People, People Who Needs People?

The other day I was aghast to hear of a story told by a relative in Connecticut.  She mentioned that they survived the hurricane and the torrid Irene rains quite well, but that they had been without power for days.  Thankfully they had a generator and that they were able to maintain basic human needs while awaiting an expected lengthy lapse of power from the electric company.  Their neighbor, who by the grace of God still had power was irritated by the constant noise of the generator and requested our relative to please turn it off so that they could have some peace and quiet.  What are these people thinking?

American Society has always reacted positively when neighbors are in dire straits.  Sure there will always be a few who take advantage of the situation (price gauging being a great example – I understand certain hotels in New Jersey were increasing their rates fivefold last weekend) but by and large your neighbor has always been there during winter storms, family illnesses and great times of need.  We have always believed in personal responsibility in this country, after all the colonies were based on such a philosophy, but we have also always believed that when the need is great – we are there for you.

Unfortunately, during these difficult economic times it is becoming more apparent that we are more concerned about ourselves than about what is going on around us.  It reminds me of a corporate member of a former association I managed.  We were thrilled to have this company as a member because it opened up an opportunity for a whole new segment of the industry to participate in the association community.  Upon their joining of this trade association I had a conversation with the point person, who ultimately also became a Board Member.  I requested the contact names of her competitors so that I could also invite them to join the organization.  I was shocked when she said that she was not interested in giving me those names because she felt that she now had a competitive edge and that she would rather remain an exclusive within her segment of the industry.

Besides the obvious fact that if we knew she wanted to be an exclusive member within a particular industry segment that we should have charged the company a much greater membership fee, such an attitude might be an aggressive position in corporate circles but as a member of an association community it really is much too self-serving.  Associations do not use the descriptive word community lightly.  Any professional or trade association is a community of mutual interests.  What is the value of being the exclusive while the rest of the industry around you is failing?  We in the association community believe that competition is very positive but the only fair competition is if everyone is in the game.

Needless to say we worked around her and contacted her competition.  Such a conversation could have been bordering on anti-trust if we allowed such behavior but probably more importantly it was quite obvious that instead of seeing the big picture, this individual only concerned herself with her immediate needs and not the needs of a robust and valued industry and association community.  It is obviously important for our families and our mortgage-holders that we are successful, but that success is quite shallow if limiting access is the only means to your success.

The generator continues to buzz and the anticipation for power remains high despite the reality that in many cases it will take weeks for the emergency crews to find their way to all those in need.  Of course we all think of witty retorts much too late but after hearing of this story it became quite obvious to me that if the noise was too much for the neighbor to take, the very least they could have done was provide access to their home’s electricity via an extension cord.  That certainly would have been the neighborly thing to do!

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow (FASAE) by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has taken the opportunity to author more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.


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