Why should Association CEO’s worry about their culture?

This is the third in a series on organizational culture, its role, how it is shaped, and how it can be changed.

Why should Association CEO’s worry about their culture?

association CEOCEO’s are the primary individuals who can effectively alter culture, and that responsibility can loom large.

In the work we do with our customers, the most common driver of change is the reality that keeping up with today’s fast-paced world isn’t easy. Associations feel the enormous pressure of a now-oriented world. The members of our Associations that want good service and they want it now.

So, the reality of our fast-paced world demands that Associations continually adapt and improve everything they do every day. The key point is that in order to meet the unique needs of today’s members and to ensure a great member experience, Associations need to be much more responsive.

Association CEO’s Support Culture Change

In order to be more responsive to member needs, significantly more decisions need to be quickly made every day. CEO’s can see where this is going: to succeed we need a culture that supports more effective decision makers. This ambitious, yet worthy goal can only occur if CEO’s shape their culture to support the goal.

In practical reality this requires we move real decision-making authority into the hands of those who are doing the work – employees. Of course this does not mean all decisions.  However, the decisions that directly impact the member experience need to be made by the people who are directly accountable for a great member experience.

Huge Association Culture Shift Required

Yet, many Associations, maybe even most, operate from a hierarchical management foundation.  This requires that decisions travel up and then down the chain of command. That takes time, and in this day and age, it takes too much time to enable a great member experience. Therefore, for most Associations, the opportunity to adopt a responsive culture demands a huge shift.

Why should Association CEO’s worry about their culture?

Members’ demand for speed and great service is driving many CEO’s to realize that they must change their culture to prosper. For most Associations the change demanded by our now-oriented world challenges the rock upon which they were built – the shared assumptions about “who decides?”

What makes an Association’s culture shift quickly? Some thoughts on that next week.

Change Culture, Deliver Value and Grow Associations

Change Culture, Deliver Value and Grow Associations

 Every Association needs to add more member value, and, they want to grow revenues.  However, they first need to change their culture. Why?  Culture is the predominant determining factor that sets the stage for Association growth. If the Association’s culture doesn’t buy the change in focus, it won’t happen.

Culture is the Leverage Point at an Association

 Change Culture, Deliver Value and Grow Associations

If a CEO want to shake things up and make some changes, success will be governed by the Association’s culture. In other words, culture is a shared set of beliefs, values, and assumptions that drive how people in organizations behave – because the people in the Association have come to believe that is what works.

Over the years, I have witnessed or participated in many attempts to change Association cultures. The only approach I have seen that works consistently is when the senior management team changes the underlying system of management, and then supports that action by modeling a new set of behaviors.

Implement a Management System at Associations

Management system” is a new idea, and it is not something often taught to leaders or even a term many use. A change in the management system is enabled by a conscious shift in behaviors by senior management.

An Association’s management system includes all the processes, routines and roles associated with:

  •  Setting direction
  • Defining accountability
  • Getting work done
  • Checking in on progress and results
  • Adjusting resources and actions in response to results
  • Solving problems
  • Acknowledging success

Make It An Association Growth Management System

An effective Association growth management system makes clear how things work, what is expected of people, and what actions are taken when things get off track.

Accountability and transparency are the foundations of great management, but these values come to life when surrounded with functional expectations rather than lofty ideals.

Change Culture, Deliver Value and Grow Associations

If Associations want to make significant shifts in culture, they must first change their management system. And CEO’s and Senior Managers have to model the way to an Association where delivering value and driving growth define the culture.

About the Author:  John M. Bernard. Passionate about employee engagement and the elimination of fear. Author of BUSINESS AT THE SPEED OF NOW and Contributor at Potomac Core Consulting’s Blog www.potomaccore.com.


Association Culture Change Is a Big Deal

Association Culture Change Is a Big Deal

 As my colleague Beth Doolittle puts it, “Culture is not what we say it is, it is what it is.”

Association Culture Change is a big deal

John M. Bernard, Culture of Innovation Author,
Chairman and Founder,
Mass Ingenuity

The Next Seven Weeks 

I intend to strip away the mystery of culture and share with you what it is, what creates it, and how to change it in order to meet organizational goals.

Culture Matters

Culture is the great invisible hand, and that hand determines much of what is possible for Associations to achieve. But because it is invisible, shaping it is one of the great challenges of leadership.

Culture is Central

Most Associations’ cultures restrain rather than accelerate change. Obviously that won’t work if your organization must move more quickly and effectively. So, as leaders we must understand what causes culture in order to create the culture we need to prosper.

Dr. Peter Drucker, often called the father of modern management, is credited with having said, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” That is one of the great truths about organizations. Culture, not the leaders, determines what is accepted and what is rejected. Culture decides which people will be accepted and successful and which ones will leave. Culture determines which ideas get implemented and which get dumped. And, culture determines if corporate strategy will even be given a chance to succeed.

Association Culture Change Is a Big Deal

We live at a time when all Associations – are facing demands for change that go well beyond any time in the past. Culture is central to organizational change because it determines the direction and pace at which it will be accepted.

Association Culture is a big deal. Why?  Culture is a great lever of change and it’s mysterious. It’s mysterious because what moves it isn’t what you might think.

Next week, I will talk about the role culture plays in change.  I’ll also share the primary tool that shapes culture and, therefore, can reshape it.


Associations and Leading from Your Heart

Leading from your heart. Growing up we all learned that not everyone could lead. Everyone heard the reference  “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Time and again many are reminded leadership is special, it means helping people. Organizations including Associations, Community Groups or Political Parties are all important because they had a mission focusing on making things better. Serving in Leadership capacities as a CEO, or as an Elected Official, success was only possible when Leading from your Heart.

Selfless, Service and Success

For Association Executives facing considerable challenges, Leading from your Heart could be difficult. Maybe not. In today’s world a successful leader is defined as Triple S:

  1. Selfless –       Community satisfaction matters most.
  2. Service  –       To others is a priority
  3. Success –      Staff, Board and Members working in harmony to achieve mutual objectives.


Why should an Association Executive be Leading from your Heart? In a real time world, market conditions change like days in the week. Triple S (Selfless, Service and Success) centers focus on people, mission and community. Working in harmony means new products are identified to satisfy the community. When obstacles arise (and they will and do) everyone joins forces to overcome difficulties and achieve objectives.


A number of successful Association CEO’s use the Triple S approach. Working in a Community they achieved strong outcomes:

1. Grew membership and revenue in international markets.

3. Using Technology to make greatest weakness the greatest strength and growing revenue.

4. Aligning an underperforming organization to deliver stronger value to members and growing revenues.

In each situation CEO’s utilized the Triple S Leading from Your Heart approach. Revenues grew not because of slick sales campaigns, it was because the Associations were Communities going in one direction.

Associations and Leading from your Heart

Late one night, having suffered an enormous personal tragedy, my Dad, Dr. Daniel J. Varroney, put aside his loss to help a family injured in an auto accident. Rather than go home, I watched him run back into the Hospital to help treat their injuries. Being selfless, serving others for the sake of community was a lesson he taught me many times over.

In today’s world the Triple S Leading from your Heart could be what the Doctor recommends most. Its worked for me as it has for others.

Innovation Author Helps Associations


Culture of Innovation Author

John M. Bernard, Innovation Author,
Chairman and Founder,
Mass Ingenuity

Innovation Author. John M. Bernard, Chairman and  Founder, Mass Ingenuity, www.massingenuity.com will serve as a Contributor on the Potomac Core Consulting Blog. Bernard is also the Author of Business at the Speed of Now. He is also an experienced executive (CEO, SVP Operational Excellence, Founder, Chairman), consultant, speaker and outspoken advocate for the elimination of fear.

Culture Drives Revenue Growth

For the next seven weeks, Bernard will provide key insights for Associations that are looking to innovate as they better engage their staff and provide value for members. The posts will appear every Thursday and include the following critical topics:

  • What does it take to create a Culture that Actively Supports Change? 
  • What Accelerates Cultural Change?
  • What’s culture’s affect on Organizational Change?
  • Can a Culture Change Quickly?
  • Why Leaders Should Worry About Their Culture?
  • What Changes Culture?
  • The Mysterious Lever of Success

Innovation Author helps Associations

Bernard recently appeared in a post sharing 3 Steps to Culture of Innovation http://bit.ly/12SvufM.

How does your Association navigate culture and drive innovation?  Let’s share ideas.

3 Steps to Culture of Innovation at Associations

3 Steps to Culture of Innovation at Associations. Associations face a growing demand to customize programs, benefits and services for  members. “Mass Customization” is a reality says John M. Bernard, a noted Author and founder and Chairman of Mass Ingenuity www.massingenuity.com. In his Book “Business at the Speed of Now” Bernard emphasizes  that in a new millennium, customers expect immediate and customized solutions or they’ll go elsewhere. Bernard who will serve as a Guest Contributor for Potomac Core Consulting’s Blog,  breaks new ground helping Associations focus on new approaches to satisfy members. Bernard emphasizes Associations are best served when their Leaders establish an “innovative and creative culture for their workforce.”

3 Steps to Culture of Innovation at Associations

3 Steps to Culture of Innovation

John M. Bernard
Chairman and Founder,
Mass Ingenuity


  1.  Make Staff Empowerment the Norm

Encouraging staff to listen closely and identify specific needs from members, prospects and sponsors is a first step. The objective is to have staff feel empowered to quickly solve problems without intervention from higher levels of management.




      2.  Create an Innovative Centered Culture

Association Executives can create a culture whereby employees believe they can create, express themselves and innovate. Innovation is especially a key determinant of Association revenue growth. As member demands become more unique, Associations need to rely on innovation in order to satisfy unique needs.


    3.    Define Clear Boundaries

An essential part of creating an innovative culture is providing clarity for employees. For example, defining project boundaries meaning performance expectations, responsibilities and metrics for success. Says Bernard “if Managers do the hard work” and establish definition it will help foster positive culture and employee engagement.

Relevance in a Now World

Associations looking to stay relevant with members, prospects and sponsors can do so with 3 Steps to Culture of Innovation. In a customized and a Now World this could be the Member Satisfaction Game Changer Associations seek.

Much more on Association Revenue Growth at www.potomaccore.com/blog

Assessments Help Deliver Association Growth

Assessments Help Deliver Association Growth

Competitive forces and shrinking corporate profits compel today’s Association CEO to redefine relevance. At under performing Associations this means reexamination of programs, staffing, advocacy and conferences.  For Stephen M. Renna, CEO of the Commercial Real Estate Finance Council www.crefc.org, a thorough assessment and alignment process opened the door to engaging his members and a stronger value proposition for his organization.

Not the First Rodeo

Transforming and growing Associations is something he has done twice before as a CEO.  Prior to CREFC, he applied an assessment process as President of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers.

Alignment and Board Leader Buy In Are Key

At both Associations he implemented an assessment process to help make them relevant. He describes the review as taking an Association through a review of “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Seeing the initiative as an “alignment” of his Association’s value proposition with his member needs, he uncovers key data to move forward.



 Checking off Key Components

1. Association Run Professionally and Competently

Effective operations, business runs efficiently, reports progress to leadership.

2. Alignment with Updated Strategic Plan and Mission

Represents the sector well, staffing and budget support member needs.

3. ROI and Delivery from the Member Perspective 

Relevant programs, conferences, best practices, industry standards, and, policy.

4. Buy In

Collaborate with and secure board agreement on value proposition, and direction. Enlist staff.

5. Execute

Measure qualitative and quantitative success, engage members and communicate results.

Assessments Help Deliver Association Growth

Despite uncertainty Steve Renna sees CREFC positioned to help his members, “It’s more important than ever for Commercial
Real Estate Finance Professionals to participate.”

Does his assessment deliver results? The Association’s member retention could achieve 90% again in 2013, conference attendance revenues are on an upswing as is new member growth.

association  growth


Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives at www.potomaccore.com,www.icimo.com, and www.verticalleapconsulting.com.

Culture Can Impede Association Revenue Growth

Culture Can Impede Association Revenue Growth

Did you ever wonder how the fictional TV character and Football Coach Eric Taylor delivered football championships at two different high schools? Good leaders know, having the right culture drives strong morale, productivity and performance.

In case you are dealing with other priorities, count on board members or a mentor to suggest you address the internal culture.  It’s good advice.

Tips to Drive Culture Change


  1. Establish a neutral and safe environment.  Hire an outside facilitator, they will effectively  engage everyone. They will earn credibility and trust as they move the process forward with clarity and purpose.
  2. Be clear at the start that you want one team applying mutual respect. Everyone helps each other to drive advocacy success, member satisfaction and growth.
  3. Everyone has equal footing. The entire team is accountable for creating the newly integrated and culture.
  4. Follow-up is critical.  Vision and mission statements, performance objectives, annual compensation assessments reflect the new culture.
  5. Recognize success at staff meetings. Be generous in your praise, be specific citing how collaboration makes the difference.

Culture Can Impede Association Revenue Growth

Former colleagues reminded me of the culture change and the  turnaround performance we achieved. Despite a weak economy we grew membership and revenue. Change was difficult,  it included some tough lessons for me too. I’m thankful for what everyone learned in the process.

As CEO’s,  we own the culture. If it’s collaborative, respectful and integrated our chances of achieving growth are greater. Will you be tempted to avoid ruffling feathers? Yes and count on it, you will.  My advice? Listen to Coach Taylor  “… you gotta try. That’s what character is. It’s in the try.”

association revenue growth


Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives at www.potomaccore.com,www.icimo.com, and www.verticalleapconsulting.com.