CEO to CEO: Staying Fresh, and Meeting With Legislators

Staying fresh in a long-term position and preparing members to meet with legislators.

How do you keep yourself fresh after several years in your role as CEO?

I have worked as an association staffer and executive since the mid-1970s, and occasionally I will get the "been there, done that" feeling. It never lasts long. I am an avid reader of association and business blogs, I subscribe to several electronic newsletters, I read the ASAE Executive Section listserver digest every morning, and I try to attend in-person education programs as often as I can. I find myself drawn to programs on new technologies, such as social media, and how to use it in the association environment. There is always something new to learn, and if you don't keep learning, you will get stale pretty quickly.

—Alberta Hultman, CAE, executive director and CEO, USFN—America's Mortgage Banking Attorneys, Orange, California. Email: [email protected]

I listen and I read. To me, stale means clinging to the same-old tired views, while fresh means always churning ideas to catch glimpses of new and different ways of seeing issues, people, and the world. I recently read excerpts from a study referenced by The New York Times that cited "passionate curiosity" as one of the key traits possessed by successful CEOs. I couldn't agree more. Curiosity drives a constant search for new and better ideas, many of which can be found by carefully listening to others—whether in person or through books and articles.

—Nelson Fabian, executive director and CEO, National Environmental Health Association, Denver. Email: [email protected]

I get energized and lots of new ideas through my volunteer involvement. I gained a lot from participation in ASAE councils and on the board. Getting to know new colleagues from all over the country and the world expanded my horizons. It also provided me with more knowledgeable resources to learn from and call upon with questions.

—Eve Becker-Doyle, CAE, executive director, National Athletic Trainers' Association, Dallas. Email: [email protected]

I look for opportunities to be the student rather than the teacher. We know that education is energizing for our members, but how often do we seek those opportunities for ourselves? For me this has meant taking advantage of nontraditional learning events completely outside my area of expertise or industry, such as technology or publishing. Getting the most out of these opportunities has required me to leave my ego at the door and get comfortable with being the novice in the room. By doing so, I have not only learned new things, but I usually come back to my job with a renewed energy and fresh perspective on long-term challenges.

—Shannon Carter, CAE, executive director and CEO, Competency & Credentialing Institute, Denver. Email: [email protected]

How do you prepare members to meet with legislators and ensure that personal agendas are kept out of the conversation?

It's critical to the success of any organization to make sure that volunteers focus on the association's top legislative priorities when speaking with elected officials at both the state and national level. We have developed two extremely effective programs that prepare members on both the state and national level: Neurology on the Hill and our Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum. Both have comprehensive training on how to best connect with and provide information to state and national legislators and decision makers. We've effectively trained hundreds of members through these programs. In addition, our advocacy staff is available at any time to help coach a member who has questions concerning a meeting with a lawmaker.

—Catherine M. Rydell, CAE, executive director and CEO, American Academy of Neurology, St. Paul, Minnesota. Email: [email protected]

There are two keys to making successful submissions on behalf of your organization with legislators. The first is to have a clear process that all your volunteers understand. It must be clear that the purpose of the organization's advocacy is to advance the policies of the organization. In preparing the appropriate submissions, there must be good consultation and an efficient approval process to make sure your positions are consistent with your organization's approved policies. You must have the right people speaking to the legislators, and there must be adequate time for a thorough briefing of the volunteers. You must confirm exactly what those people will be saying and ensure that is all that will be said. Surprise and extemporaneous outbursts are not acceptable.

—John D.V. Hoyles, CAE, CEO, Canadian Bar Association, Ottawa. Email: [email protected]

We convene an annual Capitol Hill Day. In advance of that event, we prepare issue briefs on our high-priority legislative topics and make those available electronically to our membership. For those members who come to Washington, DC, to meet with their legislators, we host a briefing session in the early morning to review the issues and RPA's position for each issue. We also provide talking points and suggest that members discuss those issues they feel most passionate about or affect their patients or practices most. By providing members with appropriate background information and talking points, we believe that they represent the views of the association during their meetings.

—Dale Singer, executive director, Renal Physicians Association, Rockville, Maryland. Email: [email protected]

We work in the very highly regulated area of infant products and have a fairly robust grassroots government-relations effort in place. With many of our members being entrepreneurial small-business owners, we like to keep them focused on our industry's commitment to safety and on expressing to legislators the impact legislation could have on their businesses. We do this by encouraging them to focus on the number of jobs they create in their communities and the costs associated with compliance with overly burdensome regulations. We stress to them that the focus should be on the impact certain legislation could have on our industry, while using their individual company's experiences to illustrate the industry's concerns.

—Mike Dwyer, CAE, executive director, Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. Email: [email protected]