Running an Association does not have to be a “Life Sentence”

by Marilyn Wilson on March 13, 2012

Man in Jail

Association Executives serving a 'Life sentence"

 

At WAV Group we work with leading associations and MLSs around the country helping them to find world class talent to continue an organization’s growth and evolution. We are lucky enough to be able to observe board dynamics, internal operations and CEO-led initiatives.

As an industry, we are blessed with loyal leaders and followers who value the tradition of real estate and the process of governing the industry as well.  They clearly understand the unique needs of REALTORS® and are passionate about nurturing the real estate industry.  Many of them have long-standing personal relationships with many of their members and regularly “go to the mat” to help one of their colleagues succeed.  This longevity leads to continuity, solid community and effective methods for communicating key issues and advocacy.

There is a potential downside, though, in our view.  Many Associations have had the same leader and in some cases, many of the same people on the Board of Directors for many years.  While the continuity of thought can be very valuable, it can also lead to staleness and complacency.  Without a continuous focus on the ever-changing needs of members and the clients they serve, Associations are in danger of becoming irrelevant and in the worst case, extinct.

If you’re in a board meeting and you find yourself saying or even thinking things like “we tried that 5 years ago and it didn’t work” or “we don’t need to look at that” or “that would never happen here”, you may in danger of stagnation.  While we can all learn from experience, if we get jaded by experience we may miss out on exciting opportunities to renew the value and relevance of organizations.

Historically our industry has valued long-term leadership – many of today’s leaders have been in the same seat for 20 or more years.  Some would prefer to move on to a new position with a new set of challenges, but it can be frowned upon.  Some real estate associations believe that the AE should sit in the seat for as long as they possibly can because they “owe” it to their constituency to do so.

I would suggest that it may make sense to re-think this mindset.  While it doesn’t make sense to turn over Association Executives too quickly, the thought of bringing in fresh perspectives to critically evaluate the local real estate economy, programs, services and community relationships and possibly build on the success of the predecessor is definitely worth considering.

I once heard a very smart AE suggest that a tenure of about 7 to 8 years is probably ideal.  It gives the leader enough time to make a meaningful impact, clearly understand the unique dynamics of the local market and work with board leadership to impact important initiatives.  After this timeframe, the AE has probably accomplished many, if not all, of the tasks they are passionate about. They can then bring their successes, lessons and experiences to a new association, along with a renewed excitement level and passion to address the challenges of a new association.

Association Executives are a valuable part of the real estate ecosystem. Let’s all do our part to help them be successful, challenged and continuing to prepare themselves for the competitive world in which we operate today.

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