I live in a little village with seven houses. There is a steep hill to the west of us and a sharp curve to the east. All seven homes have blind driveways. Not a week goes by when a passerby doesn’t get surprised by one of us backing out of our driveway and is prompted to respond with the brake peddle to the floor and palm on the horn. Sometimes a few impolite words follow.
Each of us has developed little tricks. I roll down the back windows and listen. Our neighbor across the street executes a 30-point turns his driveway every morning so he can pull out facing forward. My husband has a big red truck, and he hopes he’s big enough and red enough that other drivers can react in time.
The thing is even with the signs and the change in speed other drivers are not aware they are speeding past a cluster of blind driveways. From their vantage point, it is just a road, and unless you lived here, you would not realize. This shift in perspective is an excellent metaphor for associations.
Our members have no idea that:
- We have 30,000 other things going on in addition to answering the phone.
- We are about to go on-stage before 3,000 members, and we are a little nervous.
- The person we just talked to 10 minutes ago was frustrated and maybe just a little bit nasty.
- At midnight at the airport the last day of the conference, we have been working 19 hours a day for the previous eight days.
Our members have no idea, and if we were in their shoes, we would have no idea either. You wouldn’t know what it is like being an association professional unless you were an association professional. They may have no idea what is going on in the background but based on your reaction; they might jump to the wrong conclusion. They might think:
- I didn’t get a return call, so the organization must be a bureaucratic mess.
- It seemed like the CEO was a little short with me, I guess he is not all that approachable.
- I found an opportunity to improve, but when I offered my idea, it did not seem like she cared.
- Wow, the staff seemed casual in the airport, maybe they are not as professional as I thought they were.
It is worth analyzing our actions in stressful situations and reflecting on what you would think if you were a member.