Shantel Goodman-Luckett is chief experience officer at the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
Creating a strong team that responds to members effectively doesn’t just happen. It requires a few key factors including trust, empathy, and listening to members. A new chief experience officer reflects on guiding principles that helped her organization succeed.
As the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s (NACAC) inaugural chief experience officer, it is my responsibility to understand who our members are, what they need to be successful in their roles, and to engage with them and my colleagues to deliver experiences that meet those needs and enhance the member value proposition.
I was recently reviewing my notes from my first year in the role. Here are a few takeaways for other association execs looking to give their teams and members the autonomy to lead and be creative.
One of the first things I asked of my direct reports was to take ownership for their respective areas in the organization. I wanted them to treat their areas like small businesses and lead by putting our members first.
In addition, I shared that while I did not mind when they brought problems to me, in thinking of themselves as small business owners, I wanted them to bring the problems to me with solutions and recommendations.
As the subject matter experts, the team has fully embraced this philosophy. And, coincidentally, our CEO manages our leadership team using a very similar approach. This level of trust and empowerment is both liberating and effective.
While it may be difficult to identify a long list of positive outcomes that resulted from the pandemic, the growth in creativity and authenticity is very clear. The creativity that has flourished from video-sharing applications like TikTok is unquestionable. For example, according to BloggingWizard, there are 732 million monthly active users on TikTok and over 50 percent of them have created and uploaded their own content.
The saying, “no idea is a bad idea,” has never been truer than it is today. Encourage and embrace this opportunity within your teams.
In addition, the generational shift in the workplace, accelerated by the Great Resignation, is an unexpected, yet fortunate, benefit. I would challenge you to be inspired by the fresh ideas, innovative thoughts, and eagerness that younger generations bring to your organization. I would also encourage you to be inspired by the institutional knowledge, experience, commitment, and loyalty that boomers and Gen Xers who have brought to the table.
The pandemic has allowed us to stop and really think of ourselves as individual brands unleashing creativity and authenticity like we’ve never seen before.
It’s one thing to believe that empathy is important. It’s another to make it a priority and put it into practice when it comes to your staff and your members.
According to an article in Forbes, empathy plays a significant role in the lives and experiences of employees. You must be willing to put yourself in the shoes of those you serve to achieve the outcomes you want. For example, recognizing that employees may still be struggling with remnants of the pandemic is important. They may require some flexibility with work schedules or time in or out of the office because of family commitments.
In addition, your members may be facing insurmountable pressures in their work environment due to increased workloads and lack of resources. Just ask our public high school counselor members, many of whom average over 400 students in their caseloads. Expressing thanks and appreciation with a simple phone call, email, or a handwritten note goes a long way. After all, it doesn’t cost anything to be nice.
People join associations for various reasons, and for many, their membership and affiliation with your organization is directly tied to their professional identities. They are vocal and passionate because they care.
They are also on the frontlines, and many are the gateway to knowledge, best practices, and networking for new and existing members. So, when you are given the opportunity to help solve a problem facing members within your respective industry, do not hesitate to seek insights from the experts and influencers.
Empower them to help develop solutions. Consider the current volunteer leadership opportunities your organization offers, as well as the new opportunities you could develop that will best serve both your association and members.
I am truly optimistic about what lies ahead this year and beyond. Whether you manage a one-person or 100-person team, or whether you have 50 members or 50,000, remember to trust yourself and to give your team and your members the autonomy to be creative and to lead.
And don’t forget to remind your members just how special they are and tap into their commitment, experience, and passion.