The Great (And Sometimes Scary) Power of Forward Thinking

To calm the anxiety that inevitably accompanies change, communicate the big picture and explain the why behind the work being done.

Nearly everything we see online is adorned with #Innovation or #Change when it comes to communication between associations and their members. These keywords are thought to inspire, engage, and mesmerize. “The reality?” says JP Guilbault, President and CEO of Community Brands, “#Innovation or #Change, unfortunately, often only inspire uncertainty and fear.”

“Although it is true that adopting forward thinking and improved methods of engagement is critical to the longevity and success of an association, however, the business model of associations is based in dues-revenue predictions. It’s no secret to association leaders the main ingredients for consistent, incoming dues-based revenue is founded on confidence, security, and happiness,” Guilbault continues, “the challenging part is, innovation and disruption lie in almost precise opposition to the fundamental elements which keep members feeling satisfied and protected. This naturally induces anxiety for those involved with associations.” Guilbault assures us, “it is important to remember, however limiting this opposition may feel, there are solutions to effectively position your organization to be prepared for a positive transition into the #FutureOfWork.”

Communicating the big picture

When discussing “big picture thinking,” Guilbault tells us, “it is absolutely imperative for leaders to be engaged so they may clearly share their unified vision in a way where everyone can understand the process and their part in making it happen. Without clear communication of big picture expectations and outcomes, you end up in a position those in the middle ages ran susceptible to.” Guilbault gives a further explanation, “Imagine you have three stone cutters. One knows that he is carrying rocks from the quarry, the second cutter knows that he is shaping the rocks into blocks, but only the third one can see, ‘we’re building a cathedral.’ That third stone cutter, the one with the ability to see the ultimate goal, is the key to sharing the blueprints and providing answers to those without his panoramic view of the situation.”

Explaining the why

Engaging and educating members around emerging issues within their industry is especially difficult for associations. In order to successfully remain in good graces with your members and association staff while breaking bad news, Guilbault suggests associations “find an outside voice to be the disruptive agitator and position your association as the problem solver rather than the source of pain.” Guilbault shares, “I would say, ‘John Smith has made this point about the industry, and our organization is going to do X, Y, and Z to address it.’ The major factor of this strategy being the continuation of keeping your members and staff well informed around the progress the organization is making and around the individuals who have achieved success while working through the transition. Transparency drives trust and certainty which is required to strengthen relationships and will ultimately lead to more satisfied, more connected, and more efficient associations.”

The danger of the status quo

Forward thinking and taking progressive action have both its benefits and its risks. Guilbault explains, “if you simply want to keep doing what you do now, that’s fine until you risk becoming irrelevant while other organizations push forward. Sometimes ‘good enough’ is actually good enough. Everything doesn’t need to be constantly transforming, but as a leader, you must always be thinking about new possibilities. The association leader’s ability to continue to unlearn, relearn, and be open to new ideas cannot remain stagnant if the organization wants to survive the fourth industrial revolution. If ten of us are in a room, and someone comes up with an idea that nine of us think is crazy, I always sit back and think that one person might be onto something.”

About Community Brands & JP Guilbault

JP Guilbault currently serves as CEO and President of Community Brands, the leading provider of business management, engagement, commerce & payment solutions to member-based organizations. With 3,000 employees serving over 130,000 clients in 34 countries, CB empowers people and organizations to grow stronger, succeed faster, and achieve their dreams—because powerful work needs powerful tech.

Learn about tech for good at communitybrands.com