3 Lessons: Steady State

Constancy helps Peter G. Wacht, CAE, stay in command.

Peter G. Wacht, CAE
Executive Director
National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
Vienna, Virginia

Stay patient.

When I came to this organization in 2008, we had no money. We needed to make sure we maintained our membership, put on a program of service that members expected, and rebuilt the bank. In the past four years, we have. Now the challenge is choosing where to put resources. I break it out into steps, so if you hit each step as you go, you feel like you're accomplishing something. Probably not as fast as you want to, but you get there.

Cultivate focus.

In the past, the president would come in with 15, 20, 25 different objectives. We all know how that's going to play out. So we started a process to identify our board-approved long-term goals; our "Member Value Priorities" is what we call them. Now, the president's goals are the Member Value Priorities' goals, and my goals are the same. An incoming president might come in and say, "I want to focus on these three major priorities." And that's fine. But nobody can take us off on a tangent.

Hold the tiller lightly.

It is a fine line between helping your board and giving the impression you're steering it. Sometimes you go beyond it, and you know when you do. Sometimes you get what you need, sometimes you don't. What I've seen with associations is that you can't take it personally. It's their group; you're just trying to help them get where they need to go.