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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