The Last Chapter Can Now Be Written

For those who have been counting, this is the 140th post of the “In Transition: A Search For A New Home” blog.  Thanks to WordPress and Posterous I have had the opportunity to touch all angles of what it takes to search for a new position in these difficult times while also hopefully providing some experiences and techniques that may assist others in finding their new employment opportunity.

I must admit that this blog has been therapeutic and cathartic.  It has truly been a remarkable opportunity to share with all what has become a nearly daily chapter of my life.   Though I have heard from numerous readers who have found value in what I have written, I must admit that I believe above all, that the 100,000 words have been personally beneficial because more often than not, this blog gave me the motivation to persevere.

What is so startling is the number of people who I actually heard from; prompted by these posts.  I have interacted with numerous people who are in much worse states than any of us would like to admit exists in today’s society.  Individuals who have come to the point that though they are multi-talented have currently nowhere to turn.  Individuals who not so long ago where at the peak of their game, now finding themselves worrying about where tomorrow is going to take them.  Individuals who had everything going for themselves until a downturn in the economy made the journey so much more difficult.

I am sincerely overwhelmed if my words have assisted any of those individuals who find themselves in such a predicament.  It is the least any of us can do during these trying times.  I encourage others to provide a helping hand to those who aren’t looking for a hand-out but encouragement and understanding for a condition that you too could be experiencing, but by the “Grace of God.”

If I have learned anything during this transition, it has been perspective and humility.  Perspective for what is important in life and the balance of work and family.  It is absolutely amazing how simple things can make your day and how a phone call or a visit from friends and family can make your life so much better.  Thankfully we aren’t talking death or illness here, but having people around us who encourage and care can take us all a long way toward that ultimate goal post!

The reason why I am talking in the past tense is that I am pleased (who am I kidding, I am excited beyond belief!) to announce that starting next month I will be returning to my native Chicago for a new position with a dynamic and robust trade association.  It will be great to once again roam the streets of Chicago (except those January days when you need to cross the Michigan Avenue Bridge) and to be able to work side-by-side with a creative and encouraging industry leadership and a very capable and professional staff who are yearning for a new energy that will result in an even greater organization and additional value-added benefits for the membership.

Though demands will certainly be placed upon me in the next few months in my new position, I look forward to continuing to write about the topics that seem to have found a home with so many readers.  I thank you for your support and encouragement and this is far from saying goodbye but rather it’s a first chapter in an entirely new book!

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 100,000 words or 140 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

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Association Management is a Partnership

If you look at most successful Associations you will find a partnership between the Association Executive, the Membership and the Board of Directors or Association Leadership.  For those of us who have been around the block more than once, it is important to find the right environment so that all elements of that mix can ultimately provide positive results.

I had the opportunity a few years ago to be the Charter Exec for a trade association.  It was a wonderful chance for me to be creative and to structure a new association.  Unfortunately, there was no partnership to be had with the Board.  Since the organization was formed and operated by member volunteeers during it’s incubation period it became quite clear, very early that though I was promised with the responsibility and authority to move the new association to the next level that the very involved Board and Members were not willing to step aside.  It was their baby and no outsider was going to take it from them.   In many ways I became an Executive Secretary, the title and the role that many served during the early years of associations in the last century.

Volunteers are essential for an association of any kind to succeed but those members must also be cognizant that they have capable and professional management available to move their association forward.  If I have said it once I have said it a dozen times:  “The worst thing any association exec can do is to forget that the association that he or she is managing is not theirs.  In many ways we are all caretakers but we must never forget that we are not members or shareholders of the entity that we manage.”

From day one, that means from your first interview with the prospective association board, candidates must emphasize that we are professional association managers.  We may not be expert in regards to the membership and their talents, though we will over time develop expertise,  but that we have spent our professional lifes perfecting our role in the association management  trade, be it professional societies, non-profits or trades.   We are more than a “hired hand,”  we bring much talent to the table and if allowed we will take the membership and the association to the next level.

Unfortunately some Board Members believe they can do your job better and will annouce it the world.  Such a scenerio is not beneficial for any involved.  Obviously Boards and members have their own jobs and their own responsibilities.  Their careers have taken them to the level of Leadership in their association.  They certainly have opinions, which should be heard and discussed but the end result is management is there to perform their jobs and hopefully all can agree on the distinct roles within the organization.

Sarbanes-Oxley has certainly defined the role of the Board.  Prior to SOX, some association boards were only rubber stamps, they approved everything management brought forth and oversight was barely provided.  Those days are over thanks to failures in the corporate and association world.  However, it is important for successful organizations not to excessively maneuver the pendulum over to the other side.  The award-winning associations that we hear of are always positioned as a partnership of Leadership and management.

With Boards performing an important and hopefully temperate role in the success of the  association it is important for an outside consultant, an attorney or maybe even a past Board Chair to annually remind the Board what their role is within the association. It is vital for this message to relayed by someone other than the Association Manager.  It is self-serving if he/she provides such a message.

 Bob Harris (Robert C. Harris, CAE) has a wonderful handout for Boards at www.nonprofitcenter.com. The one page laminiated handout defines the balancing act between staff and Board with his favorite phrase being:  The board governs…..the staff manages.”   ASAE annually produces The Volunteer Leadership Issue of Associations Now which I would make a point to distribute to Board Members early in the year and if budgets allow, there are numerous workshops that CEOs and Elected Officers can attend to structure their relationship and association partnership.

Personalities play a very important role in the partnerships we create.  For the sake of a successful association it is always important for the Board and the Association Exec to create a relationship that will allow both entities to grow and prosper.  Before you take that new job, make sure all parties understand their roles and understand that all will benefit from a positive interaction that starts from the very beginning. 

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