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Keep Calm and Manage Change

By: Debbie Brady, Account Executive 

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

As Executive Directors we are often in the position of having to instigate and manage change in our client organizations. Maybe it’s a client that is new to ASG or a client that needs a reboot to adapt to their changing industry. Change can be hard, but it’s essential – embrace it and be a change agent. Whatever the reason, you can bet there will be players in the mix who will be reluctant to change and some who will prophecy doom as a result of change, our challenge is to articulate a vision of what can be and define the changes that need to happen to get there.

Some of the key characteristics of change agents are vision, patience, persistence and confidence. As association leaders we have to be able to look beyond the day to day and see what’s on the horizon so we can develop a plan to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead of our organizations. Make room for “think” time in your schedule and in your interactions with association members.

We all have jam-packed to do lists, but it’s essential that we take the time to ask what’s going on in our client’s business or profession. What’s the current challenge? What are their customers asking them? What’s changing in their workplace? Engaging in this learning exercise creates the foundation to develop vision.

Patience and persistence are key because there are often loud voices against change – usually that’s a fear-based response and it takes patience to calm fears and persistence to continue to lay the groundwork for change until the leadership reaches consensus. And consensus is the key word here, significant change is rarely greeted with unanimous support.

As a change agent you can’t shrink from vocal opposition. Healthy debate refines vision and yields a stronger outcome. If a subset of your Board or membership isn’t on board with the consensus, deal with their objections seriously and professionally, but with the confidence of knowing the good of the organization rises above pleasing everyone.

“The circulation of confidence is better than the circulation of money.” – James Madison

Good communication and confidence create more confidence. They say horses smell fear … people do too. Do your homework, hone your vision and then commit yourself with confidence. Confidence isn’t arrogance; when you’re confident, you’re open to other points of view and have the flexibility to redefine the vision as more information becomes available.

Managing change is an opportunity to create a closer working relationship with your volunteer leadership and foster excitement and buy in within your membership. Embrace it to improve your client organization, energize their membership and grow their confidence in your leadership.


Debbie has 18 years of association leadership experience and has managed change within those organizations on both minor and grand scales.  Her clients include Eastern Cantaloupe Growers Association, Florida Watermelon Association and Georgia Onsite Wastewater Association. She enjoys life on a small farm with her husband and their two horses, four dogs and cat.