Hide your toes…
Regardless of what you think, if they are not participating—or see your organization as an important part of their experience—then you are not relevant.
People are drawn to that which adds value to their life experience. However, people are needy and we can lose focus if all we try to do is appeal to their needs. As leaders, we must have a deeper sense of what is needed, and that can only be found in quality time under the organizational hood. Finding that balance—between what they want and what they need—is not easy. In fact, the pursuit of that balance has rocketed some organizations to the stars and destroyed others.
One of the most helpful ways to discern whether or not your organization is one of value to its members is to ask; “Who is the client?” If your organization is the client, you’ve got a mess on your hands.
The Organization as Client
With the organization as the client, difficult times are ahead. Examples of the Organizational Client might be a church that sees the member as an asset of the church and not as the church itself. It sees the member as a means to an end. The member’s value is found in their finances, their participation, and the numbers they bring to the organizational statistics. They assure that the leader gets his paycheck and that the lights remain on. Once an organization moves to this mode—one of survival and loss of identity and mission—the path is difficult to reverse. The leader can no longer chase his passion because he is chasing his pension.
Another example of this is a member association or convention that looks to its member organizations to sustain and promote the events of the association/convention. This places the association or convention in competition with the client. What member of an organization is going to participate in an event that competes with its own interests?
We have all witnessed businesses that have lowered product quality, replaced ingredients without health considerations, reduced customer service options or quality while retaining or increasing prices. When the organization is the client, something gets lost.
The Member as Client
The key to relevance is making the member the client. The majority of your mobilizations are for their benefit, not yours. Remember, “for their benefit” is much different that doing what they want so that they feel good about you. Healthy people will see value in doing what they need to do to grow, even if they do not like to do it.
From the example above, a church that loves its members and does everything it can to educate them in the truth adds value to its members. This type of church holds to their vision, speaks the truth in love, and provides the members with the necessary tools for success. This enables them to hear the message and take steps to implement what they know needs to be done in their lives.
In the member association, we must be equally careful to add value to our members. Think along these lines. A member of your organization asks you to hold an event similar to a common event that most of your members regularly do themselves, you say that you will. You have just placed the association in an awkward situation. Groups within your association are asking; “Where will the attendee’s loyalty be directed? Back to us, or to the greater association?” “Will they find more value in a sister organization than in ours?”
What we need to do as people who add value is to say; “As an association, we cannot do that. However, if you will take the lead, we will support it, drive people to it, and help you finance it.”
This will increase your relevance to the member/client, and the reports from the event will drive the value of the association. “Our association helped us with everything we needed…”
Seek the success of others, and by that act, succeed yourself. Serving the client rather than your own organization always builds value and relevance.