Thoughts from a Think Tank: The Work We Do

October 11, 2021
People sitting around a table brainstorming

The Work We Do is our second topic from the Think Tank event I recently moderated for the Association Executives of North Carolina’s Young Professionals group, FUEL. This portion of the conversation revolved around how our world continuously changes during this pandemic, seemingly cementing our future work post-pandemic. The questions dove into ways we can make changes now to help accommodate our “new normal.”

Catch up on what we’ve learned so far in our previous blog post, Thoughts from a Think Tank: The Shifting Work Culture.

The Work We Do
How do you share resources or partnerships within our network without feeling sales-y or pushy?
  • Share your VALUE! Lead with what you can do to help prospects or clients with their unique situations. You must use a WIIFM (What’s In It for Me?) approach for consumers to pay attention. When you think from their perspective, it’s a no-brainer to listen to what you have to say.
  • Build your partnerships with the pursuit of TRUST as the cornerstone. If that is not where you start, then frankly, you are just more noise to weed through!
  • HubSpot is an excellent resource for content on how to market both you and your business. Multiple people in the audience had used HubSpot as a resource and found value in the content shared.
  • Lead with questions that help discover pain points, concerns, and actions that benefit the prospect, client, or member. Active listening is so essential in moving the needle forward!
What are your favorite apps or processes that you use to stay organized? How do you manage your to-do list?
  • COZI is a shared family calendar that can help keep appointments, activities, and lists (i.e., grocery, chores, and holidays) in one place for all family members.
  • Multiple people use the Microsoft Outlook to stay on track by using a couple of different methods:
  • Some noted they use appointments that sit at the top half of the day (all-day appointments, marked as “Free”), color code to categorize tasks, then uncategorized when completed or delete when completed.
  • Others use tasks in Outlook and schedule them so that they have affiliated dates. You can also accompany those dates with reminder rules.
  • Inbox Zero is a concept developed by Merlin Mann, where you keep your inbox empty or almost empty. People use various rules that work for their personal, business, or client preferences, but at the end of the day, the goal is to resolve issues or move items to trackable folders for further follow-up. The concept goes against using your inbox as a task tool and is more about organizing tasks appropriately.
  • Microsoft OneNote has a tasks feature that allows you to check off items when completed. The app is also very user-friendly—tasks are viewable and readily available at all times. You are also able to create notebooks to help keep you organized in your work and personal lives.
How do you make time for strategic thinking? How do you automate and streamline day-to-day task flows?
  • DELEGATE! Let go of some stuff! If you are in a position to do so, get items off your plate to make room.
  • Try weekly or monthly working “sabbatical”. The sabbatical is an active exercise for one of the audience members. They take one day every 6-8 weeks and clear their calendar, notify coworkers, and stay off the phone, email, and any other tools, like Slack or Teams. Act as if you are out of office, but you aren’t; prioritize your strategic planning, conversations, or projects. Block the day off and get stuff done! (This was highlighted in our last blog—but I wanted to reiterate it here.) I love this idea and will be stealing it for sure!
  • No-Meeting Fridays are a way for your team to get things done and wrap up the week. The idea is not to have any internal meetings to allow team members to work through their to-do lists. The available time also provides space on Fridays for “water cooler” time. Team bonding is important and can make space for your team members to have fun together without prepping for meetings and formal conversations. This open time also allows for time to focus on larger projects or initiatives to drive completions.
What are some successful ways in which you have bridged the generational/age divide in understanding data integration in your workplace?
  • Educate and train folks on your CRM/AMS systems (or other tools), store all information in the CRM/AMS, and show what it CAN do for them. The group generally felt like there is a barrier of understanding as to what some of the current tools an organization uses can do. Be sure to emphasize how powerful the tools are and what they can accomplish – don’t harp on what they can’t do.
  • For those who don’t buy into the new tools or processes, prove to them that they can trust the data. Put data entry processes/standards and a data cleansing process in place to prove it to them.
  • Be very careful not to put junk data in the system! One person should oversee the cleanliness of the data and own the cleansing process. Also, be sure to put a review process in place for approving new entry fields. Ensure there is a purpose for all items tracked, which will lessen the burden of capturing data. If you can point at what each data point is contributing, then people will be more apt to spend the time entering it correctly in the first place!
How do you deal with conflicts, whether between colleagues or with clients?
  • Try implementing a “clearing time.” Schedule a specific time to address topics or issues and call it out, so the person knows what you are planning to discuss. Clearing time could also be implemented in small groups or meetings, but there must be trust within the group to be effective.
  • As a culture, make it acceptable to voice your concern in the moment, and if significant enough, make it part of your values.
  • Make sure you have the right people in the right seats!
  • Implement a personality test for all team members to learn communication styles, preferences, and set expectations within teams or specific roles to ensure you have the proper people in the right places within the organization. Going through the exercise allows for an unbiased approach to seeing how people engage with others and helps to identify communication preferences, amongst other things. These points are the most actionable items that can apply to everyday work life with your colleagues. There are a ton of personality tests out there. I’d encourage you to do your research and find the best for your organization.

Sitting down to put all the ideas gathered at Think Tank in one place solidifies that the association world can make major changes to the way we work. The beauty of these sessions is that they allow attendees to take a step back and a deep breath, and hear that they are not the only ones struggling with these issues. They are not alone in their pursuit to move the needle. Their efforts mean something; in fact, they mean huge things for our future.

I hope you are enjoying the insights I’ve shared thus far! Be sure to look out for the next blog where we’ll share the topic area, How the Work We Do Has Changed.

About the Author

Amanda Davis, CMP is our Vice President of Client Experience and has nearly ten years of experience in the association world, strategically focused on learning products. With multiple association roles as Director of Learning & Development and Online Learning Manager, Amanda has a deep understanding of the adult learning landscape and what keeps association executives up at night. Amanda recognizes the importance of strong learning technologies for today’s nimble associations and hopes through her role with Blue Sky eLearn, she’ll be able to contribute to the success of our growing mix of association clients.

Amanda graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, with a degree in Communications Studies with a concentration in Interpersonal Communications. She and her husband are parents of a four-year old, Leo. Amanda enjoys playing competitive tennis, completing DIY projects for their very own "Fixer Upper", and community outreach activities. Seemingly she stays very busy but is always sure to make time for family fun.

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