Membership

Does Your Membership Team Have Ninja-Like Reflexes?

By / Feb 22, 2017 (iStock/Thinkstock)

At the ASAE Great Ideas Conference next month, an experienced Parkour athlete will train association leaders on flexible movements. Here’s what membership teams can learn from the sport’s mind-body connection.

If there’s an obstacle in your path, can you climb or jump over it? If you’re trained in the art of Parkour, like Dan Scheeler, CAE, you can.

Scheeler, vice president of client engagement for the digital solutions firm Results Direct, will lead a Parkour training session at ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference in Orlando, Florida, on March 6. One of the conference’s Mind and Body Sunrise Sessions, Scheeler’s will teach the basics of the discipline, which is just as much a mindset shift as it is a physical challenge and has applications for associations striving to be more flexible, nimble, and responsive.

So what exactly is Parkour? It looks something like what you might see on the television show American Ninja Warrior. Usually it involves jumping, scaling, climbing, and sometimes flipping across obstacles.

Scheeler will teach a few beginner moves designed to increase your flexibility (no experience required) and explain Parkour’s deeper philosophy, one that can apply to membership teams.

“Parkour is something fun, and it’s worth a try, regardless of your age,” Scheeler says. “I have been practicing for almost four years. While the perception of Parkour is something like what you might see in James Bond [movies], it’s really an exercise that can teach you to work in nimble ways.”

Students from six to 60 years old train at Scheeler’s gym. The sport has a mind-body connection that goes beyond the benefits of exercise: Parkour is a mindset that’s particularly useful for overcoming obstacles at work, he says.

“The philosophy is about situational awareness and adapting or adjusting a plan,” Scheeler says. “There’s a mental flexibility that I use and apply to my work.”

Parkour builds on an individual’s core strengths and takes a holistic approach to problem solving—you have to train and use all parts of your body in order to clear a wall or jump a ledge. And developing those capabilities can give a membership team ninja-like reflexes.

“A membership team can be weak if they only have one key player or strength that they’re using continuously,” he says. “Membership teams actually work best when all parts are trained and working together.”

Parkour emphasizes team preparation and training for “what if” scenarios. Scheeler calls it “practicing through failure.” To build the capacity to clear a particular type of obstacle, a Parkour practitioner first faces a regimen of physical training that includes movements and exercises targeted to specific muscle groups to build muscle memory. But there’s also some mental analysis required.

“Thinking through the scenario first and practicing matters for success,” Scheeler says. “Parkour looks effortless, but it results from a lot of repetition and analysis. Before you can clear a jump, you have to take the time to measure and train for the gap.”

Not Afraid to Fail

While most membership teams probably have not seen the inside of a Parkour gym, they can find value in the sport’s focus on mental agility. Take, for instance, the Bed and Breakfast Association of Virginia, which restructured its membership and grew from 158 members to almost 300 in four years, using a significant mindset shift.

“In working with boards and membership there are emotions, opinions, and ideas that could either work or fall flat on their face,” says Amy Hager, who was BBAV’s executive director until she recently transitioned to executive director of the Landscape Contractors Association of DC, Maryland, and Virginia. “From those experiences, you have to try and make sure your team learns some broader lesson.”

BBAV’s challenge was to break out of a one-size-fits-all membership structure that was no longer working, especially given the emergence of sharing-economy options like Airbnb and Homeaway. The lessons of Parkour play out here with what Hager calls the application of “heart-head data.” Her “heart data” came from reflection on past experiences and failures. Meanwhile, her “head data” came from an analysis of survey information, including member feedback about what they wanted from new benefit offerings.

Those responses led the association to a new tiered membership structure that expanded member categories and services. BBAV added a preview membership category to target new and younger members, including first-time B&B hosts who were already using popular room- and home-sharing services.

At the same time, it offered existing members higher levels of service with premium and membership-plus categories. This helped to increase dues revenue and meet niche demands, like custom support with marketing and communications services from the association.

“It took time and effort, but we began learning from our past failures, particularly when it came to offering just one membership experience,” Hager says. “The tiered system that we built was based off correctly applying feedback and data. We studied our failures and developed something that moved the organization forward.”

Without breaking a sweat, membership teams can use the lessons of Parkour to help pivot and change direction to overcome their biggest obstacles. And for Great Ideas attendees who want to actually break a sweat, Scheeler says to pack comfortable workout shoes and clothing and head to the Hyatt Regency courtyard at 7 a.m. Monday, March 6.

Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. More »

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