Let’s Get Newtonian With Engagement

By / Apr 9, 2018 (bilhagolan/iStock/Getty Images Plus) 

A member engagement expert applies three fundamental laws of physics to everyone’s favorite association topic.

Here at Associations Now, we’ve highlighted lots of ways to think about membership. But a Newtonian approach to member engagement—as in Isaac Newton? That’s a new one.

Kudos to Rhinocorn Consulting’s Ben Bisbee, writing at the Wild Apricot Blog, who has a creative take on how Newton’s three laws of motion can be applied to member engagement:

  1. “An individual tends to not engage unless acted upon by someone engaging them.”
  2. “An individual will continue to engage or grow their engagement when a nonprofit continues to engage or advances the engagement.”
  3. “When your nonprofit is matching the engagement of the stakeholder, your organization is met with equal relationship engagement.”

“Just as Newton’s laws of motion define the relationship between a body and the forces acting upon it, Newtonian Engagement does the same for the [member] relationship development and design,” Bisbee writes. “Having a need, options, or an opportunity does not automatically create motion, movement, or friction. The same is true with engagement.” He adds that organizations need to “invest strategically in the design of their engagement dynamics.”

Whether or not you agree with that analysis, one thing is for sure: It’s a fresh way of thinking about one of the most important issues facing associations.

From Associations Now, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives.

4 Lessons for Member Listening Tours

By / Oct 18, 2017 (nicolas_/Getty Images Plus)

Getting your members on board with a bold strategic initiative that they may not initially welcome isn’t easy.

To sweeten the deal, the CEO of the National Confectioners Association conducted a listening tour to hear members’ concerns and share data that helped win them over.

Sometimes the most powerful way to persuade is to stop talking and just listen.

That approach has been a big success for the National Confectioners Association, which has been working to convince candy companies to sign on to a strategic initiative that NCA understood would not be an immediate hit among members: a nutritional and dietary commitment that gives consumers more product information and choice.

“It’s very challenging and very difficult to bring an entire industry together under a very bold change agenda,” says NCA President and CEO John Downs. “You have to go and meet members where they are. Really, the job of any association is at the intersection of business, policy, politics, and diplomacy.”

For about 18 months, Downs was on the road meeting on factory floors and at regional facilities. While he traveled, he heard a common issue from members—consumer demand was reshaping the industry. Candy lovers wanted smaller portion sizes.

“I call it the democracy of choice,” Downs says. “That helped us to realize that we needed a new kind of messaging and purposeful positioning for our product.”

After the tour, Downs met with some of the biggest names in the industry—member companies like Nestlé, Mars, and Wrigley. Ultimately NCA launched a strategic initiative called Always A Treat, a member agreement to create smaller portion sizes and produce packaging with clearer labels and calorie counts.

While listening tours can be a useful way for association executives to get to know their members and their industry when getting started in a new CEO position, Downs says these opportunities to meet face-to-face with members are especially valuable for strategic purposes. Here are four lessons that he learned on the road:

  1. Come and go with data. Meeting with members where they work can reveal valuable insights into the nuts and bolts of their business operations. “That gives you a much better understanding of their supply chain and the complexities of their business operations,” he says. Throughout his tour, Downs carried with him aggregate member data that he could compare and contextualize with individual members. By sharing data, he built a “platform of understanding” that served as the basis for discussions about the Always a Treat initiative.
  2. Travel less, listen more. Downs logged a lot of miles on the road, and at one point, about 70 percent of his time was dedicated to travel. That can come at a cost to your staff, budget, and office presence, he notes. Even when your members are far away, consider whether virtual meetings, using video conferencing or 360-degree video tools, can accomplish the same goals and feel nearly as personal as an onsite visit. In some cases, a listening tour might a quick two-hour office visit just down the road.
  1. Benchmark with third-party experts. To track progress and measure the success of the Always a Treat initiative, NCA formed partnerships with vetted, third-party organizations, including Partnership for a Healthier America and Hudson Institute, a research firm. These partners helped to survey members and eventually will provide progress reports to measure outcomes. “It challenges us to hit on specific metrics that we set out,” Downs says.
  1. Share your learnings. The listening tour would not have been complete without sharing what was learned. Downs says the Always a Treat website is a digital hub to share resources and information publicly, including data on nutrition, packaging, and ingredient information for consumers.

While a handful of big-name members have come on board to support Always a Treat since the listening tour, Downs says he’s still trying to recruit a number of small and medium-sized members.

“You have to continue to repeat, reinforce, and bring [members] along with an understanding of bold change,” he says. “We’re on this journey together, and we’re going to continue working to recruit additional companies in the years to come.”

From Associations Now, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives.

Are Your Teams Cooperating or Collaborating?

Your team will be more effective if they collaborate instead of just cooperating.

Imagine you’re customizing a product for a client. Managers from different teams work together to determine the requirements, and each team works on the customizations in their area. But when some changes are implemented, it triggers adjustments for other teams. The project’s deadline is extended and the workload increases.

This is one of the scenarios Ron Ashkenas wrote about in Harvard Business Review a few years ago. It’s a simple example of the difference between cooperation and collaboration and how easily they can be confused. In the example, every team is cooperating to customize the product, but they’re not collaborating so their changes work when put together. The result? They don’t reach their desired outcome – or they reach it a lot later, with a lot more work.

As the essence of teamwork, collaboration is the primary reason organizations build teams in the first place. But, as Ashkenas’s examples show, there’s often confusion over what collaboration means and how it differs from cooperation.

In reality, there are as many different ways to define and describe collaboration as there are teams practicing it, but collaboration and cooperation are on different levels. Let’s look at what each term means and where they fall on the scale of your team activities.

What is Cooperation?

Merriam-Webster defines cooperation as the actions of someone who is being helpful by doing what is asked for: common effort.

So, cooperation is a type of more passive team activity. Someone in a group makes a decision and the rest of the team cooperates by helping them accomplish their goals.

Cooperation is incredibly useful, especially when you’re working with experts in an industry. Strategic thinkers and people with great knowledge can help guide a cooperative group to success. However, if you’re looking for active teamwork in which multiple experts contribute thoughts and ideas that come together to form a solution, you need collaboration.

What is Collaboration?

The term “collaboration” derives from the Latin word com, which means together, and labōrāre, which means to work or labor. Merriam-Webster defines it as working jointly with others or together, especially in an intellectual endeavor.

We’re all familiar with the labor part; it’s the “together” part that’s challenging sometimes. In collaboration, all members of a team share ideas and create a common knowledge base that they then need to work together to refine. Decisions are arrived at via consensus, not something handed down from one or two people.

Collaboration and teamwork have great creative potential, but they can also involve more conflict than cooperation, because participants need to find a solution together. Collaboration can be messy – after all, it starts and ends with people. The best collaborative teams set up ground rules, with roles, responsibilities, and processes to guide teamwork.

Where do Cooperation and Collaboration Fall on the Scale of Team Activities?

Team activities like cooperation and collaboration can be arranged along a scale of complexity with more complex activities also requiring higher levels of engagement. We usually see three different types of team activities: coordination, cooperation, and true collaboration.

As a general rule, collaboration is required as the work increases in complexity, urgency, and goals it sets out to accomplish. The intensity of the collaboration is defined partly by the objectives and context.Collaboration is the most complex activity on the engagement scale.

A social network, for example, is informal and networked. It’s generally more of a coordination effort than a truly collaborative one. At the other end of the spectrum is a highly structured, hierarchical project like an association committee using their private community to work together and finalize a white paper central to an organization’s mission.

Let’s look at each level of team activity and how it benefits organizations:

Coordination

Coordination is characterized by topic-oriented information exchange and discussion. It’s more focused than engagement, but the content or work performed is rarely mission-critical. Chat and discussion threads are important, but topics and participants can be transitory.

Coordination Example: your team could use private discussions to coordinate when to send an email to your members.

Cooperation

Unlike coordination, cooperation typically has a tighter, project-based focus. Teams that are cooperating are driven by tasks and deadlines. Their work is often documented, but there isn’t a strong need for transparency or traceability.

Cooperation Example: Association committees and chapters cooperate to put on events or promotions, with multiple teams working together to complete the project and meet goals.

Collaboration

As work becomes more complex, teams are more likely to be engaged in true collaboration. These teams are ambitious, with goals to lead their industry, influence regulations, or improve standards of living.

Collaborative teams are characterized by having multiple input channels and expert stakeholders. They often co-create knowledge through focused work on technical topics. The deliverables and outcomes are of primary importance to the sponsoring company or organization. Institutional memory and traceability are important, and participation is meaningful and managed. Some of the most collaborative teams we’ve come across are creating industry-wide standards for everything from Wi-Fi to sound production in movie theaters. In these situations, having a system of record to review changes and show how conclusions were found is essential.

Collaboration Example: The Wi-Fi Alliance brings together hundreds of companies from different industries to collaborate and set standards for Wi-Fi technology and programs to ensure interoperability. They also certify products that meet their quality, performance, security, and capability standards.

Create an Environment that Encourages Teamwork and Collaboration

The challenges faced by organizations today are met by increasingly diverse, expert teams – teams that are often scattered across multiple locations. Understanding the types of activities your teams are engaged in allows you to equip them with the support, processes, and tools they need to meet the organization’s goals.

And if your organization has goal-oriented, collaborative teams, you can support them with the right environment. Use an engagement platform like an online community to encourage contributors and attract experts. Then give those teams a secure location to discuss, debate, and reach consensus. Create the right environment for collaboration, and you’ll set your team and your organization up for success.

Written by Mark Ace for Higher Logic

Blind Spots That Plague Even The Best Leaders

Even the most iconic leaders have blind spots. Here’s how to spot the ones that could be dangerous–and keep the ones that are actually beneficial.

Blind Spots That Plague Even The Best Leaders

[Photo: Mathieu Stern/Unsplash]

There’s a mythology around great leaders. They’re visionary. They’re inspirational. They seem to know what their organizations and teams need intuitively.

But make no mistake: No one is perfect—and most leaders have blind spots, says Robert Bruce Shaw of Princeton Management Consulting Group in Princeton, New Jersey, and author of Leadership Blind Spots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter. During his years of work as a management consultant, he says he’s seen some surprising examples of leaders behaving in a way that derailed their careers or failed to address critical issues. “And you think, Why did this happen? And what I concluded is that it’s often because of blind spots,” he says.

Leaders need to be confident in their abilities, Shaw says, but have enough wisdom to know that they’re not going to see everything. And that’s not always a bad thing. Blind spots can help you maintain your confidence in the face of significant obstacles and make answers seem simpler than they actually are.

But when they inhibit you from seeing the truth or make you blind to important issues, they need to be addressed. Here are five common visionary weaknesses that can hurt you and your company, and how to manage them.

Overestimating Strategic Ability

People in leadership positions often think that they’re more strategic than they really are, Shaw says. They may rise to their positions through commercial or operational roles and then find they’re responsible for thinking about markets, competition, and driving growth. The shift in thinking from solving operational challenges to thinking about the big-picture direction for the company is a sizeable one—and many leaders overestimate how well they’ve managed it. Before they know it, they’re lost in the weeds of operational problem solving without providing the strategic leadership necessary to drive the company forward.

Valuing Being Right Over Being Effective

Finding out that you made the wrong decision or hold a viewpoint that is incorrect is never pleasant. But some leaders hold fast to being right to the point where they don’t consider information that could make them better informed and more effective. Such a blind spot can not only lead to bad decision making, but also quash the team’s interest in contributing and challenging the status quo, Shaw says. Leaders who are defensive when challenged can actually shut down their teams’ interest in contributing and innovating.

Covering For Weak Team Members

Sometimes, leaders have blind spots when it comes to employees, coworkers, or team members, says business transition coach Posy Gering, founder of Seattle-based Next U, a business consultancy, and author of The Next You, Discovering Confidence, Calm and Courage–Now. These people may not be performing as expected or may not have the skills necessary to do the job, she says. But our blind spots—whether selective or well-intentioned—can prevent us from seeing the problem, especially if we want the individual to succeed, she says.

“It’s almost like we want a specific outcome, so the ends justify the means to overlook certain things,” she says. Leaders may jump in to try to fix the issues they encounter with the weaker team member, but that is problematic because it sends a message to the rest of the team that the weaker individual is receiving special accommodations. At the same time, it sends a message to the individual that the boss doesn’t think they can handle the project, and is stepping in to put it back on track. Neither message optimizes the team or the working environment.

Communicating Ineffectively

Communication is another area where leaders tend to overestimate their ability, says Dean Miles, founder and president of Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Bridgepoint Coaching and Strategy Group. “There is a disconnect between what their leaders think has been connected, confirmed, clarified, and communicated, and what has really happened.”

So, while leaders think that they have communicated, for example, their top three priorities within a specific time period, they often think they have been clear about conveying them to their team members. But when Miles asks them, hypothetically, “‘Would you be willing to bet next month’s paycheck that I could go to your direct reports, and they could give me those same three [priorities], in the same order, with the same level of confidence?’ And they can’t,” he says.

Losing Track Of What’s Happening Around You

Whether you’re assuming you know what matters to the people on the front lines or the shop floor of your organization, or you’re underestimating your competitors, failure to stay in touch with the realities around you can lead to several areas of blind spots, as Shaw writes in his book. When you think you know more than you do without confirmation, or make assumptions about what’s happening instead of getting the facts, you risk being blindsided.

Finding And Fixing Blind Spots

It’s not always easy to figure out what your own blind spots are, Gering says. By nature, leaders are always supposed to have the answers, so even admitting you have them can feel unsettling.

But Shaw says that clues probably lie in your history. Look at where you’ve made your biggest mistakes or where you have recurring issues in your work. If you can spot patterns, you’ve probably got blind spot clues. For example, if you have a history of team members letting you down or underperforming, you may have an issue with being overly optimistic about the talents of people who work for you.

Another way to find your blind spots is to ask trusted colleagues who are vested in your success. You don’t want to become overly vulnerable or allow such evaluation to wreck your confidence. However, getting an outside view of areas you tend to overlook can be very useful, Shaw says. Formal tools such as 360-degree evaluations or regular, structured feedback can also be useful.

But awareness doesn’t always equal elimination, he adds. Just because you know where you tend to have blind spots doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve fixed them. Surround yourself with people who can help you manage your blind spots or weaknesses. If you don’t have strong people skills, recruit someone who can help you manage your interaction with team members. If you tend to get defensive when your views are challenged, find a colleague or mentor who can help you deal with those feelings and process the information presented to you. By beefing up your team with people who help you overcome your blind spots, you’ll be able to better compensate for them, Shaw says.

By Gwen Moran for Fast Company.

Pick your intentions, actions before having important conversations

Austin Ban/Unsplash

Every day, leaders make numerous decisions and take multiple actions without even thinking about intention and alignment. Yet, in my consulting work, I have discovered something interesting: Almost every conversation gone wrong was due to either failing to set the right intention at the beginning. failing to align actions with intentions or a combination of both. This article offers personal and professional examples showcasing the power of intention and alignment.

Personal example

Sometimes we have hidden or competing agendas without being aware of how these hidden forces affect our personal lives.

Let’s say you need to visit or call your elderly parent. If your intention is to “check it off the list” or “get it over with” you will feel impatient and will not be present. Your parent will not receive the gift of your visit but instead will feel like a burden. If, instead, your intention is to give love and support, you will likely experience fulfillment and appreciation.

Let’s say that your intention is in the right place, but your elderly parent isn’t appreciative or is obstinate and difficult to be around. Your experience will be one of compassion and understanding because you have no ulterior motives.

The good feeling you have is due to the power of alignment. You took action by aligning with your highest value. Your contribution, value or measure of success was not dependent on something outside of your control. What I’ve witnessed over and over again is that when your intention is in alignment with your values, you get better results even when in the past you have had struggles.

Professional example

Suppose as a leader, you need to have a difficult performance conversation with an employee. If your intention is to prove them wrong, chances are you will provoke anger. (If you feel obsessed that the conversation didn’t go well, check your intention. We are often unaware of our hidden agenda to prove someone wrong, win an argument or find an excuse to let someone go.  When you have a conversation that goes south, reflect and ask yourself if you had any hidden agendas you were unaware of.

But I can hear the argument: “They were also out of alignment.” Or, “They are the one to blame.” It doesn’t matter if they are out of alignment. Our agenda here is not to place blame. Your own intention and alignment thereof is the focus. Where we lose focus is when we start believing the problem is because of someone else’s intention. When we lose clarity and focus our conversations become counterproductive.

In contrast, your experience will be different if, when you approach the conversation, your intention is to find ways to work together. You will be more curious instead of judgmental, and your employee will sense your energy.

Practicing intention and alignment

So, how do you stay aligned to your intentions?  First, you have to consciously set the intention. I have a practice of setting a daily intention. When faced with a difficult or specific situation, I think consciously about how I want to show up and what outcome I want. I think about how I want the other person to experience being in my presence.

A word of caution: You may have to adjust your attitude or check yourself so that you aren’t sarcastic, defensive or putting up walls. Think about your triggers. Practice the kind of conversation that creates bridges versus barriers.

Next, stop assuming wrong intention on others who have a different point of view. The moment you assume wrong intention is the moment you contribute and to the drama. When we assume wrong intentions, we shut down and forget to be curious. We participate in the very things we say we don’t want

Finally, get curious and seek understanding before nailing your point. (This is a difficult one for me.)  Instead of jumping to a conclusion, take a breath and ask a good question. You can disagree without disconfirming.

Intention is a powerful force that affects the outcome, and alignment tells you when you are on-base or off-base.

By Marlene Chism for SmartBrief.

Board Smarts: Go Your Own Way With Self-Assessments

By /(PeopleImages/Getty Images Plus)

Take a do-it-yourself approach to board self-assessments.

When it’s time for a board to evaluate its own performance, some associations turn to standardized self-assessment tools. But not all self-assessments are created equal, especially if you have a complex governance structure like the one at the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission.

NEIWPCC has 35 board members, also known as commissioners, who are appointed by governors in each of its seven member states. “We toe the line between an association, a nonprofit, and a pseudo-government agency,” says Cambria Happ, CAE, the organization’s business operations manager and board liaison.

Last year, NEIWPCC set out to conduct its first board self-assessment, and Happ was looking for a tool that would reflect its leaders, who are state administrators, engineers, and consultants.

The main finding was that we needed to have a little more focus on board training.

“A lot of the options out there were too lengthy, and the terminology didn’t quite fit our organization,” she says. “Given the diversity of our board members’ backgrounds, it was clear that we needed an assessment tool that felt familiar to everyone.”

Rather than pay for a prebuilt self-assessment, NEIWPCC took a do-it-yourself approach. Using SurveyMonkey, Happ built an online survey with customized questions and unique survey pathing. “We decided to use paths so that the questions could vary for agency or nonagency commissioners,” she says. “It got us to some very specific information from each respondent.”

Happ knew that the assessment wouldn’t be useful without a high level of participation. She distributed the survey with a cover letter, explaining that responses were anonymous and valuable to the organization. And the online format made participating easy.

“If you have everyone in a room and give them a piece of paper, yes, that helps with your response rate, but I don’t think you get as thorough or thoughtful a response as you do with an online self-assessment,” Happ says.

From start to finish, the self-assessment took about four months to create and administer. The timing felt a bit rushed, Happ says, and it may be why the survey did not receive a 100 percent response rate. Plus, there’s at least one downside to the do-it-yourself approach—you can’t benchmark results the way some off-the-shelf products do.

“Something that we are focused on now is increasing the response rate,” Happ says.

But already there have been some quick wins from the first self-assessment. NEIWPCC is changing how it orients new commissioners, and the quality of board conversation has gone up.

“The main finding was that we needed to have a little more focus on board training. Now, we are focused on the onboarding process for new members and continuing that education over time,” Happ says. “Overall, the board is excited to engage in a different level of discussion now.”

From Associations Now, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives.

National Volunteer Week: How to Engage and Assess Your Volunteers

(klosfoto/E+/Getty Images Plus)

 

New volunteers thrive when they’re given ad hoc opportunities instead of committee roles, according to one expert.

This week marks National Volunteer Week, an annual opportunity for associations to celebrate the work that volunteers do. And it is indeed work: According to the 2017 ASAE Foundation study “Mutually Beneficial Volunteerism,” volunteers contribute up to 25 percent of an association’s total work hours.

According to Peggy M. Hoffman, FASAE, CAE, president and managing partner at Mariner Management & Marketing and one of the study’s coauthors, that places a responsibility upon associations to think carefully about two aspects of volunteering: How to engage volunteers so they’ll start a relationship with your association, and how to give feedback that will sustain it.

“What’s sitting on your desk that you can’t get to, that a member can potentially do?”

On the engagement side, Hoffman said, associations will be more successful thinking about necessary tasks that volunteers can be recruited for, instead of just slotting them into preset committee niches. “Rather than just automatically say, ‘OK, we’re going to have all these jobs,’ they take on a new issue or opportunity and they build it differently than they would have in the past,” she said.

For instance, Hoffman noted one association that was looking to improve its member onboarding process. The membership committee asked a small ad hoc group outside the committee to lead a discussion about possible onboarding options, which were then fed to another ad hoc group that determined the product it should create as a result of that discussion. “People say, ‘It’s extra work. I could just give it to the committee. Why do I want to create this extra work?” Hoffman said. “Well, because that’s also the entree for your next generation of leaders.”

Finding essential volunteer tasks doesn’t necessarily require a rigorous study process, she said. The answer might be as close as that overflowing inbox: “One of the questions you can ask staff is, ‘What’s sitting on your desk that you can’t get to, that a member can potentially do?’” she said.

That work can go a long way toward identifying volunteer tasks that bring value to the organization, rather than the make-work that many committees are often criticized for. But it is just as critical, Hoffman said, to ensure that volunteers not only receive kudos and thank-yous for their contributions (though she has a few suggestions for that), but also more substantive feedback that they might be able to apply to both paid and volunteer work.

According to the “Mutually Beneficial Volunteerism” report, satisfaction on that front is the weakest: Nearly half the respondents said they were dissatisfied or neutral about the feedback they received.

Associations can address that issue, Hoffman said, first by soliciting feedback from volunteers if they haven’t already—knowing where they were satisfied and dissatisfied can clarify what their expectations are and help set tasks that will meet their goals. Another tool Hoffman suggests is a simple performance evaluation in which a volunteer is assessed for meeting or not meeting expectations on a set of criteria. Volunteers will be informed of the evaluation before their tenure begins. “It’s another way of restating your expectations, but they know how they’re going to be judged or evaluated,” she said.

“People don’t want bad feedback, but the problem right now is I get on the committee and at the end of the year we all share a drink and there’s this sense of, I don’t know if I’ve made a difference,” she said. “So you have to do something.”

By for Associations Now, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives.

Self-Care as a Leadership Skill

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Executive burnout has a way of trickling down. The smart leader knows when a break is necessary—and plans ahead for it.

Leaders often like to talk about the “tone from the top”—that the business priorities an executive expresses ultimately become what the rest of the organization prioritizes too.

But “tone from the top” needn’t be reserved for business priorities. It includes ethics, attitude, and, I’ve come to think, wellness. The CEO who looks after him or herself is in a better position to get the job done, and to encourage everybody on the org chart to feel the same way.

“A stressed-out CEO is not going to be an effective CEO.”

I wasn’t entirely sold on that notion before I began reporting my story in the new Associations Now about executive self-care. But the leaders I spoke with all made a strong case for the connection between taking care of one’s physical and mental health and the success of the staffs at the associations where they work.

Some of this is just a practical matter: An exhausted CEO is in no position to be an effective leader. “A stressed-out CEO is not going to be an effective CEO,” as Nabil El-Ghoroury, CAE, executive director of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, puts it. But paying attention to one’s own wellness is a good prompt to pay closer attention to the benefits and breaks that everybody gets, as the leaders in the story explain.

An irony of executive de-stressing, though, is that it’s one more thing to put on the to-do list. Sometimes it’s just a matter of a regular routine—a monthly spa day or day dedicated to catching up on reading. More ambitious breaks, though, require more advanced planning.

For instance, when C. David Gammel, CAE, executive director of the Entomological Society of America, knew that the association was getting involved in the “heavy lift” of a merging its meeting with another large event a few years ago, he wanted to pursue a sabbatical after it was done—two continuous months off. “I pitched the idea at that time that there would be a natural kind of break point for me to take a little bit of time off, and come back to the job refreshed after having achieved that major milestone of that meeting,” he says. “The board at that time was open to it.”

Gammel pitched the idea three years in advance, which he says helped; so did working with a board of academics who were familiar with sabbaticals. The opportunity to “let my brain spin down a little bit,” he says, allowed him to come back to the office with a fresh perspective on leading ESA. But even if you have a board resistant to a lengthy sabbatical, Gammel notes that even the few weeks of vacation time that an executive typically receives can do the trick. “It doesn’t have to be a big two-month thing,” he says. “A short amount of time that’s longer than a typical vacation but not a full-blown sabbatical can still be beneficial.”

Employees may not have the same flexibility with vacation time, but CEOs can still do their part to make those breaks meaningful. Tracy Petrillo, CAE, CEO at the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, makes a point to allow vacationing staff members to be fully off-duty, guilt-free. “I’ve said, ‘Do not e-mail each other when you’re off,’” she says. “You have permission to not reply to e-mail and not reply to member phone calls if they call your cell phone.” Deborah Callahan, CEO at the National Fenestration Rating Council, has emphasized wellness efforts at her organization, and says she’s seen fewer sick days among employees, which she credits at least in part to those efforts.

It may take time to get wellness on your agenda as a leader, and for that to trickle down to the rest of the staff. That’s all the more reason not to delay it. “You don’t have to let yourself get to a crisis point,” Gammel says. “I think it can be kind of a maintenance thing, where you take some time off and it allows you to process it, reorder, reenergize, and then come back at it. And I don’t think you should wait for a personal crisis to occur before you do that.”

What self-care routines do you practice as a leader, and how do you communicate the value of wellness to your employees?

From Associations Now, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives.

Understanding the Important Distinction Between Community Association Managers and Property Managers

By John Ganoe, CAE, CAMICB Executive Director

A common mistake in state legislatures considering community association manager licensing – and among the general public – is to lump community association managers and property managers into the same bucket. While both are very important roles, they are distinctly different professions with functions, skill sets and responsibilities specific to each.

A community association manager can manage every type of community: condominium associations, homeowner associations, resort communities and commercial tenant associations.  A community association manager works directly with prcommunity-property-managementoperty owners and homeowners.

Property managers oversee individual rental units or a group of rental units, such as an apartment complex. They’re responsible for managing the entire property while community association managers are responsible for common areas – not individually owned properties.

“From a legislative standpoint, this incorrect categorization occurs because state legislators misunderstand the nature of community association management,” said Matthew Green, Director, State Affairs for the Community Associations Institute (CAI).  “They believe that community association management skills are identical to those of a property manager without recognizing the vastly different responsibilities of these two positions.”

This misunderstanding of the two professions often bleeds into more general conversations occurring in this space. Compounding this is the reality that there’s a slight overlap in a couple of the duties performed. For example, both property managers and community association managers supervise certain maintenance activities, such as swimming pool upkeep and trash removal. But it’s important to understand that community association managers oversee and direct all aspects of running the business operation. This means, they authorize payment for association services; develop budgets and present association financial reports to Board members; direct the enforcement of restrictive covenants; perform site inspections; solicit, evaluate and assist in insurance purchases; and, even supervise the design and delivery of association recreational programs.

Property managers are responsible for managing the actual property and therefore handle the physical assets of the unit at the owner’s request. Property managers generally oversee rental units and leases. Their responsibilities might include finding or evicting tenants, collecting rent and responding to tenant complaints or specific requests. If a property manager is responsible for a vacation or second home, he or she may arrange for services such as house sitting or local sub-contracting necessary to maintain that property.  Alternatively, an owner may opt to delegate specific tasks to a property manager and choose to handle other duties directly.

Stephanie Durner, CMCA, AMS, who is the Director of Community Management at River Landing, a private gated golf course community in Wallace, NC, views the distinction this way,

“While property managers are generally charged with overseeing physical structures that are used by people who are not the owners of the property, association managers represent the property owners themselves and are involved in just about every aspect of the overall community. For instance, if a garage door is broken at a rental house, the tenant would call a property manager or owner/landlord. But if there’s a pothole that needs repair or if a neighbor’s dog is running loose through the neighborhood, that’s a task for the community association manager who both maintains the common areas and upholds the governing rules. To me, community association management is a more holistic approach that contributes to the overall quality of life for all the owners in a community.”

Green emphasized, “While some job responsibilities are similar, community association managers have additional functions. It’s critical that community association management be recognized as distinct from property management, because association management requires a wider variety of knowledge and skills.”

“Because of this, the Community Association Managers International Certification Board (CAMICB) offers and maintains the Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA) credential, the only international certification program designed exclusively for managers of homeowner and condominium associations and cooperatives,” added Sara Duginske, MS, CAMICB’s Director of Credentialing Services. “Earning the CMCA credential means an individual has taken and passed the rigorous CMCA examination, proving they have a solid understanding of the business operations involved in being a community association manager.”

For community association managers, the bottom line is they understand and are experienced and knowledgeable in the many facets of running a business operation, assuring they provide the best possible service to the associations for which they are responsible.

CAMICB was established in 1995 to develop and administer the CMCA program. CAMICB insists on high ethical standards for community association managers because it not only strengthens the CMCA program, but protects consumers and associations that hire community association managers.

As Fair Housing Act Turns 50, Landmark Law Faces Uncertain Future

Under the Trump administration, and most Republican White Houses, enforcement of the 1968 anti-discrimination law has weakened. Housing advocates say the constantly changing federal approach has held back progress.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act on April 11, 1968. (Lyndon B. Johnson Library)

Fifty years after passage of the Fair Housing Act — a law intended to end housing discrimination and increase homeownership among minorities — key enforcement provisions of it are being dismantled by the federal government.

Efforts to enforce the landmark law, which was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1968, have ebbed and flowed over the past five decades. Democratic presidents have tended to direct more resources toward enforcing it and have put greater emphasis on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s role in desegregating cities. Republican administrations, meanwhile, have routinely scaled back those efforts.

But as the Fair Housing Act turns 50, many experts say HUD’s recent actions, under the direction of Secretary Ben Carson, represent a new level of attempts to undo the legislation.

Under Carson and President Donald Trump, HUD has decisively pared back its role as the primary legal advocate for the Fair Housing Act. Carson instructed HUD officials to delete the words “inclusive” and “free from discrimination” from the agency’s website. HUD recently settled a case in Houston under terms that at least one former official says does nothing to end residential discrimination in the city. And the agency terminated an investigation into Facebook for alleged discriminatory housing advertising practices. Carson has also delayed a requirement, established under the Obama administration, that local governments must create detailed plans to integrate racially divided neighborhoods. And HUD has put an indefinite hold on secretary-initiated housing cases, which historically have been seen as a critical tool in fighting systemic housing discrimination.

Advocates see the moves as a rollback of progress that had been made, particularly under the Obama administration.

“We had these important fair housing advances that were years in the making — carefully constructed rules on fair housing that were suspended with a memo from the administration,” says Philip Teleger, president of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council.

By law, HUD must still investigate housing discrimination complaints that are filed with the agency by civil rights groups or individuals. But it has stopped initiating any investigations or legal actions on its own. HUD-initiated cases have historically tackled systemic housing segregation and lending discrimination.

HUD spokesman Jereon Brown told The New York Times that the agency is not backing away from its duty to pursue the Fair Housing Act or the law’s aim to reverse discriminatory housing practices. The department, according to Brown, is turning its attention to the bulk of its discrimination cases, which he said were not race-based.

“There is no mission shift. We are, in fact, putting more emphasis in sexual harassment” complaints, Brown told the Times. “In addition, 60 percent of the fair housing complaints we receive are disability related, and the majority of those have to do with service animals.”

 

HUD Secretary Ben Carson (AP/Matt Rourke)

 

The changes at HUD have left what housing advocates say is an uneven legal landscape that varies greatly from state to state.

In some places, like Louisiana and Texas, landlords cannot be forced to accept federal housing vouchers. Elsewhere, many cities have utilized exclusionary zoning practices to keep affordable housing out of more affluent neighborhoods, say housing advocates.

Without the federal government acting as an enforcer, the task of ensuring that fair housing standards are met falls to local civil rights organizations. That’s a problem, says one former HUD official.

“You are never going to compare what local civil rights groups can do with what the federal government is going to do,” says Gustavo Velasquez, director of the Urban Institute’s Washington-Area Research Initiative and a former assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity at HUD under Obama. “Just on fair housing, the federal government has 600 people across the country working on these cases. The combined staff of local groups working on housing across the country can’t match the resources available from the federal government.”

 Recent Rollbacks

The settlement last month of a Fair Housing Act lawsuit in Houston is evidence, housing advocates say, that HUD under Carson is not committed to using court actions to address housing segregation.

That case, filed under the Obama administration, focused on the fact that Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was blocking the construction of low- to moderate-income housing in an affluent section of the city. Furthermore, according to the results of an investigation HUD released in early January 2017, Houston’s application process for affordable housing discriminated against minorities.

Turner had defended his decision to block the housing project by arguing that black residents in low-income neighborhoods didn’t want to be uprooted and dispersed to wealthier white neighborhoods. Instead, he said, more needed to be done to attract additional investment in existing black neighborhoods.

“Our underprivileged families should have the right to choose where they want to live,” said Turner in 2016, “and that choice should also include the right to stay in the neighborhood where they have grown up. … I categorically reject the notion that in order for poor children to participate in the American dream that I have to move them from where they are and place them somewhere else. The answer is to invest in the communities where they are.”

Under Obama, HUD disagreed, all but accusing Turner of being a segregationist.

But in what critics say is an about-face by the agency, HUD last reached a settlement with Houston that doesn’t require the city to construct affordable housing in affluent neighborhoods — but does allow the city to encourage landlords in low-income neighborhoods to rent apartments to families that are using federal housing vouchers. (Texas state law allows landlords to refuse to rent to voucher users.) The city will also invest $2 million in housing for families left homeless after Hurricane Harvey.

What the agreement doesn’t do, according to Velasquez, is “compel Houston to do something about segregation in the city.”

The settlement has triggered a lawsuit by a Texas fair housing group, Texas Housers, who say Houston was clearly maintaining residential segregation in the city.

But with the federal government backing away from the case, Kate Scott, deputy director of the Equal Rights Center in Washington, D.C., says any battle to force local government to comply with fair housing laws is neutered. Scott was part of a federal action in 2012 against St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana, which federal investigators and the courts found were discriminating against black residents looking for housing after Hurricane Katrina. She says housing lawsuits in more conservative state courts are almost pointless.

“In Louisiana, it wasn’t an option to go into state court and sue over fair housing because we would always lose,” Scott says. “We are going to see the same pattern playing out over the country.”

In a somewhat similar move, HUD last year abruptly dropped an investigation into whether Facebook had allowed housing advertisers to target white users and exclude other users from seeing the ads if their social media activity suggested they were black, Hispanic or Asian-American.

HUD had launched that query in 2016. A lawsuit has been filed in federal court alleging that the social media giant continues to discriminate against women, veterans and single mothers in housing ads. By law, HUD will have to investigate the allegations.

 A History of Poor Enforcement

The Fair Housing Act was the last major civil rights achievement of President Johnson’s administration. It came in the wake of a series of riots in Detroit, Los Angeles and Newark, N.J., and after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. It also followed the famed Kerner Commission report on race, which detailed the disparity in homeownership between African-Americans and white Americans and blamed racism as the main culprit behind the riots. The Fair Housing Act aimed to reverse the pattern of residential segregation and do so through enforcement actions when necessary.

Support for the basic principles of the Fair Housing Act has historically been bipartisan, according to Teleger, the president of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council. Enforcement has been another matter.

“The principle that you shouldn’t discriminate in housing, that’s a pretty widely held belief, and it’s widely supported that we shouldn’t have policies that we segregate families by race,” Teleger says. “However, to effectuate those goals requires substantial changes to the status quo. There are issues like local exclusionary zoning that have a lot of local support.”

 

Protestors demand equal housing access and other civil rights at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

To some degree, federal resources for enforcing the act have tended to shift with political winds.

President Richard Nixon’s HUD secretary, George Romney, had challenged local zoning laws as governor of Michigan. Once he joined Nixon’s administration, Romney drafted recommendations to better integrate housing. Nixon blocked them and drove Romney from his cabinet in 1972.

In the 1990s, Bill Clinton tapped former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros to overhaul HUD and double the department’s efforts to enforce the Fair Housing Act and address racial segregation. Cisneros did make some strides in that effort. For example, he sent in federal marshals after a town in Texas had refused to allow black residents into an all-white public housing development — the first time in history that HUD had taken over a local housing authority for civil rights violations. But Cisneros’ efforts were clipped after Congress slashed the agency’s budget following the 1994 GOP takeover.

Former President Barack Obama called for increasing HUD funding by 19 percent over his predecessor, George W. Bush.

In many ways, then, the efforts to step back Fair Housing enforcement under President Trump are par for the course under a Republican administration. Still, the vacillating approaches to the law have made it hard to make inroads in integrating housing, advocates say.

“When you go back and forth every eight years about whether you are going to enforce the law or how you are going to fund HUD, of course you are not going to make any progress,” says Scott at the Equal Rights Center.

That’s borne out in the data, which suggest that not much has changed in the past 50 years in terms of housing segregation.

The Kerner Commission report was updated this year to mark its 50th anniversary. Despite efforts to better include minorities and especially black Americans in the broader housing market, one metric has remained stubbornly low: homeownership.

In 1968, only 41.1 percent of black Americans owned homes compared to 65.9 percent of whites. In 2018, almost the same exact percentage of black Americans, 41.2 percent, own homes. White homeownership has ticked up 5.2 percent in the same period.

A New Era of Undoing

Although the Trump administration isn’t the first to change HUD priorities, housing experts say the agency’s current posture represents a new era.

From the time of Trump’s inauguration in January to October 2017 (the most recent data available), HUD took legal action in five discrimination cases, and all but one had been initiated before Trump took office. In contrast, HUD under Obama took legal action in 26 discrimination cases in his first year in office, and HUD under George W. Bush processed an average of 25 cases per year in his second term. (Data were not available prior to 2004.)

In the waning years of the Obama administration, HUD adopted what it called an Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which forced agencies receiving HUD-funded community block grants to complete a federal fair housing assessment in order to receive funding. Cities and counties were required to examine residential racial segregation and concentration of poverty.

But under Trump and Carson, HUD has delayed implementing that requirement until at least 2020. Carson has referred to the plans laid during the Obama administration as social engineering and questioned how inclusionary housing would impact an existing community.

“The rule would fundamentally change the nature of some communities from primarily single-family to largely apartment-based areas by encouraging municipalities to strike down housing ordinances that have no overtly (or even intended) discriminatory purpose — including race-neutral zoning restrictions on lot sizes and limits on multi-unit dwellings, all in the name of promoting diversity,” Carson wrote in The Washington Times shortly after the rule’s adoption.

Carson’s op-ed in 2015 seems to have presaged his actions as HUD secretary.

Few in the housing community have been surprised by HUD’s actions over the past 15 months, but they nonetheless have registered their disappointment at what they see as a large-scale unwinding of policies related to the 50-year-old Fair Housing Act.

Delaying the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, says Teleger at the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, is something of a slap in the face.

“To be suspending that near the anniversary year of the law,” he says, “speaks to how politics is trumping policy here.”

By J. Brian Charles for NCSL Today, a publication of the National Conference of State Legislatures.