#Tech16: Make Your Digital Stamp

Opening ASAE’s Technology Conference & Expo Tuesday, keynote speaker Erik Qualman shared five ways association professionals can reach their digital leadership goals.

What does it take to be a leader in the digital era? Part of the formula is understanding when using technology will be effective, and when it will not be, in leading organizations to success, according to author and technology expert Erik Qualman, kicking off ASAE’s 2016 Technology Conference & Expo Tuesday in National Harbor, Maryland.

“All digital leaders understand the balance between offline and online. You can’t replace face-to-face, and you guys know this in the association world,” said Qualman, author of Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence. “These [tech] tools are designed for when time and distance are an issue. They’re to augment [face-to-face], not replace it.”

Using a simple acronym, he shared five important aspects of digital leadership—though you only need to focus on two, he said, to effectively make your digital STAMP.

Simplification. Professionals often try to multitask to get more work done more quickly. But in reality, multitasking reduces productivity. “The easiest way for us to simplify, for our teams to simplify, is actually to limit the amount we multitask,” said Qualman, a self-described recovering multitasker. “Try to get it down to zero.”

But it’s also about taking breaks, either during the day by following his 20-20-20 rule—standing up every 20 minutes to stare at a fixed spot 20 feet away for 20 seconds—or turning off email outside of work hours.

True. Those seeking to become digital leaders should define who they want to be and take steps to reach that goal. “Every digital leader understands who they are and what they’re trying to become,” Qualman said. And what goes for individuals also goes for organizations: An association can identify its true self by answering the question “WHI?”: What is the mission? How do we differ? If we went away tomorrow, what would society lose?

Action. Your end-of-the-day goal shouldn’t be an empty inbox, but rather a result. To ensure your team is producing output each day, Qualman recommended writing down your two most important priorities each morning and hyper-focusing on those items before beginning other work.

Digital leaders can’t be afraid to get it wrong. “A lot of us, either as an association or as an individual, are sometimes afraid to take action because we might actually fail,” Qualman said. “But the beautiful thing about failure is if you fail fast, fail forward, and fail better, it’ll actually make you better in the long run.”

Learning from failure helps you improve; it makes you “flawsome,” he said. “It’s not through our perfection that people like us. It’s actually through our mistakes: Do we admit the mistake, do we say we’re going to fix it and then follow through on how we say we’re going to fix it?”

Map. Digital leaders push past hurdles, or maneuver around them, to achieve their goals. “We need to have a firm destination in mind, but now we need to be flexible on our path in how we get to that destination because there’s going to be hurdles placed in our path,” Qualman said.

People. Finding the right balance between offline and online communities is essential. “It’s really surrounding ourselves with the right people offline and now more and more online,” he said. To build your network before you need the network, Qualman recommended developing relationships by “posting it forward”—connecting with others and highlighting their achievements online.

(Sabrina A. Kidwai, APR, CAE)

Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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