Monday, September 30, 2019

Top Takes: The Chairman's Gift

Take another look at the post that, as of this writing, has the third most pageviews on this entire blog:

The Chairman's Gift

It's about a tradition we have at our association, where we give the outgoing chair of the Board a gift unique and meaningful to them. We do it because we value our chairs for the humans they are, but also to send a clear message to everyone else on the Board and at the retreat where the gift is usually bestowed.

Our association is a family, and we care about each other in ways that go beyond financial reports, strategic objectives, and key performance indicators.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass

This is a delightful short novel, ostensibly about the early Country music sensation known as the Browns, but really about something much deeper and primal.

The Browns are siblings -- Jim Ed, Bonnie, and Maxine -- and, for a time in the 1950s and 60s, they were among the most popular recording artists in the world. The harmonic sound of their voices, stylized by Bass and others as “Nashville Chrome,” was not only their claim to fame, but is, in many ways, the lever Bass uses to pry open the novel’s dark secrets.

That the greatest voices, the greatest harmony in country music, should come from such a hardscrabble swamp -- Popular Creek, Arkansas -- and that fame should lavish itself upon the three of them, their voices braiding together to give the country the precise thing it most needed or desired -- silky polish, after so much raggedness, and a sound that would be referred to as Nashville Chrome -- makes an observer pause. Did their fabulous voices come from their own hungers within, or from thrice-in-a-lifetime coincidence? They were in the right place at the right time, and the wrong place at the right time.

So Much Raggedness

Bass’s novel, as beautiful and as evocative as it is, doesn’t lend itself to easy citation or explanation. There is a plot, but it is pleasantly subservient to the sparse tone and philosophic yearning of its prose.

Early on, the focus is very much on the ragged forest world from which the Browns are seemingly called.

The little sawmill was perched at the edge of the dark woods, resting atop the rich soil, with the workers gnawing their way slowly into the old forest. Some years the workers would bring the logs in to the mill, and other years -- depending on transportation logistics and contracts -- the mill would pack up and move a little farther into the woods. There were still panthers in the swamps and bears in the mountains, or what passed for mountains in those old worn-down hills.

This was another of the paths of their childhood, the physical and sensual sounds and odors of the mill, with the blades whirring on and off throughout the day -- the high whine of the spinning, waiting blade powering down to a deep groan as the blade accepted the timber, the blades sending out a different pitch for rough cut, planing, or finishing, and likewise a different tone based on size, density, even species of timber and time of year, and whether the tree grew on a north slope or a south slope.

Different smells, too, wafted through their lives in ribbons of scent -- the green odor of the living wood and the drier one of dead wood, the latter a scent like that of a campfire; the smell of the diesel engines as well as those of the mules and horses that sometimes skidded the logs out of the swamp when gasoline was scarce or could not be squandered; the scent and creaking sound of the leather harnesses and other tack of the mules and horses; the stale alcohol-sweat and the tobacco of the laborers, all of them missing fingers, even hands and arms, sometimes from the blade but more often from the logs themselves, thousand-pound rolling pins cascading off the truck, crushing and pinching anything in their way.

And where the workers had not lost some of the various parts of themselves -- where there was still a full complement of teeth and fingers and thumbs, hands, feet, arms, and legs -- there were internal injuries: broken bones, alcoholism, rage, and the mute desperation of a poverty unknown by several previous generations.

It is an ancient place, only recently occupied by man, with only a handful of generations to learn its dark secrets, not nearly enough to either master or transcend it. But...

The children knew no other world. The forest -- both the injured forest as well as the uninjured -- combined with the children’s spirits like the gold light that came down through the dense canopy of broad leaves in the morning: each pattern of leaf, each lobe and serration, already accommodated to the specificity of its time and place.

In that forest, the shady dapple of the leaves moderated the temperature of the soil and gave nutrition to the legions of meek insects, the lives of which also helped enrich and process the soil, and each morning in the spring and summer, the forest would begin to hiss with chlorophyllic excess -- a tremendous, thunderous, silent power, a silent energy shimmering above the leaves with such verve that it was almost audible.

The green light bathed the children, infiltrated their lungs, shimmered its golden way up into their minds. They could have stayed there forever -- as had the generations before them -- but the force that had come into them desired otherwise.

This is not the first mention of this force, and it will not be the last. But for now, let’s focus a moment on what happens when something as beautiful as Nashville Chrome enters this ragged world.

Floyd and Birdie [the parents of the Browns] continued to marvel at -- to revel in -- their children’s ability to make a living doing what everyone in their family had always done, playing music and singing -- and marveled too at the celebrity. Only Norma [a younger sister] remained behind now, still in school, but in some ways it was almost as if the others were still at home, for at almost any hour of the day or night, they could turn on their radio -- a gift from their children -- and, if they listened long enough, one of the Browns’ songs would always come on. It was almost like it had been when they were still living at home.

To Floyd, in such moments, lying on his back beneath the maw of a tractor, or mucking out the mules’ stalls, it was almost as if they were still right there, and occasionally he would stop in his labors and just listen: and though they were his children and it was a sound he had known all his life, even he, with his familiarity with their music, and his gruff demons, would in those moments know a balm. He would lie there looking up at the blue sky through the underside of the old engine, or would lean on his shovel and just listen, with a strange and wonderful mix of emotions; the old fevers draining away as if never to return, and pride swelling in him, and the core thing, the thing he didn’t even think about much: love.

One of the things I like so much about this book -- and, I think about Bass as a writer, is his ability to put us there, with Floyd, leaning on that shovel, remembering what love is. A moment of respite from a weary world.

When times were good like that, and Floyd was in his cups but not yet despondent or bitter or frightened, he had a saying, a little joke, that indicated how pleased he was with such rare moments of calm and cheer and fearlessness. He knew such confidence was foolish, which was why it amused him, on the occasions he felt it.

“We might get out of this alive after all,” he would say, grinning, enormously pleased with life, and the moment. Laughing at himself, mostly, knowing how quickly that moment of optimism was fading even as he briefly inhabited it.

Their Own Hungers Within

But Nashville Chrome has other effects -- effects both on those who hear it and on those who produce it. With the love, it awakens a deep and unsatisfiable hunger for more, more, more. And of the three Brown siblings, it is Maxine that feels this hunger the deepest of them all.

For a long time, things had been simple, and any hungers they ever had were physical, but once the world discovered their sound, they knew a different kind of hunger. The size and magnitude of it, she realizes now, was precisely the size of the world’s hunger, though for what, even now, she cannot say for sure.

This is told in the future, when Maxine is an old woman, living alone in a house with the memories of her youth and career.

Sometimes she goes into her tiny office, where all her memorabilia is stored neatly in cedar chests, and where framed photographs cover every inch of wall and occupy every portion of desk space: photos of her and her brother and sister with all of the old greats: Ernest Tubb, Vassar Clements, Doc Watson, Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner. Elvis, of course, and the Beatles, and the Mamas and the Papas, even Dylan. Pictures of her with senators, governors, and presidents. A newspaper from London that reported them to be the number one musical act in all of England. Pictures of her throwing out the first pitch at the All-Star Game in 1956, when the Browns were at the top of both the country and pop charts simultaneously, the first time that had ever been done, and also the last. She was dating the Washington Senators’ third baseman, who was playing in the game; they were a couple in the era before the proliferation of tabloids dedicated to chronicling such movements. He suggested that she throw out the first pitch, and that the Browns sing the national anthem, which they did.

A clock somewhere ticking, melting away, back then, but they had no idea.

Maxine’s end is not a pretty one. A practical shut-in, she dreams of a return to her former glory, dreams even while her brother enjoys a semi-successful solo career and her younger sister -- after coming close to marrying Elvis Presley, settles down with another man and fades happily from the spotlight. Maxine, it seems, can do neither -- too proud to settle down and too frightened to put herself out and fail.

And in her end, Bass, I believe, wants us to see his, ours, everyone’s.

Restricted to the downstairs section of her house as she is, Maxine longs for the day when she can climb the steps again and shower in her own bathroom, can select clothes from her bedroom closet, rather than sleeping on the couch and living out of the cardboard box that Bonnie brought downstairs for her. No one ever thinks they will end up this way; yet neither are there any plans that can be laid to prevent such steady approach of darkness, when it is darkness’s time to come.

Only An Elemental Force

And Bass’s judgment, again and again, is that this story, all of it, both the raggedness that gave them birth and the hungers that compelled them, is all part of some fundamental force that shapes us and the way the world receives us. This “elemental force” is mentioned frequently, given as an explanation that of course explains nothing.

The girls didn’t get to sleep around. That was the boys’ task, the boys’ duty. Bonnie didn’t want to -- was saving herself for marriage -- and Maxine, though she wanted to, didn’t, mostly just because she wasn’t supposed to. More smoldering. So much waiting. Still believing she had a hand in this matter of her life -- in any of it.

In the morning the party-life would be gone entirely, passing like a wonderful storm for the boys, and they would all four reconvene for breakfast, bleary-eyes and wrung out, but filling back up, the well recharging from what was surely a limitless reservoir.

Did Maxine and Bonnie want their own partners, as enduring and steadfast as were the boys’ liaisons fleeting? Bonnie, certainly; Maxine, less so. By that point she would bury any ten lovers if it helped her get more of the drug she needed. She told Bonnie she was “horny as a two-peckered billy goat,” but her real hunger was for something far below.

Was it her fault that she was that way, or anyone’s fault that two sisters of the same parents could be so different? There was no right or wrong in it. It was all only an elemental force blowing through them. It was all requisite for the world to turn as it turned.

I think Bass is able to capture the poignancy of it all, even if his characters never really do. When it comes to Nashville Chrome -- both the sweet sound of the Browns and the metaphoric spirit that it represents -- there can never really be an explanation for why it comes and why it goes. The world produces it, the same way it produces both summer showers and raging hurricanes, either for reasons beyond our comprehension or for no reason at all. We, after all, are only the droplets of water that the world harnesses for its inscrutable purpose.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

Monday, September 23, 2019

Top Takes: The 4 Disciplines of Execution

Take another look at the post that, as of this writing, has the second most pageviews on this entire blog:

The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling

It's my take on a book with the subtitle of “Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals,” something the authors refer to as WIGs. In the overall, it describes a deceptively simple and oddly compelling system for achieving them. They call it 4DX, short for the Four Disciplines of Execution, and they are:

1. Focus on the Wildly Important
2. Act on the Lead Measures
3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
4. Create a Cadence of Accountability

Lots of great content in the post, even a theoretical application of these disciplines to my own organization.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Dragons - Chapter 19 (DRAFT)

Talking with Bethany helped me decide one very important thing. If this insurrection was going to have any chance of success, I was going to have to be careful not to get too far out in front of it. If I tried to position myself as its leader—the magnetic messiah here to take everyone to the Promised Land—it was going to fail. I certainly didn’t have the charisma to pull something like that off, but more importantly, there was too much cynicism about leaders and leadership boiled into the culture of our organization.

Mary Walton and Don Bascom were daily reminders that leaders had agendas which rarely coincided with the interests of the people they led. Don wanted his systems running smoothly and Mary wanted her clients staying happy, and neither seemed to care a morsel for any of the people in their employ. And if Don and Mary’s example wasn’t convincing, then all you had to do was look out into the ranks of the volunteer leadership in our client organizations. There you would see even starker examples—opportunists like Eleanor Rumford, for whom you were just a tool for advancing her own career—or worse yet, predators like Wes Howard, who used people to satisfy even baser desires.

Every organization had people like these—small-minded operators like Mary and Don, and major manipulators like Eleanor and Wes—and everyone knew why people like that rose to become leaders. No one but them would ever have as much drive or ambition. A deep collective understanding had penetrated the consciousness of all who did not have their corrupting aspiration to lead, who only wanted to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and contribute in their own small way to the overall success of the organization. All leaders, they knew, were tyrants, and they each were only interested in their selfish and self-absorbed objectives.

So I couldn’t lead this revolt. If I tried, no one would trust me, seeing in me the same power-mad behavior that had burned them so many times before. But I could help the revolt happen because I had been given a weapon like no other in the company. My position was unique, remember, residing below Mary and Don, but ambiguously above everyone else, such that no one quite understood the limits of my authority. I knew I could start testing those limits by taking liberties, by consciously erring on the side of action, and seeing bit by bit what Mary would allow. And it was that strategy, coupled with the mandate Mary herself had given me to reinvent the way in which the company reviewed and hired talent, which created this unbelievable opportunity to start pushing against the castle walls and see if any of them could be toppled.

Acting alone, or as the visible leader of a movement, would only isolate me and make me easier to destroy. But by turning my special weapon over to the people and letting them decide how to use it, I thought we just might be able to slay the dragon and move back into the keep she had stolen from us.

And that’s exactly what Bethany and I decided we had to do at that afternoon’s staff meeting. Together we had come up with a way to deal with the ninety-nine behaviors, something that could make them manageable and easy to implement within the company—and most importantly, something that everyone would have a stake in. At its root the idea was based on a brainstorming technique Bethany had read about in one of the trade magazines that were always piling up in her office. It was something called an “affinity diagram.”

“A what?” Michael said as soon as I mentioned it around our afternoon meeting table. There was a sneer on his face and a dash of disdain in his voice, as if it couldn’t possibly be useful for brainstorming if he hadn’t heard of it before.

“It’s a way of taking a long list of things—things like these behaviors—and having a group organize them into similar themes and categories.”

“Well, what good will that do?” Michael snapped.

“Let just try it and see,” I said, and began passing around packs of fluorescent yellow Post-it Notes and black Sharpie markers. I had already distributed copies of the ninety-nine behaviors, and now I asked everyone to help me transfer them to ninety-nine different Post-It Notes. I got a few skeptical looks but no open rebellion, and in a few minutes the table was covered in yellow flags, each with an observable behavior written on it in black ink.

Next I stood up and began transferring the Notes from the table to a large open section of the conference room wall. To keep them from getting stuck together, I could only do three or four at a time, but Bethany got up to help, and when it became clear what we were doing, several of the others pitched in as well. Scott helped, and I thought that was a good sign. So did Peggy, Angie, and Jurgis. Michael and Gerald were the only two who didn’t budge.

“Okay,” I said, turning to face them all with the Notes scattered on the wall behind me. “Here’s what we’re going to do. We’ve got a lot of ideas here, but there’s too many and they’re too interrelated for them to do what we want—succinctly describe the qualities of an ideal staff person. So we’re all going to come over to this wall—Michael and Gerald; you, too—and together we’re going to move the Post-It Notes around until the behaviors are grouped into the categories that make the most sense.”

“Categories?” Angie said, looking at the wall behind me as if expecting to see more information there. “What categories?”

“I don’t know,” I said calmly. “I’m going to let the group decide that. Oh, and we’re going to do this grouping of behaviors without talking to each other.”


Michael had risen from his seat but had not moved away from the table.

“You heard me right, Michael. No talking.”

“But how are we going to decide on the categories if we can’t talk about them first?”

I saw the anxiety in his eyes. “I don’t know,” I said, perhaps too smugly, quietly happy to see him squirm. “Why don’t we give it a try and see what happens.”

Michael looked around the room, his eyes searching for an ally. Only he and Gerald remained near the conference table—Gerald sitting quietly and Michael standing beside him. Everyone else was already gathered with me near the wall of Post-it Notes, staring back at him and waiting to see what he would do.

Suddenly Gerald rose to his feet. Michael looked at him with relief, but then with growing concern as Gerald slowly made his way around the conference table. The cluster of us parted to give him room to leave if that was what he planned to do—and part of me feared he would. If there was anyone in the room who was going to see through my clumsy attempt at team building, it was Gerald—because Gerald was not a team player. But to everyone’s surprise, Gerald did not leave the room. Instead, he gave me an odd sort of satisfied look and then began rearranging Post-It Notes on Mary’s white wall.

All eyes were suddenly on me. Eyes surrounded by happy faces, and no face more happy than Bethany’s. She positively beamed at me.

“Well, go on,” I told them. “Don’t just stand there. Take a look at what Gerald is doing. Do you agree with how he’s grouping them? If not, move them around. That’s another one of the rules. Anybody can move any behavior to another group or to a new group at any time. We’ll keep going until no one wants to make any more moves. And remember—no talking!”

Then they all fell in, lining up along the wall on either side of Gerald and paying close attention to what he was doing. I waited until several had begun to touch the Post-It Notes, creating their own groupings and even pulling Notes out of the groups Gerald was building, before turning to face Michael.

He still stood on the other side of the table, his lower lip protruding like a kid who hadn’t been picked by either playground team. I didn’t know what his hang-up was, but I told myself to go easy on him as I slowly made my way over to his side of the table.

“Michael, come on, just give it a try,” I said as softly as I could, not realizing how much my voice would carry in the silent room. It was odd to have that much activity and for there to be no sound but the papery shush of sticky Post-It Notes coming off the wall. “We need your input. This isn’t going to work unless everyone participates.”

He gave me an ornery look and seemed ready to say something, but then held it back.

“What?” I asked him, whispering because I could tell by his darting eyes that he was concerned about us being overheard.

“Nothing,” he said softly through clenched teeth. “It’s nothing.”

That was a lie if I ever heard one. Something was boiling away under Michael’s collar, but I wasn’t likely to hear about it now. Later he might come storming into my office to complain, or worse yet he’d bitch to a group of junior staff and it would be morphed into next week’s office gossip, but he wasn’t going to tell me now—not now, when I could actually do something about it. And suddenly I thought, you know what—screw it. I’m doing the best I can with this, and if Michael wants to get his undies all twisted up, then he’ll just have to straighten them out by himself. I’d lost my patience for his melodrama.

“Fine,” I said directly. “Then how about acting like a grown up and joining the others in this little exercise?”

Michael gave me a searing look, and I knew I was going to pay for that remark later, but I held firm and eventually he went over and joined the group. I watched him as he stood there unmoving for a while, a dead insect lost and forgotten on the outskirts of the colony, but I could tell by his posture that he was paying close attention to what everyone else was doing.

“No, not there!” he said suddenly, his deep voice echoing off the vast white wall with all its fluttering yellow flags. He rushed forward, ripping a Note off the wall, one that Angie had just moved from one group to another. “These are all about problem solving,” he said angrily, making a big circular motion with his hand. “This,” he said, holding the single Note up in front of Angie’s nose, “is about showing initiative. It belongs over here.” He slapped the Note on the wall where he thought it belonged, and then turned back to the group, a smug and confident smile on his face.

I felt like running over there and smacking the arrogant prick on the head, but I held myself back, waiting to see how the others would handle it. It pleased me to see the confidence drain out of Michael’s face as he was met by the scowls and frowns of the other department heads.

“Michael,” Bethany said gently. “It’s okay if you want to move that behavior to a new group, but you’re not supposed to talk about it.”

“Well, why not?” Michael complained. “How are we supposed to get the groups right if we don’t talk about them and decide what they should be?”

“We were doing just fine before you opened your mouth,” Scott said peevishly. It was the first thing he had said in the whole meeting. “Did you not know that group was for problem solving and this one was for showing initiative?”

“Well, yeah,” Michael said reluctantly. “But if that was so clear to everyone, why did Angie put that behavior in the wrong group?”

“Maybe I did put it in the wrong group,” Angie allowed. “But maybe I didn’t. Maybe I see a different pattern and that behavior belongs in that group.”

“Maybe,” Michael said skeptically, looking back at the wall. “But how are we supposed to know that unless you tell us about it?”

“Michael,” Gerald said with great diplomacy. “We don’t want to talk about it. If we talk about it, it’ll turn into an argument, and if it’s an argument then someone will want to win it, and that’ll likely be the person who complains the most. We’re not trying to win an argument here. We’re looking for a consensus, and the best way to find one is to give everyone equal authority in the process. That means no squeaky wheels. Just actions the group is free to accept or reject.”

Michael shook his head. “This is fucking crazy.”

“Just try it, okay?” Peggy said, clasping Michael’s arm. “If you just be patient and watch, I think you’ll find that this process is working.”

It was good to see the group policing itself like this, and especially satisfying to see Gerald expressing such support, but a little alarm bell went off in my head when Michael yanked his arm out of Peggy’s gentle grasp. He looked ready to bite her, but he partially composed himself when he saw her shocked look.

“I’ll watch,” Michael said tersely. “But I’m not going be quiet if I see you guys doing something wrong.”

“Then get out of their way, Michael,” I said irritably. “You can play by the rules or you can sit on the sidelines. You decide.”

Michael gave me another venomous look, and I thought he might go storming out of there, like he had the week before when I hadn’t taken his complaints about Gerald seriously. I really didn’t want him to leave. Everyone needed to be a part of this if it was going to work, but I also couldn’t have him disrupting the process. Supportive looks from the rest of the team gave me the sense I was handling him right, and I returned his stare with equal vehemence.

“Okay,” Michael said, plopping himself like a pouting child into one of the conference room chairs and crossing his powerful arms across his chest. “I’ll watch and be quiet. But I don’t think this is getting us anywhere.”

It was the best I was going to get. The others turned back to the wall of Post-It Notes. I kept my attention on the back of Michael’s thick head for a while, but as he maintained his promised silence my eyes were drawn towards the work of the others.

It was fascinating to watch. For twenty minutes they worked in silence, moving yellow behaviors around on a great white canvas, creating something none of them could individually articulate. There was a lot of back and forth—the same two people often moving the same behavior between the same two groups, but without the ability to argue, one of them would eventually take a step back and look at the larger pattern that was being created. Sometimes they would acquiesce and allow the contested behavior to stay in the other person’s group, and sometimes they would dive in with fresh inspiration and rearrange several other behaviors into new groupings altogether. Once, when Jurgis did this, the others stood back and examined the new arrangement, and then burst into spontaneous laughter, Gerald even going so far as to give Jurgis a congratulatory slap on the back. They couldn’t say anything, but they needed to express their satisfaction, nodding positively to each other and smiling with their mouths open.

I found it inspiring. The only shadow on the production was Michael, who sat unmoving in his chair the entire time. As the group came to their final consensus, the whisper of moving Post-It Notes slowing and eventually stopping like the sound of microwave popcorn, I was determined to find some way to get him engaged.


I looked up. It was Bethany, standing amidst the others, smiling broadly.


“We’re done.”

“You are?” I said, stepping quickly around the conference table to join them beside the wall. It was still covered with yellow Post-It Notes, but now they were all neatly arranged into eleven distinct groups. “Are you sure?” I asked, running my eyes over the black writing on each one. “No one wants to make any more changes?”

“No,” Gerald said. “We’re done.”

I’m not sure I ever saw Gerald smile before, but he was smiling now. They all were. Gerald and Bethany and Jurgis and Angie and Scott and Peggy—all smiling at me like I had given them some precious gift, some magical talisman that they had used to create something both beautiful and sublime.

And now, in this triumphant moment, I took a pack of blue Post-It Notes out of my pocket and tossed them to Michael. He flinched awkwardly as they landed in his lap, and then clutched at them to keep them from sliding off his thigh.

“Michael,” I said gently. “Why don’t you put a title on each of these groups.”

He looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. “What?”

“With those,” I said, indicating the blue Post-Its Notes. “Grab a Sharpie and put a title over each group the rest of the team has assembled. I don’t think anyone will mind.”

Then I saw the understanding come like a blush over his face, followed quickly by a scowl, and for a moment I thought he was going to rebuff me—thought he was going to throw the Post-It Notes back at me and tell me where to stick them. But then the others started to encourage him. Bethany first, then Peggy in her wholesome way, and then everyone, even Gerald, beckoning Michael forward and asking him to join their team. And where he might have rejected me, I saw, there was no way he could reject them all.

So like a star pupil called on to solve a difficult problem, Michael rose out of his chair and silently approached the wall. With the blue Post-Its I had given him and the black Sharpie he had taken from the table, he gave each grouping a title, writing each in his strong hand while the rest of the team looked on approvingly.

Thrives in a team environment, was the first one Michael wrote and stuck on the wall, followed by Shows initiative and Anticipates challenges. He stood and thought for a while with the next grouping, eventually settling on Creatively applies resources to solve problems, and then fired off Maintains positive relationships and Shows respect for others in quick succession. Supports the mission of the organization was an easy one, as was Practices a healthy work/life balance and Mentors others. An actual buzz of excitement began to rise in the room as Michael wrote and affixed Values professional development, culminating in an actual round of applause when Is visionary rounded out the group of eleven.

There were no surprises—not for me nor for anyone else in the room. Bethany’s affinity diagramming had worked so well that any one of us could have done what Michael did and we would have wound up using the same or very similar words. In one hour we had done what had seemed impossible the week before—we had described the characteristics of the ideal staff person and, for each trait, we had a list of observable behaviors. The mechanism to generate the interview questions that would help hire new staff, and to reframe the performance evaluation to better determine rewards and incentives, was there on the wall before us. We had succeeded far beyond anyone’s expectations and we had done it by working together as a team. As Michael turned away from the wall, a transformed look of satisfaction and pride on his face, I felt like there wasn’t anything that team couldn’t do.

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“Dragons” is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. For more information, go here.

This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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Monday, September 16, 2019

Top Takes: Stop Calling It Strategic Planning

Take another look at the post that, as of this writing, has the most pageviews on this entire blog:

Stop Calling It Strategic Planning

I stand by it. Whatever you choose to call it, to be effective, associations need a methodology to accomplish the following five things:

1. They need a mission that everyone can support, that defines why they exist, and around which they will dedicate their resources and activity.

2. They need a vision for the future, a single or set of envisioned states of being, that inspires people and keeps them stretching to achieve more than they might have thought possible.

3. They need to develop a set of programs that are clearly aligned with their mission and which are capable of moving them towards their vision. These programs should both serve the interests of their members and engage them in the process of their development and execution.

4. They need to develop and employ the appropriate resources so that the programs have the best chance of success.

5. They need to monitor the progress of the programs and evaluate their impact on their mission and their ability to move them closer to their vision. They must make adjustments based on this evaluation, striving for a cycle of continuous improvement.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Narcissistic Leaders by Michael Maccoby

Maccoby starts by telling us that he wants to use narcissism in its psychological sense.

I’m using the term “narcissism” to describe some of the most important business leaders in the world; but how could a word that’s become synonymous with all sorts of self-centered behavior -- a sense of overall superiority and entitlement, a lack of empathy or understanding of others, the need for constant attention and admiration, and overall arrogance -- apply to them? These days, in both the psychiatric field and in colloquial conversation, “narcissism” has become a term for egoism, egocentricity, or just plain bad manners. But I believe the concept of narcissism has been widely misunderstood ever since Freud coined it after Ovid’s pathologically self-involved creature from Greek mythology. I want to bring about a radical new definition of the term and the way we think about leadership, and show you how your understanding of productive narcissism can help you.

This is a tall order. He wants us to understand, but he’s deliberately confusing us by using a word that means something different than what we have come to understand. Regardless, here is Maccoby’s definition of the word.

A true narcissist is the kind of person who (1) doesn’t listen to anyone else when he believes in doing something and (2) has a precise vision of how things should be. A narcissist possesses this dual combination of traits, not one or the other; plenty of people who aren’t narcissists never listen to anyone else (they are negativistic, closed-minded, or arrogant), and plenty of people have an idea of how things should be (they are often just know-it-alls or big-talkers). It is the combination of a rejection of the status quo, along with a compelling vision, that defines the narcissist.

Then he gives us some examples of successful narcissists.

If you look at some of our most productive narcissists, the ones who have built highly successful and sustained businesses, you’ll find that they score very low on emotional intelligence. Just a few examples make the point in a dramatic way: Anne Jardim, a Ford biographer, wrote that Henry Ford’s “attitude to the men around him at times bordered on the sadistic.” Craig Venter’s wife and business partner told me that he is “not as diplomatic as he might be. He’s always pissing people off.” Bill Gates is known for his put-downs in meetings. Steve Jobs has brought subordinates to tears during business meetings. And compare the qualities of emotional intelligence with [Jack] Welch’s description of his own managerial style: “I was blunt and candid and, some thought, rude. My language could be coarse and impolitic. I didn’t like sitting and listening to canned presentations or reading reports. … And I never hid my thoughts or feelings. During a business discussion, I could get so emotionally involved that I’d stammer out what others might consider outrageous things, [such as] ‘My six-year-old kid could do better than that!’”

This is part of a section where Maccoby is deriding the value of emotional intelligence for leaders, but still, it doesn’t paint an attractive picture for this reader. Isn’t the challenge of leadership to accomplish great things through building people up, not by tearing them down? Too often, the Cult of Results cavalierly dismisses things like emotional intelligence as “touchy-feely,” and pretends that nothing matters more than “highly successful and sustained businesses.”

But then, Maccoby reminds us that he is not really talking about narcissism, but something he’s calls productive narcissism and, more than that, really productive narcissists are those who have learned to temper their narcissism with something else, something called strategic intelligence.

While strategic intelligence may help any [personality] type, it is essential for productive narcissists to work on their strategic intelligence. A narcissist who is productive can make it to the top of a company or have an impact in the business world; but I believe that only a productive narcissist with developed strategic intelligence can stay on top, can sustain success. This is because the narcissist, more so than any other type, is susceptible to a quick rise and a precipitous fall: if the stories of Michael Armstrong, Jean-Marie Messier, and Bernie Ebbers teach us anything, it’s the importance of connecting vision to implementation with strategic intelligence.

And what is strategic intelligence? Maccoby breaks it down into five essential elements:

1 - Foresight - anticipating how current movements, ideas, forces will play out in the future, driving changes in technology, products, the global marketplace, competitors, and customer needs and values.
2 - Systems Thinking - the ability to synthesize and integrate, to conceptualize the whole rather than a collection of separate parts.
3 - Visioning - combining foresight and systems thinking into a holistic vision, then creating that vision in the real world of business.
4 - Motivating - the ability to get people -- a social system -- to embrace a common purpose and implement your vision.
5 - Partnering - making strategic alliances.

Which, if someone is successful in doing, I would claim, no longer makes them a narcissist. How does a narcissist look outside themselves and their own needs enough to do foresight, systems thinking, and visioning? Where does she get the empathy necessary to motivate and partner with others? Telling a narcissist to act with strategic intelligence strikes me very much like telling an asshole to no longer be an asshole. But that analogy is actually too simple to capture Maccoby’s central point. He’s not telling the narcissist to stop being a narcissist. He’s telling them to go right on being a narcissist, but to stop being so narcissistic about it.

Taking the Test

Maccoby’s book includes an 80-item questionnaire, the responses to which are designed to determine which of his four basic personality types (Marketing, Narcissistic, Erotic, and Obsessive) dominates in the responder. Although I struggled with Maccoby’s central premise, I was curious enough to take the test, even though I have long tired of these kinds of personality tests.

There were eighty items, each phrased in the “How well does this statement describe you” model, and each scored on a scale of 0 to 5, in which 0 = Never, 1 = Almost Never, 2 = Seldom, 3 = Sometimes, 4 = Frequently, and 5 = Almost Always. Peeking ahead to the score sheet I could see that the items had been somewhat randomized, but 20 of them were aligned with the Marketing personality type, 20 were aligned with Narcissistic, 20 with Erotic, and 20 with Obsessive.

The instructions, of course, were to add up your scores in each group of 20, and the one with the highest score shows you what personality type you were. Everyone, Maccoby was quick to caution, is actually mixture of all four personality types, but usually, one will dominate over the others.

So what were my scores? Get ready:

Marketing = 62
Narcissistic = 65
Erotic = 61
Obsessive = 61

Does that make me a narcissist? I don’t think so. Although 65 is certainly a larger number than either 62 or 61, it’s not like it’s an order of magnitude higher. With a possible range of 0 to 100, having all four types clump together between 61 and 65 tells me that either Maccoby’s survey instrument is broken, or I am.

It gets better. In addition to the four dominant personality types, the same questions, sorted in a different order, can tell you which secondary type you are. There are four of those, too, and when used in combination with the dominant ones, provide 16 different personality combinations. My scores on the secondary personality types, which could have ranged between 0 and 25, were:

Self Developing = 16
Visionary = 16
Caring = 16
Systematic = 16

No kidding. I guess I am broken.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

Monday, September 9, 2019

Eight Is Enough

Eight years ago, on September 5, 2011, I made my first post on this blog. I called it "Recipes for Innovation," and in it, I talked about several things that were heavy on my mind at the time, including my then soon-to-be-ending first foray into blogging, The Hourglass Blog.

Since that time, I have managed to make a post appear here every Monday morning, a post almost always focused on some aspect of my professional experiences as an association executive. That has helped create a library of more than 400 posts, most of which I have indexed into one of the "Blog Topics" shown on my home page: Core Values, Generations, Innovation, Leadership, Member Engagement, Strategy and Execution, and Workforce Development.

But there are two other Blog Topics on that list.

Starting on September 24, 2011, with Women with Men by Richard Ford, I began the Books Read series, where, every other Saturday, I started posting a sometimes short and sometimes very long "personal take" on one of the more than 800 books that I've read. More than 200 such "personal takes" have since appeared on this blog.

And starting on July 13, 2013, with Columbia by Eric Lanke, I began the Fiction series, where I post, when the mood strikes me, some of my original fiction. Lately, that has been draft chapters from Dragons, my newest and as-yet-unfinished novel, appearing on every other Saturday, alternating with Books Read.

Now, truth be told, after eight years of consistent blogging, my creative energies have come to derive much more satisfaction from these two kinds of "Saturday" posts -- from Fiction and Books Read -- than they do from anything I'm continuing to post in for the "Monday" Blog Topics. Some weeks, I'm sorry to admit, it's a tremendous struggle to get something useful put together for Monday morning. It feels like I've already said everything I can in subjects like Innovation, Leadership, or Strategy and Execution.

So I'm making a change. I'm going to stop posting things here on Monday mornings, preferring to dedicate more of my time to composing the Saturday posts focused on the books I've read and the ones I'm writing. That, increasingly, is where my creative spirit wants to go, and, lately, it feels like I've been battling my own obligation to provide relevant Monday content.

If you've been a loyal reader of this blog, what can I say, other than 'thank you'? I hope you decide to keep on reading, because I'm certainly going to keep on writing.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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Saturday, September 7, 2019

Dragons - Chapter 18 (DRAFT)

Even after such a late night, the next day I was back at the office, bright and early. It was the day for our follow-up meeting on the Staff Qualities project, and I had a lot of information to comb through to get prepared. Most of my morning was tied up with meetings, so it wasn’t until after eleven that I was able to sit down at my desk and start working on it. I had asked people to email me their thoughts on the observable behaviors an ideal staff person would display and, somewhat to my surprise, everyone had actually responded. I had seen the emails come in bit by bit throughout the week, but had been so busy with Eleanor’s program and the other final preparations for our educational conference that I hadn’t had any time to open them and see what wisdom they contained.

Most had sent me a list. Flagging the messages and grouping them together I could see that Peggy, Scott, Jurgis, Angie, and Michael had each sent me a single email with a list of behaviors attached in a Word file. Some lists were longer than others, but they had all done the minimum I had asked for—probably not giving it another thought after hitting the send button.

Bethany was one of the two outliers in this regard. She had emailed a list like the others—the morning after her promised free evening of work, according to the date stamp on the email—but had sent me six subsequent emails since then, each with a slightly revised list attached. I shook my head as I looked through them, eventually putting all seven documents up on my screen at the same time in an attempt to understand her thought process. First she added some new behaviors, then deleted some others, then added more, including some that she had deleted the previous time. I couldn’t make any sense out of her indecision. What was with all the edits? I just wanted a pool of behaviors to start with. It was as if I had assigned her to write a nonsense poem—‘twas brillig, and the slithy toves—and she was struggling to get it just right.

Gerald was the other outlier and he had taken precisely the opposite approach. He hadn’t labored over anything, firing ideas at me as soon as they had occurred to him. He had sent a total of twenty-eight emails, each containing a single behavior in bold capital letters. They had come in throughout the week, some of them outside of office hours, one at 2:36 in the morning. I couldn’t help but wonder if that one had woken him out of a sound sleep. I could almost picture him sitting bolt upright in bed, his designer eyeglasses on the nightstand beside him, and crying out observable behaviors in capital letters.

I took everyone’s suggestions and copied and pasted them into a single document. Bethany’s multiple lists gave me some problems here, but I decided to transfer them all over, knowing I could sort the list and kill off the duplicates more easily than comparing each subsequent version to the last and trying to identify which ones had been added and which ones had been removed. My method would include any that Bethany had thought better of and wanted deleted, but I didn’t care. At this stage of the game I was casting a wide net and was more interested in quantity than quality.

When I was finished I had an alphabetized list of ninety-nine behaviors, and I read them from start to finish, curious to see what impression they would leave on me. My first thought, frankly, was that they covered too much ground. Most were definitely observable behaviors of the type Gerald would approve, but thematically they were all over the map, and it was hard to imagine any one person living up to them.

But I read through the list again, this time looking for holes, for some key area that seemed important but wasn’t already covered. I hadn’t added my own ideas, after all. The past week had been so busy I hadn’t put any thought into this culture-changing effort I was leading. But upon this second review I saw that there wasn’t anything I needed to add. They were a big, nebulous collection of disparate thoughts, jotted down by different people at different times, some poorly worded and others expressing near-identical ideas, but together I could see that they formed a rough picture of what the exercise was aiming at—the ideal staff person.

Never mind that no human being could actually exhibit all of the necessary behaviors. The list was still the beginnings of a blueprint for total success in our environment. If these traits could be mastered, I thought wildly, if someone could not just show these behaviors but embody the qualities they were meant to demonstrate, there was no telling how far that person could go in the company. A person like that would put amateurs like Mary and Don out of business.

I heard a soft tapping on my office door. I spun around in my chair and saw Bethany standing there.

“You got time for lunch today?”

“What?” I said, spinning back to look at the clock on my desk and realizing that the lunch hour had already started.

“Are—you—hungry?” Bethany said slowly, the way Jenny sometimes did when I was slow on the uptake. “Do you want to go to the Cellar and get a bite to eat?”

I thought about it for a second. Bethany and I had semi-regularly gone out for lunch before my promotion, when we were both on the same rung of the corporate ladder. It was probably fair to have called us friends of a sort. We spent a lot of time talking about our family lives and I think saw each other as semi-safe confidants of the opposite sex—someone who could offer candid feedback from the other gender’s perspective when we were having difficulty with our spouses. I knew, for example, that Bethany had been raised in a very strict household—her father was some kind of Pentecostal minister who forbade even the mildest of curse words to be uttered in his presence—and that although she had caused something of a scandal by disobeying her father and marrying David, a man she had met in college and an avowed secular humanist—her upbringing still created conflicts in her marriage. She, in turn, knew that Jenny and I had had our disagreements, and often didn’t see eye to eye, especially where Jacob was concerned.

But we had not gone out to lunch together a single time since I had become her boss. Most days since the promotion I had brown bagged it and ate lunch at my desk, both needing the extra hour to get my work done and not sure if someone of my level was welcome in the company lunch room. Almost no supervisors ate there, and when they did, it was always in groups of fellow supervisors. The rules were unspoken but clearly understood. Supervisors and the people they supervised never mixed in the lunch room, each camp needing to sit at their own tables and have their own conversations. But now that I was the supervisor of supervisors—the only position like it in the company besides Don’s or Mary’s—it didn’t seem like I had a group to sit with. Every time I went in there for a cup of coffee or something out of the vending machine, whatever conversation was going on simply stopped, and I could feel the people looking at me out of the corners of their eyes until I left.

But my alienation from the lunch room wasn’t the only reason I was eating at my desk. It felt like the taboo against eating with your direct reports would extend out of the office as well. I might have taken all of my staff out, I suppose. Ryan had done that occasionally—when a team had something to celebrate, he would take them all out to a restaurant and the company would buy them lunch. But it wasn’t clear I had the authority to spend the company’s money that way, or that my team had anything significant to celebrate. Looking back on it now, I realize I was mostly concerned about what people would think if they saw me out with just one or two members of my staff. Would they think I was playing favorites? And if I was out alone with someone like Bethany, would they think something inappropriate was going on? I knew enough to know that office rumors had gotten started on flimsier evidence.

“Well, do you?” Bethany asked impatiently.

I had thought about it for a second, but probably should have given it more time. “Sure,” I said. “Let’s go.”

The Cellar was a depressing food court in the basement of our office building. It had been decorated in the seventies with giant concrete planters, a smelly water fountain, and no windows. But it was where a lot of people in the company went for lunch because it wasn’t far away, the service was quick, and you could get something different every day. There was a sub place, a Thai place, a Greek place, a soup place, and a pizza by the slice place—all lined up along one long wall, a stack of cafeteria trays at the start and a pair of cash registers at the end. None of it was name-brand and everything was done on the cheap. Looking behind the counters as you slid your tray down the metal track you’d see things simmering in giant crock pots and a whole bank of microwave ovens humming and beeping as their digital numbers wound their way down towards zero.

Bethany and I both got our food and found an unoccupied table near the fountain. Several other people from the company were already there, eating in groups of three or four, and I nodded hello to each table and we weaved our way through the maze and sat down.

“How late were you at work last night?” Bethany asked as she took a metal spoon out of her purse. Everything in the Cellar was served on paper plates and Styrofoam bowls, and the cutlery was all plastic. Regulars quickly got into the habit of bringing their own silverware. The edges on the plastic spoons they provided were so rough cut by the Korean War-era injection molding machine that must have produced them that you’d finish your soup with dozens of small stinging cuts in the corners of your mouth.

“Oh, I’m not sure,” I lied, affecting a casual attitude, as if I didn’t notice how much time I spent working on mindless projects. “I got home around ten, I think.”

Bethany nodded as she placed a small paper napkin on her thigh. She was wearing a tight business skirt and had to sit sideways in order to cross her legs at the table. “Did you get the program finished?”

“Yes,” I said. “Lily sent it to the printer this morning.” I tried to cut my titanic pizza slice with the edge of my tiny plastic fork, and only succeeded in snapping the flimsy implement in two. The Cellar never had any plastic knives.

Bethany reached into her purse and handed me a metal knife and fork. I accepted them gratefully. “I guess I’ve fallen out of the habit of coming here,” I said.

She hooked her hair behind her ear as she leaned forward to begin spooning up her soup. “We haven’t had lunch together since you got your promotion.”

It was true, but not something I necessarily wanted to discuss. And besides I was distracted by the flatware she had handed me. It was nice—heavy and solidly constructed, with a frosted finish and little floral designs on the tip of each handle. “Were these a wedding present?” I asked, holding the fork up.

Bethany nodded and swallowed the soup in her mouth. “Yes, but we never use them. Their eleven brothers and sisters sit in a velvet-lined drawer in our china cabinet.”

“They’re the same kind we have.”

“Really?” Bethany said, sitting up a little straighter.

“Yeah,” I said. “We don’t use ours, either.”

We ate in silence for a few minutes, me looking around at the crowd and from time to time catching some of the other employees staring at us. A group of Education staff were at one table, Caroline Abernathy among them.

“Thanks for sending me your list of observable behaviors,” I said, telling myself to ignore them and deciding to find something business-related to talk about.

“You’re welcome,” Bethany said. “Sorry about all the edits I made. I just kept thinking about it all week.”

I shook my head and told her not to worry. “I got a lot a good responses from everyone else, too. You’re not the only one who’s been putting some thought into it.”

Bethany smiled. “That’s great,” she said. “I didn’t mean to sound like such a brown-noser last week. I really am excited about this project. A lot of the other department heads are, too. A couple of us think it could really change things—for the better.”

“I hope so,” I said. I opened my mouth to say something else, but abruptly cut myself off.

Bethany looked at me quizzically. “What?”

I put my fork down and thought about it. I was about to launch into a description of the things I thought needed changing at the company. I certainly had a list of things I thought needed fixing, and had consciously decided to use the staff qualities exercise as a mechanism for addressing them. But those things had to do with the company’s culture, and its culture was a product of the leadership example set by Mary and Don. Criticizing one meant you were criticizing the other, and criticizing the owners of the company you worked for was never a good idea—least of all to someone you supervised and for whom you had to demonstrate a leadership example of your own. That kind of shit was only meant to flow uphill. Employees complained to their supervisors, but never the other way around. Had we been inside the company walls, I wouldn’t have even approached the subject with Bethany. But there in The Cellar, Mary and the company seemed a little more distant, and Bethany seemed just a little less like my employee.

“Alan, what is it?”

I decided to test her first. “Do you like working at the company, Bethany?”

“Well, sure I do,” she said.

“But you want to change things.”

She looked at me sternly, as if seeing immediately through my annoying subterfuge. “No more than you do, Alan. Isn’t that what the staff qualities are all about?”

“I’d like to think so.”

“Then what’s this ‘do you like working at the company’ malarkey? Don’t go getting all corporate on me now.”

I laughed.


“Nothing,” I said, trying to keep from grinning.

Bethany turned suddenly serious, putting her Mikasa spoon down next to her Styrofoam bowl. “No, I mean it. What are you laughing at?”

“It’s nothing,” I said as gently as I could. “It’s just that you said ‘malarkey.’”

“So I did,” she said, turning in her chair and putting her lipstick-stained paper napkin up on the table as if she meant to storm out of there. “What of it?”

I laughed again, and it was the wrong thing to do. She stood up, and I had to reach quickly across the table and grab her hand to keep her from fleeing the scene. “Bethany, please,” I said, my eyes darting around to see if we were still being observed. “Sit down. I’m sorry. It’s just that when you use those code words instead of swearing you sound like an angry Amish woman.”

Talk like that probably wasn’t going to help, but she did sit back down. “Well, what would you call it?” she asked.

“Bullshit,” I said forcefully, and I delighted to see her flinch the way I knew she would when I said it. “It was bullshit and you saw right through it, good for you. Truth is neither one of us really likes working for the company—not the way it’s currently run—and we both think that this staff qualities thing has a decent chance of forcing some kind of change there. Isn’t that right?”

Bethany looked at me with a kind of open-mouthed wonder. I didn’t know exactly what was going through her head, but I knew I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around the kind of risk I had just taken. I had more or less declared myself in open rebellion against Mary, and in doing so, I had handed Bethany all the power over me she could have ever desired. What would she choose to do with that power? Would she join me on my mad quest? Would she realize that only someone as brazen as that had any chance to make a difference in the company and line up behind me like the leader I wanted to be? Or would she use this new leverage against me, betray me to the dragon and watch me get bathed in her withering fire? There really was no telling, and the recklessness of the act was invigorating. Realizing I was still holding her hand, I withdrew and sat back against the hard plastic chair with a confident affectation.

“Isn’t that right?”

“Yes,” she whispered. “It is.”

“Okay,” I said, pushing forward before Bethany could change her mind. “Then let’s talk about what we’re going to do next.”

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“Dragons” is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. For more information, go here.

This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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Monday, September 2, 2019

You Are The Association

This past week one of my staff members retired from working for our association. She has been with the organization for just over 30 years. At the celebratory lunch we threw in her honor I asked her how many former Executive Directors of the association she had worked with.

She she, somewhat matter-of-factly, that our association has had a total of five Executive Directors in its history, and that she has worked for four of them.

This was not the first time I had reflected on how much institutional knowledge we were losing with her (very well deserved) retirement, but her response really brought that reality to the surface for me. We're a small and somewhat long-tenured staff, but we had seen a handful of departures over the last few years, really bringing down our average years of service. Now that the 30-year veteran has retired, there's still one staff member with 20 years of service, another with 19, and then it's me, with 12. Since we have a total of 12 staff positions, that means that nine of the twelve have less tenure than me. Or to be precise, have been hired in the last 12 years under my leadership.

That is a very interesting way of looking at the situation. As the President/CEO (we switched away from the "Executive Director" title during my tenure), I always knew that I was the leader of the association, but being reminded that I was directly responsible for its staff team made me take a fresh look at the responsibility.

I've already written about how, when it comes to institutional knowledge, I can no longer rely on any of my Board members, since none of them had been in our leadership for longer than I have. And now, it's made apparent to me that I am among the longer-tenured staff members the association has.

It leads me to a startling conclusion. As the President/CEO, I am not just the institutional knowledge of the association, I, in fact, am the association, in a way that no single other person can be. Not only do I know where we've been, I also know where we're going and am actively working with Board and other staff members to make that happen.

It's a perspective, I think, that only long-tenured association executives can have.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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