3 Lessons: Planning Power

Associations Now September/October 2014

For Victoria Elliott, R.Ph., MBA, CAE, good leadership is no accident. It takes careful communication, planning for contingencies, and step-by-step guidance of the volunteers who partner with staff to keep an association running at full steam.

Victoria Elliott, R.Ph., MBA, CAE
Executive Director
American Neurological Association
Association Headquarters, Inc.
Mount Laurel, New Jersey

Communication is at the root of all that goes right and wrong in your association.

Invariably, I find success can be directly linked to meaningful efforts to dialogue and come to an agreement with key stakeholders on the expectations, timelines, and deliverables of a project or service. Poor outcomes are often the result of assumptions, poorly documented plans, and insufficient communication.

Have a plan B, C, and D.

The executive director of my first association told me to be prepared for anything. Speaker no-show? Find one among your expert attendees, or use the time to hold a focus group to identify industry trends. If it rains on your outdoor event, move it under cover or hand out sponsored umbrellas. Play out scenarios with your team in advance so you've got the backup plan ready.

Leaders need to know what they don't know.

Despite what they may believe, volunteer leaders are not experts in association management. A thorough board orientation can provide a good foundation for incoming leaders on board member roles and responsibilities, their legal duties, the organization's financials, and the bylaws, policies, and procedures that will govern the board's decisions and protect the association from unnecessary legal exposure.