Teamwork – It’s For the Birds

flying VDriving to work the other day I noticed a group of birds flying overhead.  I’ve seen it so many times…“the flying ‘v’”.  In fact, because I’ve seen it so many times I almost didn’t stop to take in the importance of it.  But that day, we had a lot to do at work, a seemingly insurmountable number of details to take care of for our many clients.  And as I sat at that stop light and watched those birds work as a team, it was a valuable reminder to me of the absolute necessity of teamwork.

As kids, most of us heard the reasons why birds fly in ‘v’ formation – so that the non-leader birds can draft off of the birds in front of them, thereby making it a whole lot easier to get those long distance trips done.  I even remember my mom explaining that when the leader gets tired, they switch out, flying to one of the rear positions, and another bird just moves into the lead position.

Sometimes the lessons we learn as kids, are really the most important ones to remember as adults.

In reading up a little on the ‘flying v’, I came across some concepts that can well be applied to our work in Association Management.  Some of the phrases that apply to birds and to work:

I.   According to the experts, to accomplish this level of teamwork requires:

  1. “incredible awareness of one’s neighbors” – While you don’t need to know all the personal details of your co-workers’ lives, being “aware” of what projects they are working on, and what client needs are top priority for them, certainly helps the office function better as a team.
  2. “aligning themselves” – by aligning goals and priorities, the staff can more efficiently work together to achieve the common goal.
  3. facilitating orientation and communication” – even birds get how important it is to orient themselves to the situation and to communicate.  An effective team will get themselves “in the know”, and they will make sure to communicate with each other throughout the process.  If you don’t talk about it, you can’t solve it.  Issues don’t typically just “go away”.  The more frequently the team communicates, chances are the healthier they will be, and the more efficient, and therefore cost-effective for the client.

II.   Make the Work Easier – by working as a team, and “drafting” off the others, the whole group benefits. (This concept of  “drafting” is commonly used by squadrons of planes & racecar drivers.)

III.  Leadership Matters – in a ‘flying v’ the leader sets the course and the pace. Isn’t this true in business as well?  Whoever takes the lead for a client or a specific project will, whether they’d like to admit it or not, set the pace, and even the tone and style for the rest of the team.  If the leader tends to be more laid back and leisurely, those who are following, will in turn, work at that pace.  If the leader is motivated and positive, the team will often reflect that.  Each situation is different of course, but never underestimate the powerful effect that a leader has on their team.

Whatever your day holds, try to remember the value of teamworkHeadshot GIF1Here at SOS, we’d be lost without it.  I truly value our team, and am so grateful I have the opportunity to come to work every day with others who are aware, have common client goals, communicate and help each other.  Life is good in the ‘flying v’.  It may not make the destination any closer, but it sure makes getting there, a whole lot more do-able!

Hey Look Over Here!

Every day we are inundated with messaging. We are constantly being overrun with images, words, and sounds, fighting for our attention.  It seems there is only one way to stand-ouTimeSquaret from the crowd, if we are able to have a message, cause, or action that is so attractive by itself that we won’t have to try so hard to compete. We’ve all heard the old saying “if you’ve got a good product it will sell itself.” I personally think that it’s a mix between having a message that will sell itself and proper communication to those who care about your message. By targeting those who care about your message, your message becomes much more relevant and powerful, which in turn sells itself.

Here at SOS we understand that each nonprofit has a different mission that is important. It is our job to make sure our client’s mission is communicated effectively to those who care about it. Too often marketing efforts are looking to just send anyone and everyone information about their cause. Our efforts are better spent targeting those people who would be interested in that specific cause, which results inZachary 2015 a greater return on investment. We work hard to make sure that the time we spend is effective time, not just wasted time. Now of course this doesn’t come easy, nor quickly. It takes time to experiment, see what works, see what doesn’t work and how best to package the message. Once we’re able to find that, we are able to build and continue to grow, leaving our members with the understanding that they are only going to get information that they’re interested in.

Using Brain Power Effectively By Melody King, SOS Event Planner

m_king“Your brain is a battery. Unlike a mobile device, which performs at 100% on 30% power, your brain’s ability to make decisions, prioritize, create to-do lists and pick up nuances in a meeting doesn’t do well when you’re tired or overburdened,” according to Janet Sperstad, CMP (MPI Member Wisconsin Chapter). She continues to say, “Your brain is powerful yet delicate, and neuroscientists say your brain adheres to the ‘Goldilocks Theory’ because everything has to be just right to perform well.” Lucky for us, the brain can recharge at a faster rate than a mobile device.

In order for the brain to perform properly, one must be organized. Now each person has a different idea of being organized, but for me it helps to have a place for everything and everything in its place so it’s easy to find it once I need it. So, I went looking for some other ideas on how to stay and keep organized and keep the Goldilocks Theory intact. Here are some ideas that I found:

  • Chuck your Junk – Just like when you declutter at home, think about whether you’ve needed something within the last year.
  • Store – Resist the urge to be a perfectionist in dealing with the old paperwork in your “store” pile, or you’ll be lost amid stacks of miscellany for days. Just create a way to organize your materials in a way that makes sense to you.
  • Tackle Your To-Do Pile – This is where you should invest your efforts for the biggest payoff in long-term, sustainable organization. Create file folders for each project you are currently working on (or a different folder for each client or for each upcoming due date — whatever makes sense for you). When you complete a project, go through the file and discard the unimportant documents within.
  • Keep Your Desk Clear – One surefire way to prevent clutter from accumulating on your desk is to adopt the one-touch rule. Deal with every piece of paper that crosses your desk immediately. Trash it, act on it, file it or — if you really must — place it in your inbox until you have time to deal with it. (The one-touch rule is also applicable to email. Either respond right away, or direct your incoming messages to appropriate email folders.)
  • Use Technology Wisely – Strive to keep phone numbers and other often-used data on your computer and/or mobile phone. Online organizers — which you can access via your computer or your phone — can combine your calendar, address book, to-do lists and more. They can also send you pop-up reminders about meetings and deadlines. It may take a little time to master using these tools, but they’ll save you time (and lots of sticky notes) in the long run.

Keeping these 5 ideas in mind can help you to become better organized and to keep up with the work load. Don’t forget to eat well and get plenty of rest, that plays a huge role in recharging your brain power.  How you treat your body also affects your work day and how you get things done.

Less is More: Board Meeting Minutes

Suzanne 2015Just what are the best practices for recording board meeting minutes? After talking with several nonprofit executives and reading several different articles on this nebulous subject, I’ve come to the conclusion that less is more.

Meeting minutes are the official and legal written record of the board meeting. The date, time, location and list of those present, including guests, should always be included. They should also reflect whether a quorum is present. The minutes should not be a transcript of the discussions, but rather a brief summary and the outcome of any vote. The name of the recorder should also be included, usually the secretary of the association.

Everyone agrees that minutes need to be worded clearly and concisely to accurately convey the meaning of the action taken. But here’s where opinions seem to differ: how to document board discussion, specifically, how much detail should be included. Some think that having specific detail is helpful, especially when referring back to minutes for institutional knowledge or reference. However, too much could open the association up to liability in case of a lawsuit. For that very reason, others think that only motions and votes (without individual names) should be recorded, with only the pertinent facts of the discussion included.

Since there is no definite rule regarding the level of detail that should be included in board meeting minutes, it is up to each association to determine what is appropriate. Just remember that board minutes should accurately reflect the actions and intentions of the board as succinctly and clearly as possible.

Here are some tips from Jeremy Barlow at BoardEffect

Helpful Tips for Taking Board Meeting Minutes

  • Use a template
  • Check off attendees as they arrive
  • Do introductions or circulate an attendance list
  • Record motions, actions, and decisions as they occur
  • Ask for clarification as necessary
  • Write clear, brief notes-not full sentences or verbatim wording
  • Maintain the same verb tense

And here’s a great resource from Jeanette Panning, MBA, CAE in Associations Now

Doing Good

So far, 2017 has had a theme for me: Doing Good and Community Service.

It started when my husband came home from the store on January 2nd and said, “the craziest thing happened at the store… when I went to pay, the cashier said ‘the lady in front of you paid and said pay it forward.” The next day at the SOS Association Management Solutions staff meeting, as a new year reminder, we were going over our Statement of Purpose & Core Values & Beliefs. One of our core beliefs, in fact our first core belief, is: “We believe in giving back to the community, which is at the core of serving associations.”

In reviewing this core belief, a discussion started about what this meant to SOS as a company and to us as employees.  As a company, we give back to the community by doing community giving events during the year, such as a day of serving at St. Vincent’s, in our personal lives we serve on non-profit boards, volunteer at our kid’s schools, volunteer at our churches. We actively participate in our communities.

The follow up was how do we as employees help SOS to live this core belief? I think that we help the community by helping the associations that help the community. By offering an economical solution to both trade and non-profit associations SOS helps in building a better community.

Association management companies help both small and large associations by freeing them of the day-to-day business headaches allowing the volunteer association boards to shine in the areas in which they are the most knowledgeable.  These boards can live their missions unencumbered by the added worries of the logistics of event planning, membership notices getting mailed on time, bills getting paid, or because they don’t need one, building upkeep.

I know that some people (my husband again) will ask, “how is planning a ‘lunch and learn’ for lawyers a community service?” I think lawyers continuing to hone their craft to serve their clients better is a community service. That a trade association helping to teach companies about how to use rainwater to its fullest and advocating for large scale rainwater catchment is a community service. Play therapists that plan conferences and training in order to help the most defenseless in our society helps to build a better community.

Some of these associations would not be able to serve their constituencies, in fact some would not exist if they had to pay for building and staff.  Because the associations we serve collectively pay for the association management company’s overhead no one association has the full burden making it affordable for all.

So, I say we serve our community every day. We serve it well. We offer more to the community than buying a stranger in the grocery line, who did not need it, free beer.