February 18, 2013
Happy President’s Day!
Today, I am reflecting on the importance of your relationship with your association/non-profit President. The Board President that you work with regularly is critical to your organization’s success and your relationship with them requires constant nurturing. Without a strong, collaborative relationship built from trust and respect, you would not be able to accomplish much as an organization. You know the inner workings of the organization and have the historical knowledge. Your President brings a new perspective and fresh ideas, as well as industry expertise and connections. The two together should create an unstoppable team.
Here are tips to creating a strong relationship with your President:
- Choose Wisely. Your relationship should begin even before that individual becomes President. During the nomination process you should be working with your current President and nominations committee to select an individual that meets the needs of the organization. Consider the intangibles too, such as their personality, their track record as a volunteer, and their availability.
- Explain the Expectations. During the “courting process,” you should be creating a personal relationship with the individual who will ultimately become President. Talk about requirements and responsibilities. What are some of the individual’s goals? How would they marry with the organization’s goals? How would you work together to make this a win-win?
- Orient Your President-Elect. Once the President-Elect has been selected, have a meeting with them and their key staff people. Answer any questions they may have. Try to immerse them in the organization well before he/she takes on the role of President. Try to establish yourself as a resource for them. You never want your President-Elect to be getting answers from someone else because you are non-responsive. By the time the individual has become President, you will have already established a great rapport.
- Communicate Often. Set up regular “catch-up” meetings. Work with your President to determine what makes sense for their schedule. For example, you could set a recurring weekly 20 minute call to discuss anything that may be on the docket. Professional societies will likely need more frequent touch base conversations because they tend to be more active. Trade organizations Executive Directives may need to touch base with their President less frequently, perhaps on a monthly or as needed basis. In both cases, stick to high level concerns.
- Respect Their Time. Even though they’ve taken on a big responsibility, remember that they’re still a volunteer. They have a full time job and other responsibilities. Be clear about what you need from them, give them reasonable deadlines, and make sure that the position doesn’t become an unbearable burden for them.
- Know Their Position. You should ALWAYS know where your President stands on a particular issue. Sometimes you will agree. Sometimes you will not. Hopefully you have created the type of relationship where your President will hear your points and take your guidance and you will come up with a mutually agreeable solution.
Developing a strong relationship with your President can make their term more productive for the organization – and easier for you as Executive Director! Do you have any other tips for working with your Chief Executive Volunteer?