He should be grateful.
She should want to be a part of this.
He should be excited to take this leadership position.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and they told you what they were thinking, and you thought, “that’s an odd way to think, what they should be thinking is what I would think in their situation.”
This happens all the time in association leadership because we are coming at everything with a different perspective than our members.
“I am upset because I can’t drill down and see the benchmarking data from the 15 companies just like mine, the association should have made this study more robust,” members say. We think, “man, we killed ourselves to get as many responses as we did, this member should go out and recruit more respondents like her.”
“The continental breakfast was a little lite. I’m used to eggs in the morning,” says a member. We think, “we almost nixed the breakfast for budget reasons; he should be happy we were able to swing yogurt and cereal.”
“Every year my membership is becoming less of value,” thinks a member. “Our long-time members are becoming a more and more at-risk segment but, networking and professional development ranks highest on our satisfaction survey, and we are delivering those two things. They should be happy.”
It’s this subtle or not-so-subtle shift in perspective between them and us that makes it hard for us to empathize with what our members are thinking. And because we are not emphasizing with them, we do not go looking for a solution for them. Every time we hold on to what they should be thinking we encounter a barrier. And that barrier stops us cold.
There’s a practice used in improv that might hold the key to removing the barrier helping us get past what our members should be thinking. It is called, “yes, and.” Anytime someone says something to you, even something you disagree with, say aloud, or say in your mind “yes, and.”
“I did not get a lot of value out of this year’s speaker line up.” [Yes, and] “was there a problem you came to the conference hoping to solve?”
“I am having a hard time finding information about this industry issue on your website.” “Yes, and what are you looking for? I’m happy to try to help you find some resources.”
“When you say the word innovation I worry that the projects will be too big and too risky. I worry about being the board president who killed the association.” “Yes, and I do not want that to happen either. I’ve been studying a method to innovate, maybe ‘innovate’ is the wrong word, bring new solutions to our members. And this method is not all that risky. Can I tell you about it?”
Try being hyper-aware the next time you think, “what they should be thinking is…”