Businesses everywhere must innovate in order to stay current, but the pressure is especially profound in the association world. Professional and trade groups must work to remain relevant in support of the industries they serve, which in turn are ever-changing.
Associations which thrive do so by achieving the magic mix of service to members — generally through lobbying, education and products/services — blended with meaningful relationships among and with members. Those relationships add the emotional spark that prompts a member to reach out to its friendly association when facing a need or want.
This balance of head and heart, so to speak, is mirrored in the makeup of staff — the most critical resource of any association. It is staff who must meet the needs of members through quality offerings, and it is staff who take the time to cultivate lasting relationships. Just as a happy, well-adjusted individual is apt to make friends with ease, so can a healthy, vibrant trade group attract and retain members.
How can a professional or trade association tap into its human resources to ensure that its culture is innovative, providing the best in both offerings and relationships? The place to begin is by understanding what drives the players on the team.
There are countless personality profile tools that identify the varying types that populate humanity. Many assessments are based on a quadrant system, a la Myers-Briggs, but others branch out into a dozen or more personality facets. Typically these tests not only identify personality types, but also offer suggestions for working harmoniously with others.
Most of these systems have merits, but a quick-and-easy starting point is simply to divide personality types into two camps: “thinkers” and “feelers.” Admittedly this approach overlooks a range of human nuances, so it should be viewed as a spectrum rather than an absolute. Regardless, by and large most people have a tendency to be more of a thinker vs. a feeler, which affects our decision-making process and therefore our work style.
What are the characteristics of each group? Writings abound on this topic, but frequently used descriptors are:
- Values: truth, justice, reality;
- Traits: analytical; consistent, action-oriented;
- Decision-making style: fact-based;
- Caveat: may be viewed as tactless, uncaring.
- Values: relationships, harmony, affirmation;
- Traits: enthusiastic; creative; people-oriented;
- Decision-making style: feeling-based;
- Caveat: may be viewed as unrealistic, idealistic.
Basically thinkers get things done, and feelers add heart. It’s an oversimplification, but it’s also an ideal mix for a trade group staff. When these two personality types synchronize, they can master association goals by meeting and exceeding members’ expectations. Offerings are of top quality, thanks to the well-planned thinkers, and relationships are sincere, nurtured by the caring feelers.
How can an association achieve this synergy? Some practices:
- Talk about it. Mention at a staff meeting that your organization is graced with head and heart among staff members, equipping you to provide for both your members’ needs and wants.
- Encourage mutual appreciation. Divergent personality types make everyone’s job easier, because one person’s weaknesses can be filled by another’s strengths.
- As much as possible, align roles with staff strengths. When stretched resources put everyone in positions requiring both skill sets, brainstorm ways to compensate. For example, social media can help both camps — the thinker can develop the practice of commenting on human-interest details made available through social media, and the feeler will be more comfortable making promotional calls when prepared with personal information to reference.
The goal: Create an innovative association culture. The means: Mix the organization skills of the thinkers with the creative insights of the feelers. The outcome: The association remains fresh and relevant to its members through quality offerings and well-tended relationships.
Blog submission by Laura Wilson, Indiana Bankers Association
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE).