The headaches of petty complaints
I don't envy Washington, DC, Mayor Adrian Fenty right now. As explained last week in the Washington Post, neighborhood groups in DC are embroiled in bitter arguments over the benefit or nuisance of speed bumps that have been installed. The level of outrage engendered by little mounds of pavement is a bit absurd, but leaders are often charged with minding such petty arguments among their stakeholders.
I'm sure most association managers can relate. As mayor, Fenty has more important things to worry about: fixing schools, reducing crime, battling the local AIDS epidemic, etc. As an association executive, you face challenges like finding new sources of revenue, keeping pace with changing technology, or fighting for your industry on Capitol Hill.
Yet, members get vocal about the selection of food at a meeting, word choice in a publication, or the deadline for an awards application. (Perhaps they even send you an email with a red "urgent" exclamation point!) Is your first reaction slap your forehead and say "Gimme a freakin' break!"?
My colleague Lisa Junker makes an insightful point, though: what might seem "inconsequential" to the CEO, who has to worry about the big picture, matters dearly to the individual member. This is a frustrating, eternal truth of leadership.
So what are the options? Roll up your sleeves and stick your hands in the dirty details of minor situations? Ignore them and hope they go away? Say a few words to create the appearance that you care, delegate the problem to the appropriate department, and then move on with other things?
Please use the comments as a therapists' couch. Blow off some steam and entertain us with a few of the petty situations you've had to deal with as an association manager, and then share how you've navigated them.