When the pandemic took hold in 2020, plenty of association boards understandably took a state-of-emergency posture, hustling to convene and make rapid decisions about how their organization should respond. The 12-person board of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, by contrast, was unusually calm.
“Honestly, there was no change,” said AAMFT CEO Tracy Todd. “Maybe things sped up a little bit, but our process remained the same because that has been our focus for 10 years—how to be quick, agile, nimble, without the board getting into the staff or the staff getting into the board. All of that we have pretty much down.”
AAMFT’s experience draws an important distinction for association boards: Rapid response isn’t the same thing as agility, and going into crisis mode isn’t the same thing as being strategic.
“The [COVID-19] crisis forced boards into focus, but it was through a crisis lens,” said Cynthia Mills, CMC, FASAE, CAE, founder, president, and CEO of the Leaders’ Haven, an association consultancy. “Going forward, I think the opportunity is to drop the crisis lens but keep the leadership behavior that keeps the board at high-level focus.”