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What “The Walking Dead” Taught Me about Associations

Posted by Jay Dziwlik, MBA, CAE on Oct 28, 2015 12:00:00 PM

zombiesAMC’s hit show “The Walking Dead” (TWD) is a secret love of mine. I know, I know, zombies and association management? Many are probably thinking, “Jay, you have lost it. You are just rationalizing watching the show or you may need to get away and take a break.” But hear me out. Here are four lessons association professionals can learn from “The Walking Dead.”

  1. The show is NOT about zombies, it’s about people. Zombies brought me to the show but the characters kept me there. Rick, Michonne, the Governor, Darryl, Merle and Glenn all had a unique view of this dystopian apocalyptic world. In associations, it is about the people too. Member’s needs, desires and thoughts drive how we do what we do. What I love about associations are the members. What I dislike about associations are members. TWD had people I love and hated, but people and relationships are what make it worthwhile.
  2. Buzz creates excitement. Hopefully you didn’t try to contact me at 9 p.m. on Sunday, October 11 because I wasn’t answering any device. Seasons 1–5 have been replayed, trailers for the new season are running, talk show hosts are talking about it, social media is buzzing and I’m seeing TWD as bobbleheads and in comics. I can’t go anywhere without seeing it. Are my members as excited about any of my events, programs or services? I need to tell them many more times, create conduits and ask for feedback regularly. Association communicators can learn a lot from how multimedia channels are interacting with viewers. I know it looks a little different but I am searching for this kind of passion in my members as I get the right kind of news to them.
  3. Survival is not mandatory. Spoiler: people die in the show. A lot of people. My family and I often comment, “They are just not going to make it.” Many associations won’t either. I don’t think it is apocalyptic times for associations but I do think that without major retooling and refocus on defining member markets, many will fail or become a fad. Associations are good at finding a positive program and then doing it again and again until they kill it. Just like in TWD, to survive you need to want it, fight for it and really work at it.
  4. People desire leaders; leader’s character varies. TWD is a leadership lab for me to observe how leaders lead. Manipulators, naturals, quiet second chair types, pot stirrers, non-disruptive leaders, truth tellers, liars, power hungry leaders, mad leaders, consensus building leaders and dictators are all present. Interestingly, people are dying for leadership. Members and staff want to follow something and someone. It is just sad to watch people follow a leader without following character. Associations need to be developing leaders worth following

I will be taking my next association management continuing education course during the next episode of “The Walking Dead” on AMC. We can compare lessons later.

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Topics: Leadership, Associations, Association Management

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