Brenda Dant, CAE is the executive director for the Indiana Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (IAPHCC). She describes why it's okay to say "I don't know" and the importance of living in the moment.
Briefly explain your role in the association industry.
IAPHCC has eight local chapters statewide as well as coordinate seven apprenticeship training schools. Our state association is 117 years old. Our members do more than fix that leaky sink; they also make sure the water you drink is safe. The reason we wiped out cholera and diphtheria in this country is due to professional plumbers. Our association really represents health workers.
What position best prepared you for your leadership role?
The Institutes for Organization Management. I attended the program at Stanford so I was with association professionals who were mainly from the west coast. It broadened my view of the world but also taught me the importance of my Midwestern roots. It is where I learned how to appreciate varying philosophies but be true to my core values. True leaders listen and then lead with their heart.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an executive?
Living in the moment. We are always planning the next conference, striving to top the goals that we set, trying to provide better programming, etc. We need to take stock of what is happening at this moment. In yoga they often say “Feel what you are feeling.” The challenge for executives is to take the time to do that.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started in association management?
First, that Plan B is almost always better than Plan A. The best programs, decisions, etc., have always come as a result of something going astray from the original plan.
Second, that I can say “I don’t know.” In the beginning I thought it was a sign of failure if I didn’t know the answer but there is much more power in the process to finding out the answer. You are connecting people and resources and building a team to solve a problem. Much better than being a know-it-all!
Where do you see associations in 10 years?
Associations will always be relevant because of people. You can’t outsource people. Associations have the unique ability to make those connections—whether they are called communities, special interest groups or councils. The ‘how’ we do that will change in 10 years but the fundamental need for people to come together for a common reason with like-minded people will not.