Good things happen in life.  Some bad things happen, too.  The funny thing is, while every motivational speaker in the world will tell you that you have the power to determine how you react to all those things that happen…the good as well as the bad…what I’ve NEVER heard anyone else say is an even more powerful truth I’ve discovered or how those of us in the Organization Management industry can utilize it to our advantage.

I’ve often mentioned in these posts that I am the VERY proud father of 4 great sons.  As they grew up, they would experience successes and they would experience failures.  They would hit home runs, and they would get hit by pitches.  They would win races and they would fall down and scrape their knees.  They would find love and they would be rejected.  But the most amazing thing I learned was that their immediate reactions to those incidents were often times shaped by MY slightly quicker response.  For example, when one of my kids fell down learning to walk, they didn’t respond INSTANTLY.  Instead, they looked at me or whoever was closest to them before they reacted.  If the person they looked at first was “babying” them and wanted to scoop them up and hug and kiss them and gave the attention to the PAIN or EMBARRASMENT they might have felt from the tumble, that’s exactly what the child would mirror back to the adult.  First would come the pouty lip, then the watery eyes and eventually, the sobbing.  But here’s the magic:  If that first glance at me was met with a smile and a laugh and a joke, they smiled, laughed and went right back to whatever it is they were doing!  They weren’t hurt, the little bastards!!!  They were looking to me for a cue as to how they should respond and they were looking for attention…good or bad…positive or negative…!

take the lead - organization management

So, how does that relate to what you do every day working with the members of your Association, your Board of Trade or your Chamber of Commerce?  Think of your members (and your prospects, and your Board of Directors, etc.) as children craving a bit of attention but really just looking to YOU for a signal as to how they should respond to what’s going on around them.  Be the very first “adult” they see when something happens…when ANYTHING happens.  Be there to support and to care and to laugh and to smile so that they know EXACTLY how they are expected to respond.  If something troubling happens in your community or in your industry, and those who are looking to you for that indication, what will they do?  My sons wanted attention and needed direction.  If they didn’t get it, they cried until they did.  Your members will do the same thing!  They’ll scream out…they’ll act out…they’ll reach out…looking for a leader.  Be that leader for them!  Show them how to react, and they’ll mirror your response.  If you act as if skinning your knee is a perfectly normal thing and that it doesn’t REALLY hurt and that falling down in front of people happens to all of us, they’ll laugh it off with you and they’ll move on.

The big challenge with using this “super power” is that in order for them to take their cue from you…from your organization…they have to SEE YOU.  If the first person they see when they hear that your changing the format of the Annual Meeting or raising their dues or…whatever…is someone negative, how do you think they’ll react?  You have to be that first person they encounter.  You have to be out in front of the issues that they care about, which means you have to KNOW what issues they care about.  You have to be proactive in your approach to communication and to leadership.  You have to take the lead.  YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE LEAD!!!

One final thought about “taking the lead”:  I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer.  In fact, there are DOZENS if not HUNDREDS of people I’m in contact with on a regular basis who are smarter than me, who have better ideas than I do, who can articulate them better than I can, and who deserve to make 10 times what I make doing their jobs.  Why then am I the one writing the blog?  Why am I the one leading the Board Retreat and the Staff Development sessions and facilitating the Membership Campaigns?  Why am I on the Institute faculty?  Why?  Because I stepped up…I stepped out on that ledge…and I pledged to help as many people as I could in this industry every single day.  Not because I’m the best or the smartest or the funniest or the most handsome, but because I stay visible.  Because you KNOW how I feel about just about any important issue in our industry.  Because I’m outspoken and I make sure you see me and hear me regularly.  It’s no accident.  Will my attempts to be ever present turn some off?  ABSOLUTELY!!!  But the risks are FAR outweighed by the rewards.  Four years ago I’d never been more than a member of a Chamber and an Ambassador.  Today, you’re reading my blog post about how to be more effective.  Let this post be YOUR cue from me.  Smile!  Laugh!  LEAD!