Add Knowledge to Your New Year’s Resolutions

Trips to the gym the first month of a new year usually speak volumes about human nature. Bodies, a little overweight from the holidays, dot the landscape. Every treadmill is in use. Inclines are higher than usual. Pace is top speed. I chuckle as I think about the story of the ‘tortoise and hare’ wondering how many of these exercising bodies will last the test of time or by March will be on to some other form of exercise. Yet, I applaud their willingness to get started. Yet, for many, I question whether they developed a plan of action before diving into their routine.

The same is true for association professionals. We know that knowledge is key to success, yet more times than not we allow the “urgent” to get in the way and never develop a plan for achievement. We think about sitting for the Certified Association Executive (CAE) exam. We think about a cracking open the latest book on membership management. We think about diving deeper into a particular aspect of association management. Often, little or nothing gets off the drawing board.

Here’s my challenge to you: give yourself the gift of knowledge and share that knowledge with those around you. Sounds simple but I realize it is not. Develop a plan and work the plan. Don’t take on more than you can accomplish. Set a realistic timeline. Enlist a colleague or friend to keep you accountable.

Where can you start?

Certified Association Executive (CAE). Seventy percent of CAE test takers report enhanced knowledge, improved advancement opportunities, and elevated status in their current position as motivation. The CAE has widespread recognition and can open doors, creating new and valuable connections. Applications for the May 6 exam is February 26.

Qualified Association Specialist. This 12-module certificate program covers various aspects of running an association – everything from organizational structure and governance to membership and government relations. It is designed to help those new to association management and can be a good ‘refresher’ for those who have a CAE.

Conference Attendance. Mark your calendar for May 25 – 27, 2016. In addition to stand-alone subject sessions, new this year will be three specialized learning tracks for staff, seasoned CEOs, and those new to the role of management.

On-Line Learning. Review the listing of specialized topics available through CSAE’s online learning. It’s a great way to receive top training on your terms from experts across the nation.

Read Daily. Blogs, social media posts, and news snippets are good but don’t rob yourself of in-depth learning that comes from picking up a book and absorbing a new idea or concept.

2016 can be a winner if you have a plan and work the plan. Don’t get sidetracked. Make ‘knowledge’ a key element within your New Year’s Resolutions.

Bugs On The Windshield

I finished reading Tom Morrison’s book How to Get People to Scream Your Name and Beg for More – The Ps and Keys to Living the Ultimate Life. In this easy read, Tom stresses over and over again that our life clock is ticking. Get going and stop wasting time. Behaviors that allow us to get trapped by the concerns of the moment and overshadow the bigger picture must be discontinued if we want to live the ultimate life. Tom provides a number of worksheets and tools in his book to help readers gravitate toward this goal.

With Tom’s book as a backdrop to further thinking, enhanced by  several conversations I’ve had with association professionals this week, it occurs to me that as we wrap up the calendar year, this trap of focusing on the bug on the windshield instead of watching the road ahead has never been more prevalent.

Therefore, I’d like to offer the following tips as we conclude the year and think about New Year’s resolutions. Mold and reshape these as you wish so they fit your life today:

Remember, you are relevant – so show it by being social! You read. You study. You test your theories. You are in constant contact with colleagues, members, and industry stakeholders. You are in the know! Don’t let the day pass without letting others know you care about them and are working to make their professional life better. Share your knowledge by posting on social media or responding to a posted request. Your voice needs to be heard.  Forward a link to someone who could benefit from your insight or might find what you have just read interesting. And, don’t forget the mail – a handwritten note or copy of an industry best seller that you feel has value will help keep you front and center.

Find people who will keep you accountable! Join a MasterMind Group, Alternative Board or the CSAE Grey Matters. Life gets in the way. If you are going to pursue a new skill, accomplish a long ‘wished for’ dream, or achieve focus on steps needed to keep your organization fresh and vibrant, going alone can be difficult.  You need the voice of reason that others bring to keep realistic and stay on track. Friends and colleagues are wonderful and essential, but they play a different role. You need accountability, honest feedback, and someone who will tell you what you may not want to hear but need to hear.

Share a laugh, have fun, and tell them you appreciate! Tom is correct. Life is short. It seems like yesterday that my niece was sharing with me some of her college experiences. Today, we laugh and celebrate her daughter’s college experience. Time does fly. People need to know you are human and fun, not simply a 24-7 workaholic who is constantly looking for and pointing out the mistakes and errors of others. Take time each day to truly laugh. Do something fun. And, let your colleagues, friends, and employees know you appreciate and care about them.

January 1 will be here before we know it. As you wrap those last minute purchases and complete the tasks you vowed to accomplish before December 31, take time to celebrate all the wonder of the year and ponder what you want to do differently in 2016. The best is yet to come! Happy Holidays.

Cultivating Your Career

My neighbor is a master gardener. He has raised beds each dedicated to specific vegetables including a pumpkin patch. Not all the beds are the same; different sizes, shapes, and arranged strategically so they get just the right amount of sunshine. The soil and water conditions are monitored and cultivated to produce an ideal crop. Attention is given to each step of the growing process. He also belongs to a group of master gardeners who are constantly researching new methods and honing their skills. This fall he again is reaping the benefits of his work with a prize winning crop and some picture-perfect pumpkins.

As I watched his activity this year it made me stop and think about my actions and the actions of other association professionals. How much time do I spend cultivating career goals, testing new ideas, learning new skills, and honing my expertise through study with other colleagues? Casual conversations with some of the most visible and cutting-edge executives indicated that they do not take their careers for granted. They are as studious about their career as they are about the organizations they lead.

Moving into the fall with a new year fast approaching consider these tips for updating your career expectations:

Update your social media profile. Have you looked at your LinkedIn or Facebook profile recently? Is it current? Does it reflect new skills and expertise you’ve acquired but overlooked adding? Review resources and other profiles for ideas on how to position information appropriately for today’s viewer.

Refresh your resume. Layouts, terminology, and design elements that grab the attention of the reader within seconds, delivering facts quickly and concisely is a must.  Attend a class, do some research or consider a professional resume writer for expertise.

Think about your future. Yes, you love your job. It’s a part of you. But, if you were not doing what you are doing today, what would you like to do? Are there transferrable skills that you could take in another direction? Consider volunteer work on a limited basis that could use those skills and let you explore new options. Test new horizons.

Look at your risk tolerance.  Be truthful with yourself. Depending upon your lifestyle, obligations, and career stage how much can you risk? List the factors in your life that drive the decisions you make today and will make in the near future. Are their adjustments you can make today that will allow you more flexibility looking ahead? If so, list the steps needed to make those changes and develop a game plan for putting those into action.

Analyze your circle of friends and colleagues. How has your inner circle of professional colleagues changed over the past year? Is it a diverse mix or simply an extension of you?  Are these people who are as interested in your success as you are or should be?  Are these people who will honestly say what needs to be said, not what you want to hear? Professional communities and mastermind groups can add a new dimension to problem solving and visionary thinking.

Embrace the future, don’t fight it. Learn a new skill. Refine a process or embark on projects that you’ve always dreamed about with a plan of action.  Time is running and if you don’t do it today you might not have another chance.

Make yourself accountable for your career actions. Share your career aspirations with a trusted colleague, along with the timeline, and action steps you plan on taking. Checking in occasionally with someone will keep you on track when life gets in the way.

Finally, celebrate your steps along the way. It’s not about what still lies ahead to be done but what you have been able to accomplish. Maybe you’re not an expert at the new skill you decided to learn but you are applying what you recently learned. Maybe your resume is not perfect but celebrate that it’s better than it was and if asked for a copy you can immediately produce a copy that reflects the you of today not yesterday.

By thinking about, preparing and cultivating your career, like my neighbor with his picture-perfect pumpkins, you too can continue to enjoy a satisfying career now and into the future. Don’t get stalled but forge ahead. The future is bright for those who take charge.

Joan Tezak CMP, CAE, Executive Director

School is Back in Session

New backpacks – new crayons – and new shoes brighten the landscape as I watch the elementary children skip off to school. They’re all smiles and looking forward to a new year of learning experiences, cultivating new friendships, and connecting with old friends.

But what about us adults? As the weather cools and we move indoors, do we move into the fall as excited about our own fall line- up of experiences and the connections? And just as our children prepare for their first weeks of school with new supplies and clothing do we prepare well for what lies ahead? If you are like me, some days I’m lucky to carve out time to prepare for the next day much less a week or month and beyond.

This fall, I’m trying a different approach. It’s framing expectations around the activities of the day. What do I want to accomplish this day? What do I want to get out of each activity?

Looking at a calendar full of meetings, projects, and day-to-day activities I want to look beyond the motions necessary to accomplish various task and attach expectations. For me it is taking the “Why” made popular by Simon Sinek and making it personal. Sinek in his TED talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” discovered some remarkable patterns about how leaders think, act and communicate, as well as the ideal environments in which they are at their best.

In visiting recently with a member about his experience at the Annual ASAE meeting, he was quick to point out that his expectations were fully met and it was great use of his time and his association’s money. He left Denver bound for Detroit with a specific list of what he wanted to learn personally; what he wanted to explore for the association he represented; and a list of people he wanted to reconnect with and meet for the first time.   For him it was not a willy-nilly encounter of going to a meeting or trade show and if he had a good time or picked up a tip of two he would count this as a worthwhile venture. No, he was a man with a mission. He wasted no time or energy. He was focused, prepared, and took the necessary steps to insure that his expectations were fully met.

So, this fall I challenge you as I challenge myself to take a hard look at the projects we engage in and the meetings we attend and have a plan for obtaining what we need and want from each experience.

For example, let me share with you a recent story from my own life. Knowing the Amorphophallus titanium, a.k.a. the corpse flower was hours away from blooming at the Denver Botanic Gardens, I began making plans. Going online I researched the history, the uniqueness of this flower and knew why seeing this flower was truly a special event in the making. I could not miss seeing this flower! When it bloomed on August 20th, I was ready. Tickets in hand, I ate dinner quickly and joined the massive amount of other people in line to see the flower. Yes, the wait was 7 hours to see one flower (but let’s face it – the Corpse flower does not bloom every day!). Was all that planning and preparation worth it? You bet. I have the photo prominently displayed in my office as a reminder of the people I met and visited with while standing in line, the smell of the area, and the unique beauty of this immense flower.

Knowing what we want, developing an action plan, implementing the plan, and sharing our success sounds so simple but it’s easy to get derailed. Many times, success is up to us. We can go through the motions. Or, we can stuff those back packs with the right tools, slip on the right shoes and start walking. In December as we put up the lights and decorate our homes and offices I hope we can say we had a fall where we took the right steps and laid a strong foundation for a bright new year. Good luck on all your projects and meetings this fall!

Joan Tezak CMP, CAE, Executive Director