How To Give Your Employees a Sense of Tribe in a Remote-Based World

When everyone is working remotely, can community still be achieved?

As companies have gotten bigger, and as more businesses offer more options in global markets, people have responded by demanding transparency from the organizations they patronize and work for. At the same time, remote work has exploded, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through all this, one thing has not changed — the natural psychological need people have for a sense of belonging. They want to know they have a tribe and a place to look for cues about what to do. And as people move out of the office to work digitally from anywhere with anyone, loyalty to specific employers isn’t as strong as it used to be. People are looking for a sense of community and family not from a single business but from their professional network as a whole.

In this environment, your new task is to find ways to deliver a sense of tribe to your team no matter where they’re working so that they stay with you. Doing this well will allow you to keep morale and productivity high while ensuring good retention that protects your bottom line. 

Where do people get a sense of tribal belonging?

The sense of tribal belonging usually comes from four key sources:

  • A shared purpose
  • A unique contribution towards that purpose
  • Pride in what they do and leave as a legacy
  • Gratitude for what others in the tribe have offered

If people are going to feel like they belong to your team, then you must address each of the above areas.

1. Sense of purpose

Everybody understands “purpose” when we’re talking about a grand cause. But what if your organization’s role is not to eradicate diseases, fight poverty or clean the oceans? Purpose can be found in the smallest of things. It’s why we do what we do every day. In a B2B context, it might just be to achieve your clients’ business goals. It might be to solve a given problem in the industry. Whatever the purpose is, it makes the team raise their heads high and see the horizon. 

In our day-to-day routine and the work-from-anywhere environment, it’s easy to forget that purpose can come from more minute ways of serving. So, whatever purpose your team might claim, take every opportunity to expose them to that vision and reinforce it. Even better, let them co-create it and own it. The conversation changes completely when the team sets its own purpose. Ownership also usually means that teams consistently keep their purpose at the front of the discussions they have. 

We’ve seen this effect many times in our own strategy sessions or when we run a discovery session with a client to make sure everyone is aligned on what we need to achieve. In both cases, people are crafting the vision themselves. The engagement and commitment of team members from different backgrounds and opinions are leveled up to the highest point. It’s a tribe in formation. 

Purpose doesn’t need to be perennial. It can, and perhaps should, be renewed constantly.

2. Unique contribution

If purpose says “why,” then a tribe also wants to feel that how they go about achieving that purpose is, in certain ways, unique. It’s the mark of the tribe and what differentiates them from other tribes. There’s an aspect of authorship here that fulfills people’s desire to feel special. 

This sense of authorship is directly connected to what you’re offering to the market, but it’s not only that. How the company operates internally could also bring a lot of “uniqueness” — how leaders relate to employees, the management philosophies, how they engage in communications, the autonomy of teams, how the company deals with diversity, equity and inclusion, and how it sees its role in society at large can all contribute to this. No matter what combination of contributing factors you might have, the more you hear people pointing out how “weird” the company is in a positive way, or the more you hear “this could only have happened here,” the more likely it is that there’s a strong sense of tribe brewing.

3. Pride

Everyone wants to feel proud of their achievements and the mark they’re leaving on the world. Knowing they are contributing to something uniquely valuable, as described above, is half of it. But they need to feel that their individual contribution was important, as well. People will generally have an intrinsic sense of pride based on their own self-awareness, and allowing them to show that pride goes a long way. 

Demonstrating pride is not necessarily bragging or self-promoting. You may feel proud even if somebody else is speaking of the achievements of your team. One experiment we did internally, for example, was to create room for each team to tell their “Powerful Stories” in short videos published at the CI&T University. These were available to every employee and included client testimonials. The narrative always started with the intended business goals and ended with the outcomes, and the story in between was always very rich. These videos helped to promote learning across different parts of the organization, and at the same time, instilled a sense of pride. Communicating your story, or allowing others to communicate theirs, can build pride with those in your business in the same way. 

As you offer rewards for people’s achievements, provide consistent updates to show the real-world influence their work is directly or indirectly having. Praising the interactions involved in achieving the final result will ensure that everyone understands the collective effort involved, has a full sense of their role and knows that they can collaborate instead of going it alone.

4. Gratitude

People can feel grateful for what is beyond expectations, outside the norm, or simply out of the blue. It’s the “we have your back” feeling, which is put to proof in times of need. The past 12 months, in particular, have given an exceptionally high number of opportunities to test whether we can count on others. Gratitude is also multi-directional: you may feel grateful for something your leader has done, your peers or people on your team. 

In my experience, gratitude doesn’t come from major game-changing, heroic acts. It comes from small, unexpected, and absolutely sincere acts, most often from one-on-one relationships. You can’t forge gratitude. The best you can do is to create a truly collaborative environment where people genuinely care about each other and feel safe to offer their own personal help to others.

Personal ties and gratitude solidify each other. When somebody expresses gratitude, it reinforces a sense of pride within the other person and creates memorable moments, even if they have never met in person. 

Speaking from my own experience, the times that I recall as meaningful and that I am most proud of are the ones where somebody came to me and thanked me for something I said or did that was important to them in some way. They’re never planned, and I never anticipate that I’ll have such an influence. In fact, I wouldn’t know I had that much of an effect if those people didn’t spontaneously come back to tell me. It’s this random expression of how I made a difference that makes the interaction so memorable. All of this can happen only in an environment where it is safe to be vulnerable and to lend a hand.

Behavioral science has shown over and over again that helping others benefits both the helper and the recipient. If team members are doing that for each other, then they will really feel they belong in the tribe.


What Kind of Flag Can I Fly Outside My House?

If you live in a community with a homeowners association, chances are good that you may be limited to just the Stars and Stripes.

By Debra Kamin For The New York Times

David Pendery, a marketing executive who lives outside of Denver, reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado last year when he was told he could not fly a pride flag outside of his home. The A.C.L.U. sued his district on his behalf, and won.Credit…Benjamin Rasmussen for The New York Times

David Pendery’s rainbow pride flag had only been waving outside his house for a few days when a letter arrived ordering him to take it down.

Mr. Pendery, 44, a marketing executive, lives with his husband and their two children in Arapahoe County, Colo. When he hung up the flag at the end of August 2020, he hoped that the pennant would show solidarity for L.G.B.T.Q. families like his. What he didn’t anticipate was a drawn-out legal battle, one that took him all the way to Denver Federal District Court in early March.

There are more than 370,000 homeowners associations across the country, collectively representing more than half of all owner-occupied U.S. homes. Homeowners associations, which are created with the purpose of upholding property values, also dictate quotidian duties of homeownership: where to place trash bins, when to trim lawns, even which colors of paint are appropriate. But buried in their contracts are often limits on the size and style of flags that homeowners can fly. At a time when even the image of the American flag has become polarizing, these policies are leading to accusations of partisanship and violations of constitutional rights.

“HOAs get most of their powers from the contracts that they make their residents sign,” said Jeremy Rovinsky, a law professor and dean of National Paralegal College. “These allow the HOA to regulate expression that would otherwise be considered ‘free speech.’”

In Mr. Pendery’s case, his community is overseen not by a traditional homeowners association, but a metropolitan district, which is a government entity with a democratically elected board. That district maintains a home improvement reference guide, which states that preapproval is required for nearly all flags. Only military pennants and the U.S. flag are exempt.

Flag restrictions for private homes can be as varied as U.S. housing stock. Some stipulate the size of permissible flags; others allow holiday signs and sports banners, but little else.

They also vary by state. California prevents homeowners associations from restricting flags except in matters of public health or safety; in Arizona and Texas, restrictions on political signs are lifted in the months immediately preceding an election and for a handful of days following.

In this past election cycle, flags were unfurled with a new urgency. “I think I saw more flags used as political symbols than at any other time in my life,” said Michael Green, a flag researcher and designer. He started his own company, Flags for Good, in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

David Pendery’s pride flag flying outside of his home in Arapahoe County, Colo. Mr. Pendery was initially told he would need to apply for approval in order to fly his flag. He chose not to do that and instead filed an open-records request to see if there were irregularities in how and when his district enforced its flag guidelines.Credit…Benjamin Rasmussen for The New York Times

The 2005 federal Freedom to Fly the American Flag Act makes it illegal for any homeowners association or property management company to restrict a resident from flying the American flag, although many associations do place limits on the size and height of the Stars and Stripes. But when it comes to other pennants, a homeowner’s right to free speech is often irrelevant if they live in a community with a homeowners association.

The First Amendment prohibits the government from infringing on a citizen’s right to free speech, but homeowners associations aren’t government entities. Their ability to censor expression is much broader. “For a constitutional violation to occur, you need a state actor,” Mr. Rovinsky said. “Yes, you do have freedom of speech, but while the government can’t infringe on that, your HOA can say you can’t put up a Black Lives Matter sign.”

Residents who have challenged HOAs have had more success arguing violations on the Fair Housing Act or the Civil Rights Act, which both prevent discrimination based on race, religion or gender. “A court would want to look for discriminatory intent,” Mr. Rovinsky said.

Mr. Pendery was told he would need to apply for approval in order to fly his flag, which he chose not to do. Instead, he filed an open-records request to see if there were irregularities in how and when his district enforced its flag guidelines. He read through 500 pages of emails from district committee members, then reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, who sued the district on his behalf.

“I believe it was selective enforcement,” Mr. Pendery said. “My flag was clearly so egregious that within 48 hours of me putting it up, I had a letter about it. I didn’t see that sort of expeditious action being taken against their other guidelines.”

The A.C.L.U. of Colorado won an injunction on March 4, and the district is now hammering out new language that removes the requirement that residents submit flags for approval before flying them. “I put my flag back up the same day,” Mr. Pendery said. The incident, he said, was a lesson for his children, ages 2 and 8.

“We made this case because it’s important to stand up for what you believe in, and what’s right,” he said. “The biggest thing I want them to know is that there are people who have been marginalized or taken advantage of, and you need to stand up for the little guy. You need to stand up for your family.”

Mr. Pendery’s case was just one of about 50 complaints about flag restrictions that the A.C.L.U. of Colorado has heard of this year. “It’s snowballed since last fall,” said Mark Silverstein, A.C.L.U. of Colorado’s legal director. The vast majority of complaints, he said, are centered around flags with social justice messages or political symbols associated with Democratic and left-wing causes.

“Some HOAs may have tolerated or declined to enforce rules when the signs or flags were not viewed as controversial,” Mr. Silverstein said. But when residents complain, he said, they are more likely to issue a citation. “And in some quarters, these social justice signs are perceived as having a more controversial edge to them, and that has resulted in people nudging HOAs to enforce their rules.”

When it comes to homeowners’ free speech, courts often disagree about the classification of homeowner associations. While some states view them as purely private organizations, other states, like California, see them as an extension of the government. “Several court decisions in California have considered HOAs to be quasi-governmental entities,” said Patricia Brum, a Los Angeles-based attorney with the law offices of Snell & Wilmer. “So in that context, the HOAs in California are more restricted when it comes to the application of free speech.”

The fact that Mr. Pendery’s community is overseen not by a traditional HOA but a metropolitan district with a democratically elected board likely gave him a significant edge in his legal case.

Kara and Ben Wilkoff, who live with their three children in an community run by a homeowners association in Littleton, Colo., also reached out to the A.C.L.U. of Colorado for help with a flag issue. Ms. Wilkoff, 40, and Mr. Wilkoff, 38, hung a Black Lives Matter flag outside of their home last August. Four months later, their homeowners association ordered them to take it down and submit a formal approval request.

Ms. Wilkoff, a TV producer, said that she chose to raise the Black Lives Matter flag after the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police, including Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and George Floyd. It was a sign of solidarity, but also a way for Ms. Wilkoff, who has a Black father and a white mother, to connect with her own identity.

Paul Whelan, 74, an automotive technician in Waterside, Penn., was devastated by the election of President Joe Biden in November and decided that same month to take down the American flag in front of his home. In its place, Mr. Whelan, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, raised the Gadsden flag, the yellow banner with a coiled rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread On Me.” The flag, which has been used by both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy, dates back to the American Revolution but was also among the far-right symbols seen during the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

He soon received an email from his homeowner’s association telling him the flag was not in compliance with the homeowner association’s flag rules, and he would have to take it down.

“The Gadsden flag was one of our country’s first flags. There’s nothing wrong with it. Yes, the Tea Party and Trump supporters have carried it, but that doesn’t make it bad,” he said. “This is cancel culture.”

Mr. Whelan said he chose not to challenge the homeowners association’s ruling so as to spare his wife, who is currently undergoing treatment for aggressive breast cancer, any additional stress. “I love a good fight, but she doesn’t need any more aggravation in her life,” he said.

For now, the flagpole in front of his home stands empty.

Mr. Silverstein, of the A.C.L.U., says that while it’s difficult to anticipate whether or not the uptick in homeowner complaints might change federal laws against flag restrictions, he believes there is a possibility that in Colorado, Mr. Pendery’s case could lead to a battle at the state level.

“Flags have always been communication tools,” said Mr. Green, the flag researcher. “They are the way we identify certain groups and how we define our tribes. It’s just fabric on a stick, but it’s a powerful thing.”

Co-op Boards Can’t Get a Pandemic Pass on Annual Meetings

HABITAT Magazine

Annual shareholder meetings and board elections may have been disrupted during the coronavirus pandemic, but co-op boards need to remember that the meetings must still be held. No excuses. Boards that try to dodge this obligation should be aware that shareholders have a powerful recourse. 

“If your board is actively preventing meetings or hasn’t called one in more than 13 months, shareholders with 10% of the shares can get together and demand an annual meeting to be called to elect directors,” Steve Wagner, a partner at the law firm Wagner Berkow & Brandt, tells Brick Underground.

Virtual meetings, which became the norm when COVID-19 shut New York City down at the beginning of the pandemic, are allowed through December 2021, subject to any extensions. But if a sitting co-op board does not convene a meeting – either virtual or in-person – shareholders holding just 10% of the corporation’s shares can call a special meeting, the sole purpose of which is to elect a new board.

In such a situation, disgruntled shareholders will join together to hire an attorney to advise them on the process of calling a special meeting. First, a written notice demanding a meeting must be sent to the board. The meeting needs to be scheduled for between 60 and 90 days from the date of the written demand. If the board doesn’t call the meeting within five days of the notice, any shareholder can sign the demand and call the meeting. 

Getting a shareholders meeting doesn’t necessarily mean there’s going to be a shake-up of the board. “The shareholders who are demanding the meeting need to organize so that when the meeting is actually held, the election is fair and they will prevail,” Wagner says.

One way to ensure a fair election is to bring in a company with experience conducting virtual elections. The companies also offer balloting and oversight services. These companies have to take extra steps to verify shareholders, proxies and ballots. For example, shareholders might be given a unique QR code so when proxies or ballots are submitted, the code is used to confirm the vote. “These issues are readily resolved at a physical meeting,” Wagner says, “but with a virtual meeting it involves technical expertise to confirm the validity of proxies and ballots.”

It’s more efficient – and cheaper – to win an election than it is to take someone to court to throw him off the board. Another consideration arguing against a lawsuit is that the pandemic has slowed court cases to a trickle. “It’s expensive to begin a lawsuit just to challenge an election,” Wagner says, adding that disgruntled shareholders’ goal should be to get to the desired result as quickly as possible, without waiting for the gears of the courts to turn.

Humility: A leadership superpower

Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today’s post is by Sabrina Horn.

As a young CEO, humility was not one of my core leadership traits. For the privilege of having those three letters after my name, I figured I’d better have all the answers or at least act like I did

But pretending to know something when you know you do not is faking it, and faking it has a way of catching up with you. Like many first-time executives, I confused humility with a lack of confidence and, therefore, chalked it up as weakness. 

Being humble may not seem like an obvious CEO trait. It is true that you’d be hard-pressed to find a leader who lacked self-esteem or had a sense of unworthiness. In the real world, the CEO does not have all the answers, but does have all the questions and the confidence to ask them. The best leaders have a realistic appreciation of their strengths and weaknesses. They are secure in knowing that they don’t know everything, and they have no problem asking for help, learning from others and even apologizing for their mistakes.

That degree of confidence and open-mindedness draws people in. It levels the playing field for everyone you lead and nurtures a hunger for knowledge and data, thereby driving a culture of learning. For me, such confidence is inextricably linked to curiosity and a mindset receptive to discovery.

So, what does humility in leadership look like?

It is about learning in the moment. It nudges you to double-check and give a second thought to the most important decisions you make. When confronted with an unknown, the curious CEO will find the information needed before deciding how to proceed. Asking an open-ended question like “How will this plan really work?” is infinitely more useful than a yes-or-no question such as “Do you like this plan?” 

One of the most useful questions I employ in everyday situations is “Tell me more?” Instead of a silent shutdown, it creates further dialogue and, with it, the opportunity to get more information. In contrast, the arrogant CEO never admits uncertainty or doubt and instead covers up, stumbles, doubles down on error and falls facedown.

Fakers think that asking questions is for losers. On the contrary, faking it is a loser’s game. It invites exposure as a liar. It’s a lot better to be exposed for an honest mistake than for pulling a fast one. For example, after losing a big sale, I sat down with my team to do a postmortem — not to point a finger, but to learn how to be better. I went around the table to ask everyone how we could improve.

“Where did we miss a step?” “How can we come together on this?” “How can I help us win next time?” “What do you need from me?”

Next, I acknowledged my own missteps and took responsibility for them: “I didn’t have the best connection with their top executive.” “I forgot to make that key point, thanks Jim for picking up on that and chiming in at the end.”

And finally, I took the opportunity to lead forward together: “Let’s institute these new checks and balances.” “We lost this one, but now we know how to win next time.” 

In contrast, the faker CEO completely avoids the relevant issues, denies the problem and blames others: “Get a different guy to sell the product.” “Fire that guy.” “Send out more emails slamming the competition.” “Offer a discount.”

Humility is a superpower in leadership. It is about knowing what you don’t know and having the curiosity, authenticity and confidence to put that out there so that you and your team can find the answers. The ultimate reward rests both in the value of information you might not otherwise get and in the trust that it fosters between you and the people you lead.

Sabrina Horn is an award-winning CEO, author, speaker and C-suite advisor. Her book, “Make It, Don’t Fake It, Leading with Authenticity for Real Business Success,” (releasing June 22 from Berrett-Koehler) aims to help all leaders achieve business success with integrity. Visit her website for more information and to download Sabrina’s free resource, “You Can’t Fake Authentic Leadership: 5 Ways to Fight Faking It.”

Employees and employers disagree about financial wellness

By Matt Pierce for EBN

Too many Americans are facing a bleak financial outlook. With 40% of households reporting declines in income over the past year and unemployment spiking, many are choosing between necessary medical care and feeding their families.

With this crisis coming on top of years of stagnant wages for workers, the nation’s economy — and its citizens — are in dire need of support. In the face of this challenge, new data shows that employers and their employees have some significant divergence in perception when it comes to employee financial well-being.

According to a study of more than 1,250 hourly and salaried workers as well as 200 CEOs and HR leaders, employers may not have a clear, complete view of the impact of financial stress on their employees.

Assessing the divergence
The biggest gap revealed by the data was in how employers and employees rated the perceived financial wellness of employees. The majority of employers (87%) rated their employees’ financial wellness as good to excellent, while the majority of workers rated their financial wellness as average to good.

A study published by the Society for Human Resource Management last year shows that this finding is in line with general trends; the number of employees who rate their financial wellness as good to excellent has been declining since 2018. Surprisingly, that same study revealed that nearly two-thirds of employers feel extremely responsible for their employees’ financial wellness, up from just 13% in 2013.

That self-reported concern from employers also underscores another dramatic difference in employees and employers: three-quarters of employees say that financial wellness offerings like earned wage access would help them alleviate their financial burdens. Yet, 40% of employers offer no solutions to help.

It’s clear that there is extreme pressure on many employees and it’s critical to note that this is not just an issue for hourly employees or entry-level workers.People coming from households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more were more likely to ask for advances from their employers compared to employees making less than $50,000 a year.

Fortunately, there are several areas where employees and employers agree — and it could point to a dramatic shift in the kinds of benefit packages and support employers offer.

Analyzing the convergence
Employees have started to ask for payroll advances more regularly. Over the past year, a majority of both groups reported that they either requested advances (64% of employees) or were asked for advances (63% of employers) two to five times over the last 12 months. It’s clear that employees are feeling a heavy financial need, but recent reports indicate that many employers are trying to reduce the accessibility of pay advances in the workplace, while others don’t even have a standard process in place.

Many of these solutions may come with a fee, which some employers may consider a barrier. But, given that employers claim to want to do more to support financial wellness — and that over two-thirds of surveyed employees said they’d be willing to share the cost of an EWA solution — shows that employers may be considering making these solutions more commonly available. Besides, when it comes to attracting and retaining employees, 80% of employees surveyed said they would prioritize an employer offering EWA solutions.

Recent data also reveals that employees are more interested in benefits like financial wellness tools than they are in health care coverage, paid time off, and mental health support. As the pandemic subsides, expect to see a massive shift in hiring trends. People who have put off job searches to maintain job security may begin to look for more opportunities, and there could be a massive hiring surge — and the talent will be highly competitive.

Establishing competitive and progressive benefits now will help you stand out to the talent pool. Neglecting to do so now is likely to leave you behind when that change happens.

Matt Pierce CEO, Immediate

Allies, sponsors key to creating diverse, equitable workforce

By Angela Childers for Business Insurance

Creating a culture that values allyship, mentorship and sponsorship of diverse individuals is a good place to start toward fostering a more inclusive and equitable workplace, said experts on Wednesday in an online panel discussion hosted by Business Insurance’s Diversity + Inclusion Institute.

“Employees are demanding more equity, more inclusion, more diversity,” said Dana Lodge, chief financial officer of Everest Insurance Co. “It’s just across the board, there is this pent-up demand for change that is pushing companies to do the right thing. There is a lot of societal pressure providing the economic incentive to companies to do the right thing.”

Early in her career, Ms. Lodge didn’t see herself progressing to the level she is at today, largely because she didn’t see other Black women like herself represented in top roles.

“I’m pretty sure my aspiration at that time was to be an accountant who does taxes for small businesses,” Ms. Lodge said. “I had great mentors and sponsors that helped me see that vision. I definitely think that representation is very important and in the absence of it, the allyship, mentorship and sponsorship is needed … to help people understand what their potential is.”

Roosevelt Giles, chairman of BI’s Diversity + Inclusion Institute and chairman of the board of Atlanta Life Financial Group, the country’s only Black-owned insurance company, noted that all people in leadership levels at insurance companies, including white male leaders, had allies, mentors and sponsors in their careers.

“The trilogy happens … and using the trilogy piece might be the first step, getting people to understand and have a conversation with another person,” he said.

Preeti Asthana, director and head of global programs, innovation and partnerships at Aon PLC, said she was “acutely aware of being the only woman” in the boardroom in many situations and was fortunate enough to have mentors and sponsors aiding her throughout her career journey, which led her to give back as a mentor for others.

“One of my early mentors told me, don’t be apologetic for being a woman,” she said. “That’s exactly what I mirror throughout. If you really want to show what you are and want to make the most out of mentorship, you need to be open to ideas and you also need to make sure you are vulnerable” and open to understanding where your gaps are and how to fill those gaps, she said.

One of the biggest challenges, Ms. Lodge said, is focusing on middle management and helping them look at diverse candidates, ensuring unconscious bias is not part of their performance reviews and making sure support and commitment of diversity, inclusion and equity comes from the top.

“How do we help to support (middle management) during that learning process is something we’ve identified as a need,” she said. “We don’t have all of the answers, but I think the first step is identifying a need.”

Companies need to “look at all constituencies and promote and mentor and sponsor all constituencies,” Mr. Giles said. “But if there’s no leadership from the top, then the middle management is going to look up and say, ‘I don’t need to do this because I don’t see it above me.’”

Another key is holding companies accountable for their actions — not just their statements.

“Asking more of those uncomfortable questions” and supporting companies that are hiring women to leadership roles and appointing them to boards is important,” said Christina Terplan, partner at Atheria Law P.C. “We want to support other companies that are showing movement” rather than “just having a splashy statement on a website and sponsoring an event during Women’s History Month.”

The panel was moderated by Ngozi Nnaji, founder and managing partner of AKO Insurance Consulting.

A recording of the full webinar is available here.

CAMICB’s CMCA Exam Preparation E-Learning Course Helps Candidates Get A Head Start

Free Online Resource Helps Candidates Successfully Prepare For The CMCA Exam

By Madeline Hay, CAMICB’s Manager of Exam Administration

Underscoring a quarter century of commitment to professionalism and excellence in community association management, CAMICB is excited to continue to celebrate the organization’s 25th Anniversary with the launch of a free, interactive online CMCA Exam Preparation e-Learning course. 

The three-hour course, featuring a series of eight modules, is divided into two components. The first component features four learning modules focused on creating an examination review and preparation plan. The second component includes three scenario-based learning modules that are designed to put several of the knowledge areas tested on the CMCA examination in context using real-life scenarios. The three modules address knowledge areas that are challenging for many CMCA candidates: Risk Management & Insurance; Financial Controls; and Governance, Legal & Ethical Conduct.  A final module is intended to offer some perspective on the exam preparation process and next steps.

Said Chair of the CAMICB Board of Commissioners Drew Mulhare, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM, “CAMICB is always working to identify new tools to help CMCA candidates succeed on the exam. We’re excited to launch the CMCA Exam Prep e-Learning course – a free resource intended to put candidates on the path to the CMCA credential.”

The Course Modules

The exam preparation modules offer constructive test taking tips, discuss the composition of examination questions, give preparation advice, and provide an interactive self-assessment tool to help a candidate develop a study plan specific to that candidate’s needs and goals. The content-based modules ask the candidate to solve problems and answer questions using downloadable sample documents. 

Each module takes approximately 10-25 minutes to complete. The course is designed to accommodate busy schedules and to allow candidates to work at their own pace, so they may stop and resume the modules as their schedule permits. Below is a brief description of the different modules and what candidates can expect.

Module 1: An Introduction

Learn what it takes to pass the CMCA exam. Get advice from working CMCAs about what worked for them as they were preparing for the test – and what didn’t. Find out some common misconceptions about the CMCA exam and uncover the key for understanding how to approach the exam questions.

Module 2: Devising a Study Plan, Part 1 – Prioritizing Topics 

Discover how to establish and follow a solid study routine that’s tailored to your experience level. Get an in-depth look at the topic areas covered on the test and participate in a self-assessment exercise to determine which topics should be prioritized in your study plan. 

Module 3: Devising a Study Plan, Part 2 – Strategies and Tips 

Find out how to put your study plan into action. Learn practical tips and tricks to make the most of your prep time and take a closer look at some of the study resources available to you. 

A recent course participant shared, “The study resources provided in the CMCA exam prep course are excellent. It gave me a much better understanding of what material to really focus on.”

Module 4: Test-Taking Strategies

Learn how to maximize your potential on exam day. Find out how taking practice tests can improve your performance on the exam, get some guidance on strategies to overcome test anxiety, and see what to expect when you go to the testing center. 

Modules 5 and 6 use real-life scenarios that help you learn from detailed feedback. They also make use of downloadable sample files including Lakeside Terrace’s insurance declaration and financial documents to inform your decisions. 

Said one course participant, “For me, the CMCA exam prep course was so much more effective than simply reading different texts.”

Module 5: Risk Management & Insurance – Refresher Content 

Apply your knowledge of risk management and insurance topics by putting yourself in the shoes of the community association manager for Lakeside Terrace Condominiums. 

Module 6: Financial Controls – Refresher Content 

Revisit your role as Lakeside Terrace’s community association manager as you encounter some scenarios that test key knowledge about financial controls.

Module 7: Governance, Legal & Ethical Conduct – Refresher Content

Another real-life scenario allows you to visit Willow Grove Estates, where you have been hired as the association’s first community manager. 

Module 8: Looking Back and Looking Forward

An opportunity to recall what you’ve learned and consider what you want to keep working on. 

At CAMICB, we’re committed to offering a combination of study tools to enhance candidate performance.  Therefore, we encourage exam candidates to develop a personal study plan incorporating a wide range of resources and reference materials. CMCA preparatory materials are all available online – most at no cost – to managers employed anywhere in the world. We’re thrilled to add our newest offering, the CMCA Exam Prep E-Learning Course, to our portfolio of resources. 

Earning and maintaining this internationally-recognized credential propels a manager’s career forward, allowing for more advanced career opportunities and salaries that, on average, are 20 percent higher than non-credentialed managers. To get started and to learn more about the CMCA Exam Prep E-Learning course, visit

Keep Brainstorming—Your Best Ideas Are Still to Come

The common (and mistaken) belief that we generate our best ideas early can actually squash creativity.

Imagine a team brainstorming session. At what point in the meeting do you think you’ll come up with your best, most inventive idea?

Most people assume that lightbulb moment will arrive right away, when you’re feeling freshest. But according to new research, we’ve got it wrong.

Across several studies, Loran Nordgren, a professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School, and Kellogg PhD alumnus Brian Lucas, now of Cornell University, discovered a widespread, persistent, and mistaken belief that creativity drops off with time. They dub this the “creative-cliff illusion.”

What’s more, they found, the illusion is self-defeating. The more people believe in it, the fewer creative ideas they generate. But with experience comes wisdom, Nordgren and Lucas learned: people who do lots of creative work do not fall victim as often to the myth of declining creativity.

“People think their best ideas are coming fast and early,” Nordgren says. In fact, “you’re either not seeing any drop-off in quality, or your ideas get better.” By giving up too soon, we risk leaving our best ideas on the table.

Nordgren believes bringing attention to the problem can help people unlock new ways of thinking. “People don’t maximize their creative potential, and part of that is because of these beliefs,” he says.

Creativity Increases as You Brainstorm

Nordgren and Lucas began by recruiting a group of 165 online participants, all of whom had previously worked at charitable organizations, to complete a five-minute brainstorming task. Before they got started, participants were asked to predict their creativity during each minute of the task.

Next, participants set to work generating ideas for how a charity could increase donations. As motivation to keep the juices flowing, the researchers told participants they would be entered in a lottery to win $50 for each idea they came up with.

Then, Nordgren and Lucas recruited a new group of online participants to rate the creativity of the ideas the first set of participants had generated.

Participants in the brainstorming task gave faulty predictions about their own creativity, the researchers’ analysis revealed. While people thought they would become less creative as the session went on, the opposite was true: their creativity—as rated by the second group of participants—actually increased.

Confusing Productivity with Creativity

Why do people so uniformly believe their creativity will decline the longer they tussle with a problem?

Nordgren and Lucas suspected people confuse creativity with the ease of generating ideas. For many of us, early ideas come quickly, while later ideas prove more elusive as the brainstorm slows to a brain drizzle. This experience of difficulty could easily be misinterpreted as a decrease in the quality of ideas.

To test the hypothesis, the researchers repeated the same study as before, recruiting 191 new participants. This time, however, participants predicted their creativity after they had already finished generating ideas.

It didn’t matter. Even after the brainstorming task was complete, participants incorrectly judged their later ideas as less creative—because, the researchers reasoned, those ideas were harder to access. Yet, as in the first study, the opposite was true: ideas that took longer to excavate were more likely to be truly innovative.

No Laughing Matter: False Beliefs about Creativity Make Us Less Creative

In another study, Nordgren and Lucas put the creative-cliff illusion to the test in a real-world setting. They recruited students and alumni of Second City’s training program to participate in a New Yorker–style cartoon-caption contest with the promise of a $150 first prize. The online competition was judged by three professional comedians, who rated the 91 submissions for novelty and funniness (a proxy for creativity).

Contest entrants were given 15 minutes to generate as many caption ideas as they could, but they weren’t required to use the full time. Participants also answered a series of questions about their beliefs about creativity, such as “People tend to generate their best ideas first.”

Those who believed good ideas come early submitted fewer jokes overall, the researchers found—and fewer of the jokes they submitted were rated as highly creative by the judges. In other words, the more people believed their funniness would fade over the 15-minute task, the less productive and funny they actually were.

Experience Can Counter the Creative-Cliff Illusion

Would experience cut through the creative-cliff illusion? The researchers suspected it might—perhaps people with many years of creative work under their belts might be less susceptible to the myth.

The researchers recruited a group of 163 online participants and asked them to rate how often they had to use creative skills in their work (not at all, occasionally, or frequently). The participants completed the same brainstorming task used in the first study—predicting their creativity during each minute of the five-minute task, then coming up with ideas to increase charitable donations.

Participants who never or only occasionally did creative work were much like the participants in the first study: they predicted their creativity would decline over the course of the brainstorming task, when in reality the opposite was true.

But participants with lots of creative experience didn’t make the same mistake. They predicted that creativity would remain relatively constant—a belief that is still overly pessimistic, but closer to correct than most other participants’ predictions. Experience helped them see the power of continuing to chip away at the problem.

“It’s really people who are in the trenches doing creative work that learn this lesson,” Nordgren says.

The Power of Persistence

What does this mean for your next brainstorming meeting? For Nordgren, there’s one very simple takeaway.

“If you’re struggling, keep going,” he says. This and his earlier research on creativity reveal that “our intuitions about how this process works are wrong, and that our best ideas are there. They just require more digging.”

This may mean resisting the temptation to select an idea just because a meeting is ending—a temptation rooted in the false belief that future ideas will be worse. Instead, “maybe you say, ‘I think there are still some better ideas we haven’t explored. Let’s all commit individually to putting another hour into this and come back next week.’”

It’s not easy to do—something Nordgren, who is currently at work on a book, knows firsthand. But he’s committed to taking his own advice. “These ideas are influential in those moments,” he says. “I’ll think, ‘this is a pretty good example, but is there a better one?’ It’s a nudge to keep going beyond what my intuition tells me to.”

How New York Co-ops Finally Flexed Their Political Muscle

Bill Morris in COVID-19 For Habitat Magazine

On April 2, 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) ruled that housing cooperatives were ineligible for a slice of the $659 billion of forgivable loans provided by the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

It was the shot heard round the co-op world, and in New York City it mobilized a small army of advocates who set out to reverse a bureaucratic decision they viewed as unfair and potentially ruinous to housing co-ops. The point man in bringing the army together was Geoffrey Mazel, a partner at the law firm Hankin & Mazel and legal advisor to the Presidents Co-op & Condo Council (PCCC). This group, which represents more than 100,000 units of housing, now faced its biggest battle: wrestling a New York City issue onto the national stage.

Mazel understood the magnitude of the challenge as well as its source: housing cooperatives are not common outside metropolitan New York City, and few national politicians are familiar with their peculiarities or their needs. As Mazel puts it, “Nobody outside the metro New York cares about housing cooperatives.”

Shortly after the SBA’s April 2 decree, Mazel started recruiting. Among the first to enlist was the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums (CNYC). “Our first salvo was to contact our elected officials – on the City Council, the Legislature and the New York congressional delegation – and make them aware of the issue,” Mazel says. “The next step was to engage co-op and condo boards to write letters to their legislators. The response was immediate and encouraging. The legislators had been made aware of the issue, and they were engaged.”

By now the army had the ear of U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, then minority leader, who delivered a message to the troops: “When we spoke to our New York co-ops, to Geoffrey Mazel and Mary Ann Rothman (executive director of the CNYC), we said, ‘Reach out to other co-ops. There are general cooperative associations that include housing co-ops.’”

Mazel and his fellow troopers got in touch with the National Cooperative Business Association and the National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC), among other organizations. “We did a full-court press,” says Judy Sullivan, the government relations representative at NAHC, which represents more than 1 million units of cooperative housing nationwide. “We sent out e-blasts to our members to contact Sen. Schumer’s office. We sent out e-blasts to co-ops wherever we could find them.”

Down in the trenches with them was Rep. Grace Meng of Queens, who had been alerted to the problem back in the spring by the Presidents Council. “We worked with Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Tom Suozzi and Sen. Schumer to help the (Trump) administration understand that co-ops are small businesses, and therefore they should be eligible for PPP loans,” Meng says. “Many people don’t understand how co-ops function. Plus, back then, New York City co-ops had the added burden of being in the epicenter of the epicenter of the pandemic.”

Meanwhile, Schumer was doing some old-school political arm twisting. “I had to fight and fight and fight,” he says. “I had to persuade so many different senators and congressmen to go along…but I didn’t get much support from people because they didn’t understand. I do understand because in the state Assembly and in Congress, I represented neighborhoods that have lots of co-ops. I’m a cooperator myself, have been since 1982.”

In December, the months of work finally paid off. A new $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus bill passed in the Senate – with a specific provision making housing cooperatives eligible for the $284 billion set aside for PPP loans. (Condominiums and homeowners associations were not included.) President Trump signed the bill into law two days after Christmas. The co-op army had won the war. 

“It’s a major sea change,” Schumer told Habitat the day after he became majority leader of the Senate. “It’s the first time that housing co-ops were recognized for their importance and vitality. I was able to get legislators who didn’t know about housing co-ops to come on board to help me. And I think it’ll be a change that will work in the future.”

The man who marshaled the troops shares was elated. “It’s extraordinary that such a niche type of housing got included in this legislation,” Mazel said a few days after the bill was signed into law. “This is the result of a concerted effort by advocates and elected officials at the city, state and federal levels. It’s a model of how good government is supposed to work.”

Asked to sum up what he and the army had accomplished, Mazel put it succinctly: “We moved the needle.”

Corporate email: Too much of too much

An abundance of email was stressing people out before the pandemic; now the overload is even worse. Here’s how to strike a healthier balance.

By Sally Ann O’Dowd for Ragan

Corporate communicators sent 72% more emails in 2020 than they did in 2019, according to a new study by PoliteMail.

While the company says email was a “corporate success story” last year, the significant jump in email content may actually have had a detrimental effect on employees, says Kristin Graham, a former Amazon communications executive now working as a culture and employee engagement consultant at Ragan Consulting Group.

“We have been getting too much email for years, because we have to read them,” Graham says. “It’s like having to endure PowerPoints in meetings. Emails have become a part of our corporate experience, not necessarily our preference in the corporate experience. And that was the dynamic before the world went uber digital.”

Inbox recovery

Several studies over the years have documented the ill effects of email overload. According to McKinsey research, the average employee spends 28% of the work week reading and answering email, compared with 39% of working hours on actual job-related tasks.

Reading emails is also a distraction. In fact, it can take 64 seconds for someone to “recover” from an email interruption (regardless of the email’s importance) and return to work at the same pace, according to an often-cited 2004 study by the U.K.’s Loughborough University. That helps to explain the findings of a 2012 UC Irvine and the U.S. Army study, which concluded that limiting email access reduces stress and helps people to focus better.

PoliteMail’s 2021 Internal Communications Benchmarks Data Report advances the global discussion with data based on 300 enterprise clients. Researchers analyzed 1.3 billion internal emails employees sent to 8.5 million employees around the world.

“This report provides visual evidence that email had more relevancy than ever during 2020, as a crisis disrupted the way people work,” PoliteMail Founder and Managing Director Michael DesRochers says in a press release.

The report’s findings include several year-to-year comparisons:

  • Corporate communicators sent 72% more email broadcasts than in 2019, averaging 68 emails a month last year. They also increased the number of content minutes by 58%.
  • Employees received on average 16 email broadcasts per month, which collectively contained nearly 35 minutes of content and 121 links to additional content.
  • Employees read 44% more minutes of email in 2020 and clicked 82% more links.
  • Overall employee engagement with the medium increased 71%.

“This study shows that corporate communicators have had good intentions – that in this last year, communicators were making a concerted effort to connect during these digital times,” Graham says. “That’s the good news.”

On the flip side, she says, “The impact of those intentions has been to put more heavy rocks on our employees to carry around all day long. We’re not solving a problem. We’re creating a problem.”

Do open rates matter?

The 475 words in the average corporate email take nearly two minutes to read. Of the employee audience, 60% will read 77% of it. Of recipients who open and don’t ignore the message, 20% will skim the content, reading less than 30%.

PoliteMail asks the burning question: Do open rates matter?

“An email open simply tells you the message was viewed by the recipient, including the preview pane,” PoliteMail writes. “Like a web page view, it is a simple measure of audience reach. What if the email is opened, but not more than a few words are read?”

For her part, Graham says it’s important to remember the employee perspective. “What’s important to us as communicators is not always important to them,” she says. “With our polite intentions, we’re eroding our productivity.”