The Executive - May/June 2016 - (Page 23)

ADVANCING ASSOCIATIONS The Power of Past Presidents By Mary Byers, CAE I attended two meetings this year in which I witnessed pastpresidents-some of whom are retired and no longer even in the field-put the kibosh on forward progress for the associations they once proudly served. Thus, the problem of past presidents. They have power. They have influence. (Witness the association that offers a standing ovation for the president each time he approaches the podium. It's the only time I've seen a standing ovation offered before an individual speaks. Yes, it's a nice gesture of respect. But it's no surprise that these revered individuals still hold sway over the organization years after they relinquish the gavel when they are treated like royalty during their term of service.) Some past presidents choose to wield the influence for good. (I've seen many come off the sidelines and courageously lead a controversial change initiative.) Some choose to use it to keep the association from changing. Many are stuck using the phrase, "When I was president," even though their presidency was decades ago. When I learn that a group of past presidents is working against an association change initiative, one of the first questions I ask is, "How did they learn about the change?" Often, the resistance isn't to the change-but to the fact that they haven't been kept in the loop. Actively managing past presidents should be an essential part of someone's job, both as a courtesy and a thank you for the work they've done. But it's also a proactive way to reduce the chance that they'll "go rogue," as one association executive called it. Here's how to do it: Communicate early and often. Your past presidents should hear about major changes from you (or an appointed representative), not through the grapevine. Whether it's via e-mail, a phone call or an in-person meeting, you want to be the one to inform them about new and/or controversial initiatives. If possible, get their buy-in and support. Things will go more smoothly when you do. Keep the lines of communication open. Identify possible resistance among your past presidents-before it happens. Anticipate pushback and who it will come from, and make personal "check in" calls as appropriate. Ask your current president to be available for personal conversations as well. Appoint a liaison if necessary. The higher the possibility of resistance, the more important it is to have a liaison to serve as a bridge between the association and its past leaders, even if it's an informal position. Be proactive when it comes to past presidents. Mary Byers helps associations gain clarity and focus through leadership conference training and facilitating strategic planning retreats, assisting task forces and work groups, and helping association staff and volunteers talk through tough issues. To learn more, visit C a l S A E ' s TH E E X E C UTI VE - M A Y / J UN E 2 0 1 6 23

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Executive - May/June 2016

Chair’s Message
At a Glance Tech Tools: Create the Ultimate Video Marketing Plan in 4 Steps Blog Spot: Three Principles to Awaken Your Association Force Leadership by the Numbers: Safety & Security at Meetings
Calendar of Events
Selecting Edtech That Deepens Learning
How to Maintain High-Touch Relationships in High-Tech Times
Innovation, Technology and Change: The Future Is Here Now
How to Start or Grow Your Career Management Site
Advancing Associations: The Power of Past Presidents
Destination Anaheim
New Members
Member Spotlight: Alan Wald
Index to Advertisers

The Executive - May/June 2016