I’ve had it with hypocritical speakers, trainers and consulting firms that make lots of money preaching ideas and concepts but never practice them.
How many of you have wondered if those consultants you’ve hired have ever actually practiced what they preach (or sell)? I know when I was in the corporate world I was dismayed when I learned that the consultants we’d hired didn’t apply the systems they were selling to their own organizations. There was no integrity to the process.
Given that view as a consultant, I knew I needed to find a way to experience my own advice firsthand, after several years of refining and systematizing it. So, I decided to apply the concepts that I use with my clients to the volunteer group that I chair and see the process as it unfolded.
Please note that while my example is for a volunteer group, the overall concepts can be and have been applied in traditional for-profit and not for profit organizations and associations. These concepts can be and have been applied organizationally, as well as departmentally for over 10 years.
The next three blogs will outline three phases of the process that I used with my volunteer group to:
- Create a vision for the team.
- Ensure group engagement.
- Put structures in place to assure successful implementation.
Basically, there were three phases to this process. Each phase included vision, engagement and structures for implementation.
I have had the honor and privilege of leading a team of 20 professional speakers for the National Speakers Association (NSA) Chapter Leadership Committee since July 2016. The purpose of our committee is to train and coach chapter leaders on chapter effectiveness for over 35 chapters throughout the country. We train and coach them on board management, membership recruitment and retention, marketing, programming and finances.
As you read this, think of this team as “my management team” and the chapters we serve as our customers, for whom we were designing and delivering products to meet their needs. And our main event or product, The Chapter Leadership Institute (CLI) is a three-day leadership program in November for incoming presidents -elect.
Phase One – Planning and Framework
Step One – Vision – Standardization
Having served on this committee for three years, I was able to see the strengths and areas for improvement going forward. Step one was to create a standard training program that could be duplicated year after year. In the past, it had been a hodge-podge of relevant material but not consistent or duplicatable since much of it was members’ proprietary material. Being volunteers, it was often created at the last minute. In addition, there was so much material that it was like trying to drink from a firehose. People left the weekend feeling grateful and connected but fairly overwhelmed by the process.
We needed to create a three-day workshop that could be duplicated year after year.
In addition, we determined that much of the workshop contained content that the participants may not actually use for three to six months. Our vision included scaling back the content for the November workshop and creating monthly webinars between January and May.
With this vision in mind, we needed the right people on the team who could collaborate and create this workshop, maintain momentum and focus and craft the online learning experience.
Phase One – Step Two –Structures for Selection of Team Members
Members of this committee serve a two-year term and half of them roll off each year. As we interviewed the people who were nominated to be on the committee, the #1 focus was “the collaboration factor.”
- Could they collaborate with others to create a program that didn’t have their name on it or their signature material?
- Could they collaborate and not dominate the process, to ensure we had the best product for our customers?
Specific questions were asked about their past experiences in collaborating and working with others.
New team members who were selected demonstrated the ability to collaborate and the willingness to “look out for the good of the whole” or future vision, rather than being center stage – which most speakers are accustomed to!
Phase One – Step Three – Structures for Onboarding and Engagement of Members
One of the challenges of this volunteer team is that members work independently and generally live/work across 4 time zones. In addition, we only physically meet with each other two times a year. Having served on this committee, I can say that for several years, I really didn’t know the other members. While we liked each other, there was limited cohesiveness or commitment to each other or the team except during the weekend in November.
To create more cohesiveness, we tried three new things:
- We created an onboarding team. Three members of the team were assigned new members to call, welcome and explain roles and responsibilities. One of the members created a checklist so that onboarding would be consistent and standardized.
- We had five teams for content development for the Chapter Leadership Institute. New and existing members selected which team they wanted to join. As a result, members were immediately connected to 3-4 other members and given a joint task to work on together for the next 4 months.
- Each team had a “Lead Dog.” This person coordinated with the team members and was my go-to person to brainstorm ideas, keep things on track and be ready for the event in November.
- We started using Zoom for all monthly meetings, so we had face-to-face interaction. This had the most significant impact because people would not just hear others, but had a visual connection. No longer could they mute their phone and multi-task on the call. We could see each other! Using this technology increased accountability, engagement and focus.
- Zoom calls were also conducted with the Lead Dogs and their team and I had periodic Zoom calls with the 5 Lead Dogs so we could coordinate and collaborate our content for the workshop. There was continuity in content development and we avoided duplication.
Summary of Phase One – For Use in Any Organization
To summarize in generic terms what made this process successful in Phase One:
- Create a vision for what you want. It provides a road map for future work.
- Select the members of your team who can contribute to the vision and/or set expectations with the team so objectives are reached.
- Make sure new people are clear about roles, responsibilities and expectations.
- Create small groups to work on a specific task. This increases engagement and commitment.
- Use technology to connect people. The visual connection with Zoom calls was very powerful and accelerated the cohesiveness of the group.
There was an old adage that said that for every hour spent in planning, you saved 3 hours in implementation. Our work world is much more complex now. Cross-functional coordination, globalization and new technologies require more extensive and different planning than in the past. I think a more updated version of that adage would be that every hour spent in planning may save 6-12 hours in implementation, especially when the right team members are involved in the process.
Planning takes time but will save you time in the end. You will see in future blogs how this paid off for this committee.
Next Blog on June 15 will expand on vision, engagement and structures to assure success.
Marty Stanley, Certified Speaking Professional, is a national speaker, facilitator and executive coach. As Chair of the Chapter Leadership Committee for the National Speakers Association, she is responsible for interviewing, selecting and leading a team of 20 professional speakers who are past Chapter presidents. The Chapter Leadership team is responsible for designing, developing and delivering relevant board leadership and governance training and coaching presidents-elect for over 40 National Speakers Association chapters throughout the United States, Canada and Australia.
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