Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 2012


Michelle Russell
s passed the test of true leadership.”

So it’s a matter of instilling a culture?

It’s funny that you mention that. I’ve concluded that there are three foundational requirements for building a great, enduring company, one of which is around articulating, aligning, nurturing, and protecting an authentic culture that guides and inspires.

And how do you recognize and nurture leaders within an organization?

Well, you bring up another good point. The second [foundational requirement] is around assembling and developing a talented and cohesive executive management team. But the third foundational requirement is the hardest one of all - which is to grow leaders from within, to build leadership capacity throughout the company. Over the past several years, I’ve been pondering how best to deliver on this third foundational requirement in a way that is purposeful, organized, disciplined, impactful, and sustainable.

In early 2010, I had my ideas and thoughts around content, desired outcomes, student selection, and other key aspects sufficiently developed to seriously begin the planning of a leadership program within SmithBucklin. The SmithBucklin Leadership Learning Forum, which was launched in March of last year, is an intensive, high-impact 12-month program that exposes 15 to 20 selected top-performing employees to leadership concepts, principles, and guidelines while stimulating and inspiring their individual self-discovery, learning, and personal growth. The program is a gift of great value and lifelong impact to the students. I’m enormously proud of the program’s accomplishments and the depth of the students’ engagement during its inaugural year. As importantly, I’m confident in the program’s far-reaching and long-term impact on the individual students, on SmithBucklin, and on our client organizations.

I’m highly vested and commit significant time, energy, and heart to the three foundational requirements, because it goes back to this: If I aspire to be a CEO who is also a true leader, there are not many more important things that I could be doing or working on. You can’t just delegate these activities.

That doesn’t mean that others aren’t responsible for doing their part, especially other executives, but it starts with me, as I’m the one who needs to set the tone on what’s important as well as create the conditions for success.

What can PCMA Education Conference participants expect to get out of your talk?

I will introduce a working framework for defining, understanding and measuring leadership capacity and performance. This framework and its underlying principles and concepts are drawn from my personal life-long journey of learning, growing, and discovering. I will also share a few practical ideas and principles that participants can put into everyday use at work and in their personal lives. Perhaps most importantly, my hope is that my thoughts, reflections, and ideas will resonate with participants and that I would, in a small way, contribute to their enthusiasm and commitment to continuous leadership learning, self-discovery, and personal growth.

All of us have an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the people and in the success of the organizations we serve [regardless of] your field or profession.

I would argue that for meeting professionals, the bar is pretty high because meetings—which embody education, networking, and other crucial activities - [at least] for associations are core to both the creation and delivery of value to members and other stakeholders.

How Associations Lead

When it comes to reviving our economy, the country’s leaders focus on encouraging entrepreneurship, small business, and private enterprise. We asked Henry Givray where associations factor into that mix.

Volunteer-governed organizations possess some incredible, amazing, mind-blowing, inherent strengths. An association is essentially a community of individuals who share a commitment, passion, and vested interest in a particular industry, profession, or cause. Obviously, trade associations represent companies, but a company doesn’t exist without individuals.

Now here’s the kicker: These individuals are willing to give of their time, energy, dollars, and heart - for no compensation! Think about that. What an incredibly powerful and compelling force to be reckoned with. The possibilities to advance ideas, take action, drive desired outcomes, and create value are truly limitless. What do I mean by value creation? There’s a difference between delivering service and creating value. Service is about reliability, quality, genuine care, consistency - all pretty important stuff.

But for an association, creating value means that you’ve improved the state or condition of your individual stakeholders, industry, or profession. It may mean you’ve advanced your cause in a significant way. So in the broadest sense, when you think about what associations can do as it relates to the economy, it could be improving education, driving innovation, boosting productivity, or initiating incremental and even transformational change with possible ripple effects beyond the specific industry or profession. Associations have this incredible power to harness the human potential in an impressive, cost-efficient manner.

But, by their very nature, volunteer-governed organizations have to also overcome some inherent hurdles and challenges. Volunteer-governed organizations operate in an environment of planned and rapid turnover, and are subject to varying and often conflicting objectives, discontinuous interactions, and fragile commitments of time-pressed volunteer board members.

To overcome these inherent hurdles and fulfill their promise, associations must not only have boards comprised of skilled, dedicated individuals, they must also acquire and possess certain organizational competencies such as effective governance, strategic thinking and action taking, innovation, change management, and, most importantly, leadership. Building leadership capacity on the board and with the association executive goes a long way toward ensuring the association is vital, creates value, and is sustainable.

More Resources:

 To read Henry Givray’s article in BusinessWeek, visit buswk.co/ Convene-Givray


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