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What if you had at least one member in every staff meeting?


Author Dan Pink closed ASAE's 2012 Annual Meeting & Expo with advice for association executives now that we're all in sales.

He called sales a natural human endeavor and "something we can do better by being more human." His message was a preview of his forthcoming book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, and he emphasized a new set of skills for "non-sales selling," most notably attunement to the perspectives of the people you're trying to influence.

Pink recommended association executives follow the lead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who pulls an empty chair into staff meetings to represent the customer. The "pull up a chair" exercise provides a visual reminder for staff and helps them be better attuned to the needs of the customer in any given project.

That's a great idea that associations could adopt, but there's no reason the chair has to be empty. Instead of having an imaginary member in every staff meeting at your association, why not have a real member in every meeting?

At some small-staff associations that are largely volunteer driven, this might already be the case, but for any association with enough staff to have staff-only meetings, adding one member would shift the dynamic in the room toward better serving member needs.

Pink said the new era of sales is one in which information asymmetry has given way to information parity: the buyer has just as much information as the seller, and it's the seller's job to understand how he or she can serve the buyer.

Maybe the logistics of getting a member into every staff meeting at your association would be prohibitive, but if you can make a habit of bringing members in more often, at least, you'll better reflect the dynamic of information parity, and you'll be better attuned to what members need.



Interesting concept – member attending an association staff meeting -- but a remarkable association is not member driven (see 7 Measures of Success, ASAE, 2006), it is data-driven. Thus, the remarkable association constantly collects, analyzes, and acts on data – much of which is from the members. Employees for a remarkable association are scanning the environment, reviewing data (membership data, experience evaluations, etc.), and actively seeking data to drive decisions. Certainly a member could attend a staff meeting; and, in the remarkable association, the member would find employees who operate with blinders off, are focused on mission, wide open to feedback, and drawn like a magnet to data. Based on the findings, the remarkable association acts.

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