Lessons from the CEO Symposium

Last week I attended ASAE & The Center's CEO Symposium. I think this is one of their most successful programs, as it's been running multiple times per year for more than a decade. As a consultant, this is a program I did not have access to in the past, but now I was able to go along with the incoming President of the association that I manage.

They covered a ton of material, but a few themes stuck out for me.

This was one of their four "cornerstones" of success, but it was mentioned in a number of different contexts, and it was a key piece of what I discussed with my incoming president. In general, I think we tend to assume trust to be there until it is broken, and the more I look at it, I think it's better to assume trust is NOT there until you know it has been built. I don't mean to be paranoid and assume everyone is out to get you. I just mean that in your interactions with your team, or your board of directors, to assume trust is at a lower level than you think it is. This would force us to actively build trust more often.

For both our staff and our members there is a basic truth that I often forget: people don't like to be involved in activities, jobs, situations, or communities that aren't fun and enjoyable. Period. They don't have to be fun all the time, and for goodness sake we shouldn't try to force the fun on them, but don't overlook fun and devote time to it. I know we have a job to do and tasks to accomplish, but honestly we keep getting more and more efficient, every year and every generation. I think the patience for doing things that lack enjoyment is declining. If you want to harness the productivity of your people, you'll have to actively create experiences they find enjoyable.

This topic got a lot of attention, as is common these days, and obviously I think it is an important subject. But I bring it up as a theme here more as a warning. Beware the oversimplification of generational differences, and resist attempts to find research that proves the cause/effect relationship between generational trends and what's happening in your small world. Understanding of generations should be used to develop questions, to sharpen your attention, and to enhance your conversations. It should NOT be used to give you answers, tell you what to do, or explain something you don't understand.

Next week I'll post some respectful "push-back" on what I learned at this symposium as well.