22 Lessons for Association Team Leaders

Kyle Sexton explains how professional staff of associations get more done with less. How do they do it? Leverage:

  • Leverage man-power by adding volunteers
  • Leverage investments by aligning with sponsors
  • Leverage assets by rebuilding the membership model

This means teamwork, of course. They say a team isn’t defined by their ability to work together, but their trust in each other.

kyle sexton blog imageHigh-functioning organizations have balanced accountability systems with high levels of trust among the team. Having served with a high-functioning team for more than a decade – where turnover was unbelievably low – I’ve come to believe that most people don’t quit their job; they quit their boss. The boss sets the trust tone for the team.

This is just one of many little lessons I teach team leaders in my work with chambers and associations. Perform well in these areas and people will Follow You Anywhere:

DIGNITY // What you preserve in others when you refuse to take anything but the high road. You can coach, correct, reprimand and even fire someone while preserving their dignity.

BLAME // Something a leader takes for his/her team, even (especially?) when it has nothing to do with them. Never to be assigned to someone else. In a workplace where blame is given and not taken, no one feels safe.

INTEGRITY // Something earned over decades but lost in a careless moment. integrity is earned by creating habits that support promises to others. When personal sacrifices are made to keep a promise to someone, you may be surprised by who is watching.

TRUST // Something you receive when you give it first. It’s the opposite of uncertainty, doubt and skepticism. Trust manifests itself in encouragement, support and confidence.

LOVE // The action inspires the emotion.

LISTEN // Listen with your eyes and your ears will work better. Refuse to speak over anyone else, and never interrupt anyone else.

FOCUS // Wherever you are, be there. And put the phone away.

PROMISES // Keep your team from breaking promises by keeping tabs on their capacity, and by challenging their commitments in a private setting. This is a subtle, yet meaningful way to share your standards with the organization.

CRISIS // Focus on issues, not personalities.

INITIATIVE // Reward it. The best ideas in your organization most likely won’t come from you. They come from your teammates, customers and former customers. No matter the source, your organization’s best asset is not the idea. Your best asset is initiative. Who, on your team, hits the go button?

PATIENCE // Patience is something you look like you have while you are working your plan — when you are smart enough to block the appropriate time for your priorities.

SILENCE // Sometimes it’s the loudest thing in the room. A team leader knows when to be silent so that she can put the priority on those she has asked to do the work.

DIPLOMACY // Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way. You can either tell someone what to do, or help them to make the solution their idea. Guess which one works best and keeps people happier?

EXCELLENCE // Excellence is just a little bit more than greatness – a hard place to get to, and even harder to stay there. And a great team leader will publicly acknowledge the people who made it happen – no matter how small their role.

CHAMPION // A title that comes with a target on your back. If you’re not a contender, you’re not part of the conversation.

ANNUAL REVIEW // Do you still love what you do here? Where do you want to be in 5 years? How can I help you get there? These are emotional questions, and influential leaders generate emotion in their team with selfless gifts like this.

FIRING EMPLOYEES // A failure of management to hire well and align his/her team’s strengths. The cost of hiring and keeping the wrong person is fifteen times their annual salary. Sometime the right person is in the wrong role, and good leaders put people in a position to succeed.

TEACH // A way to demonstrate that you have learned something. Teaching is different than instruction, however. Instruction is task-related, but teaching can be done over a beer after work.

SERVANT LEADERSHIP // To publicly give credit to anyone who played a role in your hard work or achievements. Requires that you are willing to do, and capable of doing, anything you would ask of someone else.

FAITH // Something you don’t need to talk about if you live it.

DIGNITY // What you preserve in others when you refuse to take anything but the high road. You can coach, correct, reprimand and even fire someone while preserving their dignity.

BLAME // Something a leader takes for his/her team, even (especially?) when it has nothing to do with them. Never to be assigned to someone else. In a workplace where blame is given and not taken, no one feels safe.

INTEGRITY // Something earned over decades but lost in a careless moment. integrity is earned by creating habits that support promises to others. When personal sacrifices are made to keep a promise to someone, you may be surprised by who is watching.

TRUST // Something you receive when you give it first. It’s the opposite of uncertainty, doubt and skepticism. Trust manifests itself in encouragement, support and confidence.

LOVE // The action inspires the emotion.

LISTEN // Listen with your eyes and your ears will work better. Refuse to speak over anyone else, and never interrupt anyone else.

FOCUS // Wherever you are, be there. And put the phone away.

PROMISES // Keep your team from breaking promises by keeping tabs on their capacity, and by challenging their commitments in a private setting. This is a subtle, yet meaningful way to share your standards with the organization.

CRISIS // Focus on issues, not personalities.

INITIATIVE // Reward it. The best ideas in your organization most likely won’t come from you. They come from your teammates, customers and former customers. No matter the source, your organization’s best asset is not the idea. Your best asset is initiative. Who, on your team, hits the go button?

PATIENCE // Patience is something you look like you have while you are working your plan — when you are smart enough to block the appropriate time for your priorities.

SILENCE // Sometimes it’s the loudest thing in the room. A team leader knows when to be silent so that she can put the priority on those she has asked to do the work.

DISCIPLINE // You can’t lead others if you don’t first manage yourself.

TEAM // On a team, everyone has a role, and no role is more important than any other. No one can be great at his or her role if everyone isn’t great at his or her role. The glue that allows a team to give their best is called trust.

// Kyle Sexton is an award-winning marketing strategist and international speaker on the topics of membership development, marketing and innovation.

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