Fridays@4 members came together for the first time in person during the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting in Nashville, TN. Over 20+ members of the Fridays@4 community were in attendance and participated in our group dinner on Monday, August 22nd at the Nash House Spoon and Saloon. After seeing everyone for two years virtually, it was the first time many of us had met each other in person and it was fantastic.
The theme for this year’s Annual Meeting was centered around disruption creating opportunity in our everyday work. The last two years have been critical in showing us that in order for our businesses to continue to exist, we must be willing to take some risk so that disruption does not close our business, but rather creates new opportunity. We must use foresight, vision, strategy and collaboration in order to identify changes and pivot as needed.
Some key highlights from the conference included:
- Opening Session – Safi Bachall shared that the single distinguisher for disruption is experimentation at pace and scale. He used Circuit City as an example of being a leader in the retail tech space prior to Best Buy coming on board. Best Buy’s ability to experiment on small scales and being nimble eventually gave them the edge to become the leader. He also mentioned that creating innovative cultures take time because of the fear of failure and the lack of risk tolerance in organizations. He shared 5 practical rules for making the shift – celebrate good fails, reduce friction to run experiments (be a gardner, not a Moses), equally love your artists and your soldiers, measure speedboats and helicopters, get quickly to the boats in the water.
- Marcus Whitney’s session – Marcus shared his journey from working in restaurants while struggling to raise a young family to his journey as a venture capitalist and soccer team owner. As a black man, Marcus is often a minority in the circles he works with in the spaces of healthcare and soccer. In 2020, when social justice issues came to light, Marcus knew he had to do something and that he could possibly have an impact in the healthcare space regarding service to underrepresented groups. He sent a letter to several Nashville healthcare provider executives sharing his concerns regarding healthcare for minorities. He succeeded and was able to begin the conversation with large healthcare providers to create equal opportunities for healthcare for all. This is still something he continues to work on.
- Leadership tracks – Leadership has changed since the pandemic. People are being forced to pivot faster than ever and for leaders that can create challenges of bringing their teams along at the same pace. Fear, doubt, complexity and being overwhelmed are driving themes in what has been called perma crisis mode, but relational leadership can help shift our organizations to the level they need to be at in what is now our post pandemic world. Global trends and association trends need to be considered. Global trends impacting our businesses are lack of trust, culture, technological changes, Environmental Social and Governance (ESG)/Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) models, complexity missteps and the Metaverse redefining reality. Association trends include more non-dues revenue drivers, trust trifectas between employees, members and stakeholders, safe events, online communities, accelerated micro learning upskills and rethinking our purposes. We also must be willing to make a more humane effort in our workplaces than ever before and balance power in organizations to avoid power struggles.
- Transitioning in the association world – People are still seeking their next roles or balancing their new roles since the pandemic. The conference offered several panels for association professionals in transition sharing that it is okay to ask for help, reach out to executive recruiters and begin the conversation of what you are seeking, build your network of both people in your space and outside of your space. It was recommended to build a spreadsheet to track your search. As you get offers, trust your gut instincts on whether it is the right fit. If it doesn’t feel right, politely decline and look for something else.
- The Disruption = Opportunity theme carried through to the Awards Luncheon and Closing Keynote, with award recognitions honoring association leaders who have blazed trails in the industry, a celebration of the 102 newly certified CAEs and a welcoming of the new officers and directors for the ASAE and ASAE Research Foundation Boards of Directors. The Closing keynote featured Cidny Bullens, GRAMMY-nominated musician and LGBTQ advocate, who shared an emotionally inspired life story. He spoke of growing up knowing that he was, as his mother put it, “born wrong.” Although his career rose to great heights, including playing onstage with Elton John in the mid-seventies, he suppressed his true self. It was only after the tragic death of his 11-year-old daughter in 1996 to cancer that he returned to music after trying for years to live the façade of a stay-at-home mom. With the help of his musician friends, including Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams, and Rodney Crowell, he recorded an awarding-winning album of deeply personal songs written as his way to work through the grieving process. Following its release, he traveled the world speaking on behalf of bereaved parents. In 2011 he began what would become a year-long transformation from female to male, when “Cindy” would officially become “Cidny.” Since then, he has performed a one-person show advocating for LGBTQ rights. He ended his address with an uplifting message that through a lifetime of disruption and opportunity, he discovered that, “I wasn’t born wrong, I was born me.”
On August 9, we discussed highlights from the 2022 Annual meeting and several people shared sessions that positively impacted them. Several people were impressed with Cidny Bullens closing session, but others noted were Jeff DeCagna’s presession on Building a Fit-for-Purpose Board of Directors in the Turbulent Twenties, Brian Summers’ presentation on Faciliatation: The Essential Association Expertise, Richard Greene’s Redefining the Art of Public Speaking, a panel on Executive Transitions and a session from Lowell Aplebaum discussing the shift in power dynamics and how to create balance in your association. Everyone agreed that the best part of the conference was finally getting the chance to see everyone in person after a couple of years of Zoom.
If you missed this year’s event, ASAE has a virtual option available with some of the sessions. You can register here for the online event. The 2023 ASAE Annual Meeting will be held in Atlanta, GA on August 5-8, 2023. Registration information is usually available on the ASAE website in March or April.