The Strauss Blog

Communication and Like-Mindedness: Starting out on the Right Foot in the Association Management World

Starting a new job can be scary, but jumping into the association management world was certainly a challenge that I was ready to take on. During my first few weeks, I had a lot to figure out. Going in as a new association coordinator for two associations, I already knew that the bar would be set high. Those high standards made me want to exceed expectations, but first I needed to figure out what those expectations were, without having something go wrong during that process. As a new association coordinator, I knew that to impress our association clients, I would need to slide into this position without disrupting ongoing business, without causing an unnecessary transitional “buffer” period, and without missing or overlooking anything that came my way, all while trying to figure out how individual associations were run. I knew that even though I was settling in, the associations for which I worked were still going to have expectations from their coordinator, and I was ready to take on that challenge!

Building a Base

Working alongside an incredible team, I set forth to gain a solid foundation that would set me up for success. I was committed to becoming familiar with the board and committee members, and to have an overall idea of the membership base of both associations. It was important that I was clear on file and office organization, both electronic and paper. I was sure to read blogs that would guide me in the right direction such as, Transitioning to a New Association Role – Five Quick Tips. I needed to learn how to track my time and balance the needs of everyone in my inbox. I also needed to be familiar with each association’s standards of practice and operating procedures. But I knew that the most important, and potentially most difficult, aspect of working with different associations, was going to be figuring out the individual needs of our association clients, without having to ask.

“Wardrobe Changes”

Not only did I need to uphold to these seemingly unknown needs, but I also needed to use instinct to determine which “hat” I would have to put on from email to email, and phone call to phone call. I quickly discovered and loved that my new role was going to require the use of both my analytical, hyper-detail-oriented side, as well as my personable and enthusiastic side. Except, it would entirely depend on which association, member, or coworker I was dealing with that would determine which side would need to shine. While my “hat” would depend specifically on each situation, I immediately appreciated the importance of communication between myself as the association coordinator and the association members.

The Little Details Matter

I found that by paying attention to the small details, I was able to conform to each association’s individual communication style. These small details included noticing the way that a member structures an email, noticing the way someone speaks over the phone, and noticing the processes, the manuals, and rules established by each association. By absorbing and appreciating everything that made one association different from the next, it was less challenging to determine which “hat” to wear in every scenario. Getting used to my new position that involved many wardrobe changes led me to develop an understanding of expectations, standards, needs and norms of each association. The little details allowed me to make note of each association’s values and focus, but if I wanted to be the complete package, I was also going to need to learn how to think and act like the members.

Great Minds Thinks Alike

In any scenario, be it a website change, a membership renewal, an ethical issue, or a teleconference, I learned that associations thrive when the group thinks alike. Communication and understanding are strengthened when association members are on the same page when it comes to standards and expectations. By using the strong foundation that I had built in the beginning, coupled with my client service background, I enjoyed discovering the differences between the associations, along with the quirks that they individually possessed.

Like-mindedness in the association world is crucial, so that requests and enquiries are addressed in a way in which members feel comfortable and familiar with their surroundings. For example, when communicating with a group of very complex, analytical, detail-focused members, I have become accustomed to spending large amounts of time digesting emails that contain their requests. In turn, I write just as lengthy of a response to adapt to their communication style. It is simply a matter of ensuring that our minds are all on the same page. On the other hand, when working with a different association, I could be required to listen to a member or client complaint over the phone, which requires empathy and showing that I’m really listening to what the caller is expressing. And by adapting to that caller’s communication style in that moment, they could leave feeling less upset than they were when they picked up the phone.

When members feel comfortable reaching out to their association coordinator, everyone wins. By learning to think like the members, I am now able to – at the ring of the phone or the chime of an incoming email – turn on the side the member was expecting to hear.

I’ve been loving that every day is different, and that I’m learning something new with each task that comes my way! It’s all about balance, ensuring that each new job gets as much attention as the last, and not stressing out over a long to-do list.

More to Come!

Learning to think, act, and communicate like our association members has been a huge asset and is highly recommended when starting out in the association management world. Once an association coordinator has learned how to determine which “hat” to put on at any given moment, communication and connection with members will skyrocket. Like-mindedness and the ability to adapt and conform to the needs of multiple associations will result in a smooth transition into a new position, and will eventually lead to successful, trusting relationships.

In order to continue to understand and learn how the associations are run, it is important to never stop noticing, appreciating, and embracing the little things that make each association unique.