Peter Sheehan

August 28, 2011

“Innovation isn’t sexy.” Innovation isn’t just the big ideas that make headlines, it’s the down-and-dirty work we do in the trenches to improve our day-to-day processes.” Peter Sheehan at ASAE 2011 Annual Meeting

The Race for Relevance

August 16, 2011

I recently read Mary Byers and Harrison Coerver’s book “Race for Relevance, 5 Radical Changes for Associations”. Then I got to listen to Byers speak at the Oklahoma Society of Association Executives Annual Meeting.
Loved the book! Yes some of it is obvious, but a lot of us in the association world, me included, have ignored the obvious.
There are six basic components to Byers and Coerver’s governance proposals.
*Get your board to 5 members, and select them on competency
*Overhaul your committees, have staff chair the committees, and have only the committees you need.
*Give more power to your CEO and staff. Hire professionals, empower them, and let them do their jobs. Conduct annual evaluations, be candid, and hold people accountable.
*Focus on the needs of a definable member market. Quit trying to be all things to all possible members. We all want to see growth, but you dilute your product when you move away from your key market.
*Rationalize your products and services. Ask yourself if volume equals value. We wind up with so many offerings, that we don’t do any of them as well as we should. Even a small part of staff time captured by a small segment product is a problem. Focus on products and services that your members truly need and use.
*Invest heavily in technology. Associations have got to make more of an effort to get in front of their members, rather than lagging behind them. The member future will be driven by change in technology, whether it be social media or mining your data to make smart decisions. Associations have a habit of waiting to invest in technology out of fear of making the wrong move. There are still association executives who aren’t sure about this “social media” thing. And honestly, a lot of the problems are tied to a reluctance to give up control. Who knows what members might say and do out there on our list serve.

A great book, and I highly recommend it. As they point out, doing nothing is not an option.

ASAE 2011: A View From Just Down the Road

August 14, 2011

A week ago I was in St. Louis at the ASAE Opening Celebration. It is four days of pure association geekdom. And I love it.

As a one person shop, my attendance at the Oklahoma Society of Association and American Society of Association Executives activities are critical for me to grow as an executive.

Here is my view of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of ASAE 2011.

The Good:

  • To hell with the good, there was a lot of great this year.Peter Sheahan knocked it out of the park in the Closing General Session. He was interesting, funny and had done his research. His talk was relevant to the association world.
  • The necessary board introductions were quick, and in some cases humorous.
  • The iPad app rocked, it did exactly what I needed it to do.
  • There were a good variety of sessions to choose from, and the styles of delivery were varied, with some great instructional leaders.
  • I enjoyed the trade show. I admit, I can’t use most of the products offered (although I hope as the AMC grows some of that will change), but I enjoy seeing what is out there. I especially enjoyed the CVB’s who brought a local flavor. Grand Rapids had a local craft beer (Founders Brewery) and brought the brewer with them, and Omaha had a local ice cream.

The Bad:

  • The rooms should have been set up theater style, they were packed, and the round tables made it worse.
  • The closing lunch was in a pitch black room. I couldn’t see to eat. (Although dessert was great).
  • Not much bad to talk about.

The Ugly:

  • The Opening General Session. Tina Brown, (The Daily Beast/Newsweek), who is a smart, successful Woman, but was unprepared to talk to association executives. She was the opposite of Sheahan, totally irrelevant.

So that’s it, not much to complain about. The St. Louis CVB, the City of St. Louis, the Mayor, and the Citizens of St. Louis did a great job of welcoming us and making us feel welcome. Although, I would have been happier if they could have arranged a Cardinal victory over the Brewers while I was there.

And lastly, a shout out to the ASAE staff. They work their butts off at Annual. They listened to past complaints, and concerns, and they made changes. Thanks Gang! See you in Dallas.

Facing the truth

July 28, 2011

There was a great little note in the July 27th issue of USA Today. Here is what it said:
Mulally: It’s OK not to be OK

Ford CEO Alan Mulally recounts an episode that makes him certain Ford has broken unworkable old
In one of his Thursday management meetings, where managers are supposed to show color-coded charts, red for serious problems, yellow for lesser issues, green for all OK, “all the charts were green and I know — we’re going to lose $17 billion. I stopped the meeting and I said, ‘Is there anything that isn’t going well? We’re losing $17 billion.’ Eye contact goes down to the ground.”
Mulally: “The next week here comes Mark (Fields, now president of Ford’s North and South America operations) and the charts are all red. Everybody else’s were green. I started to clap, and I said ‘That’s great.’
“I looked around and said, ‘Is there anything we can do to help'” resolve problems Fields was having launching the Ford Edge.
A dam burst. Other managers started tossing out solutions to similar problems they’d had.
Even so, managers took two weeks to follow the Fields example. “Next week everybody still was green, but (two weeks later) the entire 320 charts (of all the managers) looked like a rainbow. Everybody knew it was safe” to ask for help.
“At that moment I knew, and everybody else knew, that we had a chance now. You can’t manage a secret. It was all out in the open. And everybody was committed to helping everybody else.”

Boy did that hit home. How many of us are willing to carry our troubles into the board room in full color? Most of us, and I include myself in that list, hope to gloss over the true challenges, in hopes of solving the, before they destroy us.
But wouldn’t we all be more effective, if we just laid our challenges out? Showed our Reds and Yellows, not just our Greens?
We spend tremendous energy recruiting and training our board members, and then we fail to use them as a true resource. If we lay out the problems, maybe, just maybe, they can help turn the red to yellow, and the yellow to green.
And by the way, I feel a lot better about Ford (as a stockholder) since I read this.

Road Side Memorials and Member Recognition

March 21, 2011

I live and work in Oklahoma (ergo, Okie). In this part of the country, when some dies in a traffic accident, it is likely that a memorial to that person will be placed on the side of the road where the accident occurred. I admit, I don’t understand the phenomenon, (we don’t place a monument in the bed for those who die in their sleep), but they are important to those who place the memorials.

Seeing these memorials has me thinking about the way we recognize our members.
The purpose of recognizing our members is to thanks them and honor them for outstanding service, or to honor them for length of service or service in a specific role.

But does this recognition really meet our need or our members needs?

An outstanding member award says that one person is the best. But you may have 2, 3, or 300 members who provide outstanding service. Shouldn’t they all be thanked?

When I worked at OPEA we give plaques, engraved clocks, and trophies to outgoing board members, who were reelected and coming right back on the board, with no break of service. Every 2 years, long serving board members got a large plaque or clock to thank them for their service, their homes are now stuffed with OPEA recognition items. Heck, we even had an outstanding staff members award (that will bring em together).

ASAE has struggled with this with the CAE recognition. In 2003 newly minted CAE’s flew their families to Hawaii expecting to “walk across the stage”, and were surprised when that didn’t happen. ASAE allowed the 2003 and 2004 CAE’s to “walk the stage” in Minneapolis in 2004. And I expect a healthy debate about the decision to move it to a Monday morning breakfast this year.

All of us struggle with this. We want our leaders to feel recognized and appreciated for their service to their organizations. But what is the right way to recognize them for taking on the “penalty” of leadership? A plaque? Recognition at an annual meeting or event? Tickets to a special activity?

I am not sure there is a perfect answer to this one. We have to find a way for our members and leaders to feel appreciated, and what you have may be perfect for all of your members, or they may see it like a roadside monument to someone they don’t know.

Best Books … chosen by Mark Bledsoe

January 30, 2011

My wife and I have a subscription to the magazine “The Week”. It is a great read for keeping up with the US and International News. I love that it brings together a variety of media views to cover the news of the week. For example, this weeks coverage of the State of the Union address included writings from the National Review Online, the New York Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New Republic, The Washington Post Online, and the New York Times.
One weekly article I particularly enjoy is Best Books. Someone famous picks the six best books they have ever read, and explain why they chose them.
So here are my six favorite books, and why I choose them:

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. The novel about the Battle of Gettysburg, this book, published in 1974, sank the Civil War hook into me. It later became the basis for the movie ‘Gettysburg”. It helped me to understand not just the decision that occurred with the battle, but why the soldiers for the North and South fought. I just read it again, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. A beautifully written book.

Washington: The Indispensable Man by James Thomas Flexner. The single volume on Washington, which distills Flexners 4 volume series on Washington. I believe that Washington was the most important man in American history. Flexner brings Washington to life, with this balanced and fair biography.

The Children by David Halberstam. A great read on the Civil Rights movement, the Children takes you back to the roots of the movement with college students in Nashville Tennessee. Halberstam was a young reporter with the Tennessean Newspaper in Nashville, and his knowledge of the times shines though. It covers the roots of the non-violent moment, which grew to change our country. He doesn’t gloss over the frustrations felt by the young students who saw control of the movement taken over by older leaders, who ignored them at times. He also helps you to understand the fear and joys they experienced as the movement grew. I also recommend Walking With the Wind, Congressmen John Lewis’s autobiography (Lewis is a key character in The Children) and Diane McWhorter’s Carry Me Home, which shows the view form the other side of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong. The first book to pull back the curtain on the US Supreme Court. It showed how the Justices decided cases, the inner workings of the process, and the evolutions of the arguments. Two others that I enjoyed were Closed Chambers by Edward Lazarus and The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin.

Singing Cowboys and All That Jazz: A Short History of Popular Music in Oklahoma by William Savage. I am an Okie born and breed, (ergo, AssociationOkie), and this book traces the roots of some of the most famous musicians of all times back to their start in Oklahoma. Whether it be Woody Guthrie, Jimmy Rushing, Charlie Christian, Barney Kessel, Patti Page, Wanda Jackson, Reba McEntire, Chet Baker, Leon Russell, David Gates, JJ Cale, Elvin Bishop, Dwight Twilley, The GAP Band, Roger Miller, Hoyt Axton, Mae Boren Axton, Jimmy Webb, Garth Brooks, and Vince Gill, they are Okies too. Savage helped me to understand just how deep and wide the musical roots are in my home state. Most people, including Oklahomans, think country and western music when they think Oklahoma music, but there are deep roots in the Blues, Jazz, Gospel, Pop and Rock here as well, and Savage broadened my knowledge.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I suspect a lot of association staff see Aticus Finch as a role model. I know I do. Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning story of Scout and Jem Finch centers around their Fathers defense of a black man accused of raping a white girl in a small town of the South of the 1930’s. The line, “Stand up, your Daddy’s passin”, still gets me. One of the few books I can think of that made a great movie, it is a timeless view of prejudice and hypocrisy. I find myself rereading it almost annually.

So tell me what books have impacted your life, which six would you chose?

Tolerance

January 14, 2011

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.
John F. Kennedy

Huck Finn and Gabrielle Giffords

January 12, 2011

Two stories that occurred last week have me thinking about language and civility. The shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D. Arizona) and the scrubbing of Mark Twain’s classic, Huckleberry Finn.

The initial response from the shooting was to attack the lack of civility in politics today. By the way, not a new issue for this country. In the 1960’s the far left called for revolution and yelled “burn baby, burn”. Today the far right says “don’t retreat, reload”. Neither side is pure on this one.

And by the way, there is zero evidence that Jared Lee Loughner, the 22 year old who is alleged to be the shooter, was listening to the inflamed rhetoric from the political debate.

I have been a lobbyist for more than 20 years, and can only think of a couple of legislators who I truly disliked. Most of the Men and Women who serve in elected office are good people, who are sincere in their beliefs.

They honestly want to improve the State of Oklahoma and serve the citizens who elect them. Does that mean we always agree? Heck no! But I don’t need to demonize those who disagree with me.

The other big story that struck me was the new version of Mark Twain’s classic novel, ‘Huckleberry Finn”. Alan Gribben, a professor of English at Auburn University has replaced the “N” word with slave and “Injun” with Indian in a new edition. Mr. Gribben is worried that the use of the “N” word has resulted in the book being removed school reading lists.

As the father of an African-American daughter, I struggle with this one. I despise the “N” word. But it is a Tom Sawyer like whitewash of the historical setting, culture and reality of Huck Finn. The “N” word was used to show the hypocrisy of the times. It showed the inherent regalness of the escaped slave Jim. The only character who acted honestly in the tale is the same character who is degraded with language. It is not an easy read, but just like “To Kill a Mockingbird” it is not suppose to be an easy read.

So how do these two stories relate? Do we need to reflect on the tone and language we use in politics today? Of course. Do we need to legislate civility? No more than we need to whitewash Huck Finn.

The truth of the matter is we can not ignore our history. Slavery, and the mistreatment and marginalization of Women, African-Americans and Native Americans and others who weren’t White Middle Class Men, is a reality of our past. Study it, understand it, and discuss it in a respectful and civil tone.

Why Don’t We Collaborate?

October 29, 2010

I recently read a post by Jamie Notter, on his blog “Get Me Jamie Notter” http://www.getmejamienotter.com on collaboration.

Jamie got me to thinking (as his posts usually do) about why we don’t choose to collaborate more.

My conclusion, envy and ego. We are so afraid of sharing the glory, or seeing someone else get ahead, that we refuse to share the responsibility.

It reminds me of a story I read in Antonio’s Gun and Defino’s Dream by Sam Quinones (as an aside, Mexican Mennonite Drug Lords?). The story was about crabs in a pot of boiling water. When one crab tries to get out of the pot, the other crabs pull him back down; if they can’t get out, why should he.

Envy and ego can destroy an association. Whether it is a staff member undercutting a fellow employee by not sharing timely information, or a board member not fully engaging in a discussion, envy and ego can destroy our attempts to collaborate.

And what makes it worse, is most of us agree that more gets done when you quit worrying about who gets the credit.

Love my iPad

September 9, 2010

I bought an iPad a couple of months ago. I bought the Apple hype. I am a Blackberry person. As a one person association shop, my Blackberry allows me to conduct business when I am away from my office. It is a great email machine, but a horrible reader.

But the iPad has won a place in my repertoire. It allows me to easily carry all the documents I need with me, has a smooth web browser, and is a great reader.

I set up an email account for the iPad, and send what I need to the machine. I have added a few programs that make my life easier. I use PDF Reader Pro to open PDF’s, I use Reeder to keep track of the Blogs I read, and Informant HD to keep track of my schedule.

I serve on the board of the Oklahoma Society of Association Executives and the Putnam City Public Schools District board, and I now email the board packets to my iPad, rather than printing them out. Additionally, I am converting my notes for the courses I teach at OSU/OKC to PDF, and teaching off of the iPad.

I have to say, Informant HD is a great program. It syncs with Google Calendar, which my wife and I use to keep track of our schedules. I love that it is available off-line, so that when I have no wi-fi, I still have my calendar available.

I also use iBooks, Nook, and the Kindle apps. I love reading on the iPad, and use these three apps because not every book I want to read is available on one app. Plus, each app offers free books on occasion.

What I haven’t wrapped my mind around is how this will change how we as associations do business. I do believe that we will have to adapt to the technology, but I am not sure what that will mean. If I am reading a web site on my Blackberry, or my wives iPhone, then I need the website set up for mobile reading. But with an iPad, that is unnecessary. I can see the full website.

So, how do you think the tablet revolution will impact associations?

(ps, I wrote this post on the iPad, using Pages)


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