Lessons from Unlikely Sources

Best Practices : Article

It’s said that life is the ultimate learning experience. And in 2012, I learned quite a bit from some unusual sources. As I reflect on the year, it struck me that many of these lessons apply not just to me, but to the associations that I work with as well. Here are just a few:

From In N Out Burger: I love In N Out Burger. I find a way to get there at least once (though often more than that) every time I’m on the west coast. One of the greatest things about In N Out is their simplicity. They do one thing—make burgers, shakes and fries—and they do it exceptionally well. No straying into new menu items. No gimmicks. They just focus and deliver. It’s a great lesson for many of the Boards I work with every day. Focus on what you do best, and continuously strive to maintain that quality and improve. I watch many groups stray into new areas that are outside of their core. Perhaps they should just stick to the burgers.

From The Boss: Last week, I went with a few Board members from one of our clients to a Bruce Springsteen concert. This was the fourth time saw Springsteen live in 2012. For me, it’s not just about the music (though Thunder Road remains the best song ever written.) The energy at a Springsteen show is incredible–I watched him crowd surf in Phoenix, slide across the stage on his knees in Boston and play until 2 AM in New Jersey. Springsteen brings his “A” game to every performance. When he’s on stage, that’s all that matters. All year, I watch board members sit half engaged in two-hour meetings—doing email, stepping out for calls or just not focusing on the matter at hand. If Bruce at age 63 can do it night after night for three hours plus, I know I can do it for a two-hour Board meeting, and so can you.

From Bill Belichick: I’m a big New England Patriots (U.S.-style) football fan and try to watch every game. Earlier this year, star tight-end Rob Gronkowski got hurt late in a game. He was blocking on an extra point in a 59-24 blowout. Many questioned Coach Belichick on why “Gronk” was still in the game. His answer was simple: “Because no player is more important than any other player.” I love that. Every player matters—it’s something I try to recognize as a leader in a company, and every association should efforts to recognize as well. For example, that great association meeting doesn’t happen without the people that manage all the moving parts—not just the meeting planners, but the accounting team that bills attendees, the folks that printed the badges and the countless other people that cover for everyone else while the meeting is taking place. Have you taken the time to recognize your full team’s efforts, or just the stars? I know what Coach Belichick would do.

From my GPS: Last week I bought a new GPS device to use when I travel. This one had a great new feature—for $9.99 I could download something that made it talk in Homer Simpson’s voice. It made a business trip on the west coast much more enjoyable—right down to the “Woo hoo!” when I arrived at my destination. It got me there in the same amount of time as the robotic woman. It just did it with some style and fun. And isn’t that a good lesson for any group? Do your job. Do it well. But always make sure to have some fun.

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