Tuesday, March 31, 2015

You Need to Become the CEO of Your Life

Working in the world of associations is such a fulfilling and rewarding opportunity. We get to live out our passion for helping people, while watching our efforts having a dramatic impact on life, business, and industry.

However, sometimes it becomes more like a job, than a passion, and we begin to feel burnt out with all the demands that can come from serving people. I remember hearing a speaker say, “We aren’t growing burnt out because we are over-worked. We are burnt out because we have forgotten why we do what we do.” That was so profound to me when I heard it, and it caused me to look internally at myself. The person was right…you can not give what you do not have.

In the world of non-profit work, we need to have passion and purpose in our own lives, so we are able to give passion and purpose to our members. However, with our own personal lives as busy as our work life, it can be a real challenge. In those moments of your life when you think your circumstances are at their worst, remember…things are never as bad as they seem, and you have more control of your circumstances than you think. It is at that moment, that you need to become the CEO of your own life and take control.

As I listen, study, and look into the lives of the thousands of people I meet every year, I’ve come to believe that each one of us has a “quality of life” in mind that we would like to be living on a day-to-day basis. It’s a quality of life that brings fulfillment, passion, joy, love, rewards, and a stress-free life. For most, when they look at where that quality of life is, and the actual quality of life they are experiencing, there is a gap. For some, the gap is small, but for many, the gap is huge.

Many are waiting on life to happen in some fashion. Waiting on enough spare time to begin to enjoy life. Waiting on enough business to seize opportunities in the market. Waiting on enough money to have a child. Waiting on the market to change to buy a house. Waiting on the ideal life partner to make you feel loved. Waiting on retirement to start experiencing your bucket list.  Waiting, waiting, waiting...  Waiting for WHAT?
One day you wake up and you’ve lost 20 years of your life waiting in the rut of work, kids growing up, and just life happening. Your soul feels lost, your heart passionless, and your energy tank is on empty. It’s time to stop waiting.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that life doesn’t happen to you, life is what you make a choice to do, and what opportunities you seize when they come your way. Everyday, people have opportunities dropped in their lap, yet they choose to NOT seize the moment and take advantage of them. A great quality of life doesn’t just come to you. YOU make it happen.

In my opinion, to make the quality of life happen that you desire, there are four essential areas of life that you must have a plan for. Your plan isn’t some, “I’ll wing it” type plan, but a plan that has been well thought out. For each area, you need to work through what you want, the threats to making it happen, and the steps you need to take to achieve it. The four areas of life to plan for are:
  1. Career
  2. Relationships
  3. Financial
  4. Physical Health

Each of these four areas drive everything in your life from family, retirement, to professional development. If anyone of these areas is lacking, it will have a negative impact on your ability to achieve the quality of life you want.

To help people achieve maximum success in these four areas, I’ve developed what I call The Path to the Ultimate Life visual. The Path to the Ultimate Life visual has four blocks on the inside that I call “Pillars,” and four words on the outside that I call “Characteristics.”

The four Pillars on the inside are the four forces that have the most impact on the four key areas on your life mentioned earlier. They are:
  1. Choices (How you make them)
  2. Money (How you spend it)
  3. Time (How you invest it)
  4. People (Who you surround yourself with)

The four words on the outside are the four Characteristics that you must have to do the fours Pillars with excellence. Those are:
  1. Attitude (It must be positive and good)
  2. Ability to Adapt (You must embrace change)
  3. Communication (A skill set you need to master)
  4. Perseverance (Nothing worth having is easy. Never give up)

I contend that if your life is not going the way you want, or if you are not getting the fulfillment out of life you want, one or more of the four Pillars are out of alignment, or you lack the skills in one or more of the four Characteristics.

The questions for you to ask yourself are:
  • How big of a gap do you have between the quality of life that you want, and the actual quality of life that you are experiencing?
  • What Pillars are out of alignment, and what Characteristics do you need to work on, to make change and close your quality of life gap?
  • What steps do you need to take to make it happen?

Life is short. The time to start living your passion and purpose is now. Everyone from your family, friends, coworkers, and members will see a difference in you as you begin to live the quality of life you desire. Work on the four Pillars and four Characteristics, and bring them all in alignment with your quality of life goal.  Good luck in your journey to living the ultimate life.

This blog is a part of an exert from my new 25-chapter book, on How to Get People to Scream Your Name and Beg For More. See full details at ScreamYourNameBook.com.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

We Think We Are In A Game Of "Simon Says"

As I enter my 20th year of association management, I have come to realize that many association executives lose sleep at night, have conflicting emotions with their board/volunteers, and seem frustrated over the leadership direction of their associations. This frustration comes from a passion to run the association as if it's their own business....but it's not.

You, as the executive, know what the best practices are.  You know how prepared leaders should be to make key decisions, and that they should leave their personalities at the door.  Many times, volunteers and board members don't care about best practices...don't consider all the information available for a key decision, and many even bring their personal agenda's with them.

Those three elements can create frustration for association executives at any level, given that volunteers aren't working in the business of the association everyday. Volunteers get to peek in and make big picture choices, that on occasion, make you grit your teeth. They vote "yes" or "no" on an issue that goes against what you know to be best practices for associations that are growing.

I want to offer advice, provide encouragement, and offer hope to leaders of associations.  You must remember:

1) The association is not your party. It's their party.
2) As staff executives, you are not in a game of "Simon Says"...you are in a game of "Chess."

Let me further explain these.

The association was created and designed for your members, and controlled by your members. They get the final say. I think this rubs many association executives the wrong way, because they grow into feeling that the association is theirs because they take pride in it, and have a passion for the cause and membership. However, at the end of the day, it's their party. Their decisions. Their consequences for the decisions they make. You need to be a great facilitator of the process that allows your Board and volunteers to create the association that they want to serve them. Many have unengaged boards. Many have engaged boards. Some have awesome value. Many have little value. Your role as an association executive is to help your Board and volunteers to discover the value that can expand the association membership, strength, and engagement, in the industry that you serve. The key is to know when to lead your Board, and when to facilitate your Board. No matter what you believe the decision should be, an effective association executive always provides the right information for the decision, and the consequences of voting one way or another, so the Board can make an informed decision and can live with the consequences of the vote, whether positive or negative.

Because we lose sight in thinking that it's "our party", we can fall prey to thinking that we are living in a game of "Simon Says,"  Simon says, "You will be prepared for the Board Meeting."  Simon says, "You will read the monthly financials every month." Simon says, "You will read all committee reports." Simon says, Simon says, Simon says.  What frustrates many association executives is that many aren't ready for a Board meeting, they don't look at the financials, and don't read the committee reports. They aren't listening to "Simon Says" in order to make what we feel is a good choice.  Once you realize that you are not in a game of "Simon Says," but rather, a game of "Chess,"  you can relax and breathe a bit, and begin to use your people skills to motivate your Board members and volunteers.  You see, each volunteer moves and makes decisions differently.  Like Chess, some move diagonally, some move one space at a time, some jump up two spots and then sideways once, and some move wherever they want to...whenever they want to. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, you just need to realize it, embrace the reality, and then manage it well. Each of your volunteers comes with different education, styles, and experiences, accumulated over their lifetime.  It's important as an association executive, that you be able to recognize those differences, and discover how each "chess piece" within your volunteer base moves, so you can effectively work with them to stay focused on the mission, to expand your value, membership, engagement, and strength.

I know many reading this don't like the element of "politics," or managing personalities in life, but if you are an association executive, that is an element that you chose when you accepted the job as CEO or Director of a department of an association.

In conclusion, here are a few tips to help you sleep at night:
  1. Remember, it's their party.
  2. Learn to play a good game of "personality chess" with people so you can connect with your leaders.
  3. Study the various personality styles so you know how to speak into their strengths.
  4. Provide them all the information, both good and bad, so they can make great decisions.
  5. Always provide the consequences, both good and bad, so they can live with the outcome of their decision.
  6. Make sure to document decisions effectively so you can point back to policy for future Boards.

Stay passionate. Keep the fire burning. Stay the course. We all make a huge difference in people's lives in the arena of association management. Take great pride in that, because you're not just strong...you're association strong.