may occur in the future. Yes you need to do it, but it’s important to do it one.step.at.a.time!!!