By Mary Byers, CAE, CSP

I’m intrigued by the associations who are doing big things. It may be something internally to secure the health of the organization itself, something on behalf of members, or something for the greater good of the world. If you’re interested in making a leap on behalf of your organization, here’s how to do it:

Identify the leap. Mark Tomlinson, a retired association CEO, helped engineer four inter-related leaps on behalf of his former organization. Naming the leaps was the first step. Mark’s leaps were: redefining the community the association served, additional revenue, enhance product/service delivery mechanism and divestiture of capital assets. If you name it, you’re more likely to claim it.

Engage in a 90-day sprint. In short, a sprint requires you to set aside work so that you can focus on the most important work. I’ve written in depth about how to do this here. In all my years as a consultant, this is one of the most powerful concepts I’ve come across.

Aim for excellence. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, says, “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.” Set your sights high and don’t settle. Members are attracted to excellence.

Recalibrate as necessary. The quest for excellence often is mistaken as the quest for perfection. Our desire to do things “right” often keeps us from trying and discourages continuous enhancement. Starting with the expectation that you WILL recalibrate makes it acceptable to do so (versus seeing recalibration as an admission of failure). I love this quote from author Robert Barult: “…taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s more like a cha-cha.” Come to the party ready to dance and you’ll succeed.

Declare your association an inertia-free zone from now on. It’s harder to leap when you have to gather the energy to do so. If your culture is one that supports, encourages and celebrates leaping (vs. protecting the status quo), you’ll see more people and teams getting the running start they need to leap. I like what Wharton Business School professor Rita Gunther McGrath says, “…allowing an existing structure to remain in place for too long creates inertia and results in and organization that is maladapted to the opportunities it finds.” Inertia is an innovation-killer so do whatever you can to discourage it.

Try a triple jump. Once you’ve got the momentum necessary to leap, keep going. Movement in one area often makes it easier to create movement in another. When one leap is complete, ask, “Where can we get leverage and momentum on behalf of the organization now?” Attempting a triple jump is a natural inertia-buster and increases the overall return on investment for your association.

Mary Byers, CAE, CSP, shares additional strategy starters for busy association professionals in her new online learning series titled, Momentum: Strategy Starters for Today’s Association Professional at leadwiselearning.com. She is also the author of Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations.

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