Jack McGrath: Hi and welcome to another in our series Ask the Experts. My name is Jack McGrath. Today we’re going to be talking to Jamie Notter. Jamie is a speaker, writer, and author of the blog jamienotter.com. Thanks Jamie, for being here today. Question for you, in your work as an author and a speaker, you focus a lot on generational diversity. As more Millennials enter the work force, how should associations adapt their message to appeal to this new generation while not alienating, sort of, the baby boomers and the Gen Xers?
Jamie Notter: I think actually, this one goes beyond messaging. I think associations need to start changing the way they do things, letting go of a little control, letting people do stuff on their own without having to get approval and without having to wait five years or ten years, or fifteen years before you can get on the board. I think Millennials like to move quickly and they like to do things themselves, because we’ve empowered them to do that their whole lives. And so, we just need to move towards being more fast and more de-centralized which, honestly, I don’t think the boomers and the Xers are going to mind that either. So, to me it’s more of a shift then I think it’s a direction we’re heading in either way. But it will apply to the Millennials which, again, in five years or so are going to be the largest segment of the workforce.
McGrath: Great. And I love your quote, “People don’t leave companies, they leave cultures.” That’s an interesting thing, shocked at the results, ninety-five percent of people don’t love their organization, their organization’s culture. How do you think associations can bring a stronger culture to their members?
Notter: Well I think, and just for the record it was ninety-five percent and it was a fairly small sample size but still, I wasn’t surprised by those results. I think this actually goes back to the Millennial question. I think internally what we need to do is give the people who are closest to our members more power. Let them make more decisions. Let- be de-centralized in that sense. So, there’s a good friend of mine, Robert Barnes, is at Fitness Australia. So, it’s an association in Australia. Their member services staff, the people that are on the phones, they make decisions. They hear what the members want and then they come up with an idea and that idea they get to experiment with it, and try it out, and see if it works. They love their job and that comes through. I mean, when he started implementing these ideas inside the organization he was getting calls from members saying, “What are you guys doing differently? Because I can tell that there’s an energy in that association.” And I think a lot of associations miss that because we operate on management principles that were invented in the early nineteen hundreds and we expect people to follow orders and that just sort of sucks the life out of it.
McGrath: Yeah, it does. I see the Millennials too, really liking to be in charge. And you can really grab more, I think, more engagement with them if you allow them to engage, so that’s awesome. Can you share any examples of an association staff, and you mentioned one just a minute ago, who are reflecting that and basically conveying it to their members, that sort of idea of loving the culture?
Notter: Fitness Australia is my favorite example, ‘cause they’ve done it a bunch of different ways. I’m actually looking forward to going to a session at this conference, I think it’s the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, that completely re-did their office space in order to support a more collaborative culture. I think those are the kinds of things we need to be experimenting with. Because when people, again I’m waiting to hear what they say, but I’ve heard of lots of organizations that do that, put people together, force them to work together, that sort of human contact is energizing. And that energy just comes through. It comes through when you’re on the phone, it comes through when you’re at the event, and the members see you. So, you’ve got to be able to find ways to tap in to that. I think it’ll- the members will be really aware.
McGrath: Yeah, and probably the staff too, the association staff, probably interested in that. One of the problems that we see associations cite is implementing new processes and technology, is their board. They might be resistant to change. With your background in-
Notter: (joking) No, I’ve never heard that. (laughter)
McGrath: -conflict resolution, kinda apt here, how do you suggest associations handle disagreements that arise when they’re bringing something to their board?
Notter: Well, I think one of the biggest problems is the association staff will go off and figure out the right answer, the perfect solution, and they’re right. They do have the perfect solution. But they’re bringing it to the board and they’re just like, “Please say yes to this so that we can go do our work.” And the board wants to be more involved in the decision, right. So, it’s more of a case of keeping them in the loop the whole way. “Here are the problems we’re going to solve. We’re going to look at these areas.” Not to get them too involved, you don’t want them micromanaging a technology decision, but to be able to share on a more regular basis. “Here’s what we’re doing, here’s the problem it solves. Here’s the demo of how this works to solve that problem. Do you get it?” And then they’re in. You want to be able to come to them with a more yes-able proposition. So, that means communicating with them more and, honestly, listening to them a little bit better, asking them better questions, find out what makes sense to them, and have the answer make sense to them, not you. I mean, it still has to make sense to you, you’re the one doing the work. But if it doesn’t also make sense to them it’s not going to get signed off so you just may present it in a completely different way. But you’ll still get the same results.
McGrath: It’s interesting ‘cause it seems like the common thread there you’re talking about whether it’s new members, whether it’s association staff, whether it’s the board, it’s more collaboration, and allowing more freedom and personal initiative. That’s great.
Notter: When you tap into what makes sense to everybody that’s when you get the power. I mean, the whole point about not liking your culture, that’s because in most organizations people aren’t bringing their whole selves to work, right. That’s why the culture isn’t so exciting. If you give them the opportunity to do that, and again the same is true of the board, and honestly board service, a lot of people do it because it’s something they want to do but the actual service part, not so exciting. But if you figure out a way to tap into that, again, you unlock potential that’s been sitting there the whole time.
McGrath: Jamie, thanks so much for your time today. And thank you all and look for other in our series Ask the Experts.