#Ideas18: Three Things Association Execs Need to Be Doing Now

At ASAE’s 2018 Great Ideas Conference on Monday, the three Main Stage Speakers pushed association leaders to build strong brands, effective teams, and workplaces that offer community.

Developing a brand strategy that boosts customer loyalty, becoming a leader who inspires members and teams to work more effectively, and building community within an organization are only some of the to-dos facing today’s association executives, according to Monday’s Main Stage Speakers at ASAE’s 2018 Great Ideas Conference.

Each provided attendees with strategies to help them check those item off their lists. Here’s a look at what they had to say.

Strong Brands Build Strong Relationships

William Espey, brand voice lead for Chipotle, kicked things off by urging attendees to use their association’s brand to express their values, create emotional connections, and cultivate long-term relationships.

“Everything is branding for a company—any company, any association,” he said. “Every single point of contact your customers are having with your brand is creating the brand experience in their mind.”

For Espey, the essence of a brand is its values: “Brands are simply the expression of values.  … They are a value structure, a value network, that manifests itself through action and communication. That’s what makes a brand a brand.”

Once associations understand that, they will be able to connect with their customers through shared values.  “And that’s what’s important with values,” Espey said. “It’s creating connections that are more profound and subtle than simple transactions. It’s through shared values that we create the idea of community.”

Those shared values will ultimately help associations create emotional connections with their members that will result in long-term relationships.

“This is the Holy Grail of business,” he said. “This is where the relationship between a member and an association grows and grows and grows—and why members will come back to you again and again and again.”

Natalie Fikes of the National Association of Professional Women.

Effective Teams Have Effective Leaders

Natalie Fikes, a leadership expert, author, and central region manager for the National Association of Professional Women, learned a lot about winning and building effective teams from watching the TV show MacGyver as a child.

“When you’re leading people, you have to have a MacGyver mindset,” she told attendees. “That means there is no box. There aren’t any rules. Innovation, ideas, creativity all happen in the moment—and in the moment, there are no rules.”

But for the people they lead to think that way, leaders have to exhibit that behavior themselves, Fikes said.

“As a leader, your teams are only going to do what they see you do,” she said. “If there are no rules and your employees don’t know what to expect, they’re going to do whatever comes to mind. And guess what? That’s how ideas are formed. That’s how things happen. That’s how innovation occurs.”

Fikes urged leaders to activate team members not only by building relationships with them but also by finding out what they’re good at and then focusing on those aptitudes.

“When you’re leading people, everyone is a 10,” she said. “Find out how you can best utilize them and then the sky is the limit.”

The Quarter-Life Breakthrough author Smiley Poswolsky.

Engaged Employees COme From An Engaged Community

Seventy percent of employees are disengaged at work.

Attendees heard that depressing stat from Smiley Poswolsky, a workplace expert and author of The Quarter-Life Breakthrough. And those millions and millions of  unhappy and unfulfilled people—some of whom work at associations—are lacking a community.

So, how can associations build that community in their workplaces?

First, they need to create meaningful experiences to keep employees engaged. Employees across all generations want to have positive impact, solve problems, do work they care about, and—most important—they want a manager who is ethical, fair, and transparent.

“When you think about employee engagement, you also want to focus on four things,” he said. “Those are purpose, value, renewal, and focus.”

Second, associations need to develop a workplace culture where employees are empowered to make the big, bold ask.

“How can we make our culture a place where people are empowered and encouraged to ask big questions or suggest the crazy ideas?” Poswolsky said. “That’s when your employees will feel most excited—and the answers to those questions could lead to breakthroughs.”

With many workers changing jobs every four to five years, employers must find ways to help their employees not only be better at their jobs but also be better people, Poswolsky said. And the cost of failure is high.

“Employees often measure wealth by community and experience—not a bank account,” he said. “And if your organization can’t deliver on that, it will soon become irrelevant.”

Chipotle Brand Voice Lead William Espey. (photos by Sabrina Kidwai APR, CAE)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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