What if associations offered no agenda at the next staff retreat other than “show up and talk about how we can be better?”

painting tray with white paint and a roller brush on a brown wooden table

What if the only thing associations focused on was: “How can we be better?

I think this gets to some of the other questions, like:

  • What if we forgot about petty internal politics and focused on the mission?
  • What if we weren’t afraid to share new ideas?
  • What if we removed “we have always done it that way” from our vocabularies?

Anyone who knows me knows that this is what I try to do, and I know a LOT of other association execs and consultants in the same boat. And we’re all tempted to think that other people see the world the same way we do. But that’s demonstrably not true. Particularly not in this case, or “petty internal politics” would be an oxymoron.

So the question becomes: If “Ideas BAD!” is the focus of a sizable contingent of the association professional world (hell, of the world in general), AND we accept the premise that people act in ways that make sense to them, what’s really going on here?

No, “my colleagues are all out to get me” is not an acceptable answer.

And those of us on the side of “Change GOOD!” *need* the answer, because we have to persuade at least some of the “Change BAAAAAD!” crowd to at least not oppose us if we hope to accomplish anything other than a big ole headache from whacking our heads on our desks repeatedly.

I think – and I certainly could be wrong – that it comes down to fear. But I think it’s more than the traditional flip “they fear change” answer. Because that begs another question: Why does this person fear change? What happened in his/her past to cause this?

  • Did she have an idea – or multiple ideas – that were shot down in their infancy?
  • Did he get to implement an idea that failed, and then get punished, or just totally hung out to dry?
  • Did she have a great idea that was implemented and worked, only to see someone else hog all the credit?

I’m not saying that you’ll be able to somehow fix those past bad experiences. This isn’t therapy, and sitting around singing Kumbaya gives me hives anyway. But if you can get some idea about what’s happening in your detractors’ heads, you can think a little more constructively about what might help them be more comfortable with what you’re proposing than “very well, then let it be war between us!” And that’s when you can finally get some of those great ideas off the ground.

Photo by Karl Solano on Unsplash

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