March 25, 2013

"Two Ships Passing in the Night"

The epic poem "Two Ships Passing In The Night" has always inspired the thought when people or groups of similar background go in two different directions. It has also been spoken out loud when you hear people say, "we are like two ships passing in the night." It implies a connection for a brief and fleeting time.
When we talk about leadership roles in our association we can also say that two different styles of leadership are like two ships passing in the night. There is a point in time when the title is the same but the particular direction takes us on opposite paths with different impacts.

(Note: below I will set committee as the working group. Keep in mind that committee could be substituted for task force, board of directors or an entity that works with volunteers to advance the HBA initiatives. I also set the title chairman as the working role but it can also be defined as president of the HBA.)

"Two 'Ships' Passing in the Night"

Two “ships” that volunteer members can identify are leadership and dictatorship. One leads, bringing out the best from each volunteer, encouraging involvement while the other suppresses thought and therefore conversation. 

A dictatorship in our volunteer world is never healthy. When a dictator advances initiatives without committee involvement you have set the stage for unengaged committee member(s) by devaluing their input. All inclusive fosters better team work and it is extremely productive when it comes to volunteers. Everyone has the opportunity to contribute in a positive manner. If a committee agrees on a particular direction, but the chair decides to go in another, you don't have much need for a committee. A dictator is not a productive leader and is not respected. A dictator will make a singular decision to move an initiative because they feel with title comes privilege. When the chairman moves in a dictatorial direction what they are saying to the committee is a simple message; "I don't value your thoughts on this subject." This is not an acceptable approach and it will leave the committee in a weakened state.
Sometimes a dictator will only work with a select one or few to move an agenda or an initiative. Again, not healthy and negates the need for a committee. Sometimes you may have an unresponsive committee and you need to take a dictator approach. Chances are you really haven’t explored ways of engaging the committee so the dictator by one or a few approach is the path of least resistance. 

Committee members should not be intimidated during a discussion and share their thoughts. Not everyone is going to agree and That's normal. Sometimes being a "devil's advocate" is called for so that the proposed direction is well vetted.

 How do you stop a dictator? Don't allow him/her the opportunity to continue down this path. Always ask the question; "how can I help?"

A leader must wear many hats, has to work with multiple personalities, each having their own level of passion and unique thoughts. A leader will set in place the agenda, creates a consensus, then sets the procedure and policies in place with the committee and then manages the follow through. A leader is all inclusive because they understand the value of engaging volunteers and creating a platform to identify future leaders. Changes happen, roadblocks pop up and volunteers may not be performing up to their declared abilities and agreed actions. A leader will assess the situation and if a change is needed that affects an overall goal or action, the committee needs to be a part of the reactive decisions. 
A leader will not be influenced by one or a few because that’s not exactly leading. A leader will seek advice from one or two mentors and possibly staff but will move in a direction after presenting the facts to the committee for vote.
How do you support a leader? By being engaged, contributing through thought and action. By simply asking the question; “how can I help?”

Which style will you choose when you are asked to chair a committee? 


March 18, 2013

"Average or Memorable? Always Your Choice"

Volunteer leaders are vital to any home builders association (HBA) and new volunteer leaders are as vital, if not more so, because they bring new vision, untapped passion and an enthusiasm that they can make positive impacts. They are also a much needed expansion of the leadership pool and a source of inevitable succession of the baton being passed. Volunteer leaders at the beginning stages bring a wide eyed element to the initiative particularly at the local HBA level where the vast majority of volunteer leaders begin working with other volunteers. It is at this moment in a volunteer's "HBA life" that established volunteers could impact the eventual direction of a new leader. It is at this moment that the local HBA could have new blood or continued graying.

True leaders will take a different road, one less traveled but will arrive at the true destination; success. Others will follow and others will shake their heads and stay on the same road they have always traveled because it's what they know and, worse yet, it's all they want to know. Choice has always leads us to where we were and where we will be, not chance.
There could be some that will try and stop progress by setting up road blocks, in varying degrees of challenge, on the different road you head down.  An average leader accepts these actions and will make a u-turn back. A memorable leader will stop, assess each roadblock, finds a way around the road block and continues down the new road.

I have watched others over the years, those who believe they have the "best interest of the HBA at heart." That best interest may be to play it safe, to stay in a zone of comfort, to not take a chance. You know what? Sometimes that is the correct path. but sometimes, if you don't try, you'll never know where you can go. There are some whose best interest is self preservation, meaning they are threatened by loss of territory instead of encouraging growth of others. They act as martyrs instead of much needed mentors.

Winston Churchill, one of history's true leaders, once said: "You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life." You may make "enemies" along your chosen path to leading initiatives. You will need the conviction to blast through those types of roadblocks and the best way of doing so is by surrounding yourself with those who add value to your life and share your belief in new visions.With visionary leadership you will begin conversations that will return value and change when needed. Those visions become actions that  will help deliver value back to the HBA tenfold.

Why am I sharing all of the above with you? Volunteer leadership within the HBA is rewarding and at the same time occasionally challenging when breaking from the norm and asking "what if?" You may be the next generation of volunteer leader the HBA absolutely needs. The above is not to scare you off but to encourage you to make a difference.

Never back away from your convictions if you believe in their value and have the passion to head down a new road. Never allow anyone to stifle your passion or dampen your desire to volunteer.  At the end of the day, without passion and desire, everything remains the same, and with the same comes stagnation.

Do you want your time as leader to be average or memorable? Don't leave it to chance; make it a choice, your choice.

Submitted by Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP

March 11, 2013

"The National Associate Leadership Triumvirate"

A little over two years ago, January  2011, "Association Maximization, the Blog" (AMB) was created as an extension of the Association Maximization seminar/ workshop created in 2000. AMB took the concentrated discussion of the best ways to maximize your association investment and involvement and blended it with other areas of the local, state and national HBAs.
AMB started out slowly as a viable source of information but as each issue was published the readership grew and many local HBAs have asked permission to reprint articles for their own publications. The affect of a member driven blog, for the benefit of all members, has  achieved its purpose; maximization. Today's blog is number 100 and AMB will take a trip back to where it started in January '11 as a communication vehicle to highlight what nationally engaged associates are delivering to help the two-thirds of NAHB membership, the associates, at the local level. Helping associates maximize their dues investment will lead to stronger non dues investments. This helps the local home builders association gain financial strength which helps NAHB and their strength for the fight for housing at the national level.

Click here for NAHB Associate Members 

"The National Associate Leadership Triumvirate"

Symbol for the Power of 3
During the early years of the Roman Empire the unofficial political alliance of Gaius Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus was known as "The First Triumvirate," a sharing of power by three. "The Second Triumvirate" is the name historians give to the official political alliance of Octavian (later known as Augustus), Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Mark Antony. 
The sharing of power, the sharing of responsibility and the sharing of titled leadership status marks the brand of any leadership triumvirate and, as the more successful triumvirs will explain, all three need to check their egos and work together.

At the national level of NAHB associate leadership we have  version of a triumvirate. No, I'm not comparing our national associate leadership to the Roman Empire. I am referencing how sometimes it is best to have segmented leadership and that there is a unique leadership structure in place at the national level, all designed to help our Federation in many ways working in synergy, as a team with ego on lock down and a majority of membership to engage.

The National Associate Chairman: this position works with 15 builder National Area Chairmen (NAC), through action and guidance, for the priorities of The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The 15 NACs have oversight of certain areas within the U.S. and those areas include of multiple states and Puerto Rico. The National Associate Chairman has oversight of two-thirds of our membership, the associate membership. This role is designed to bring associate initiatives, questions and concerns to the National Area Chairmen and the senior officers of NAHB (builder leadership). The National Associate Chairman works with builder leadership to understand "all things" that are positive and negative for our building industry and will break down the information, through personal knowledge and staff guidance, and highlight what it means to all associates at the grass roots/ local level. The National Associate Chairman is a conduit for flow of information and is the official spokesperson for associate members through out the country. If it affects builders it will affect associates. If it affects associates it will affect the vast majority of dues and non dues revenue. This position makes sure that all concerned have a voice.
The National Associate Chairman, like the builder National Area Chairmen, is a junior officer of and an executive committee member of NAHB.

The Associate BUILD-PAC Vice Chairman: this position was created two years ago by the BUILD-PAC officers and given a two year trial run.  It was officially recognized by vote of the BUILD-PAC trustees as a permanent BUILD-PAC officer position during IBS 2013.The Associate BUILD-PAC Vice Chairman's role is to work with the BUILD-PAC officers and staff on PAC's initiatives, work with national associate volunteers to help with BUILD-PAC awareness and overall advocacy awareness which includes BuilderLink activism (find out more and register by clicking here) and encouraging associate members to attend the annual Legislative Conference where members gather on The Hill to meet with their legislators on housing issues. Two years ago NAHB declared advocacy as it's number one priority and the Associate BUILD-PAC Vice Chairman's role is to help in ensuring that message is spread.

The Associate Members Committee Chairman: this position is an executive committee position as well. The role of the chairman is to manage the initiatives of the committee through the sub committee chairs responsible for;
  1.  Associate Advocacy: to increase PAC investments through fundraising & BuilderLink participants. This sounds easy, but have you ever tried to get members to reach into their wallets? This committee works in tandem with the Associate BUILD-PAC Vice Chairman to help with NAHB #1 priority.
  2. Leadership & Recognition: various awards: Associate of the Year, Bill Polley BUILD-PAC Award (click here), The BEAM Award (click here) and The Chairman's  Award for outstanding committee volunteerism. This sub committee is also responsible for the induction of associates into the Society of Honored Associates during the Associate Appreciation Awards Breakfast during the International Builders Show.
  3. Designations & Training: responsible for associate leadership training (click here), BUILD-PAC Peer 2 Peer training (click here) as well as multiple NAHB designations such as the Certified Graduate Associate (CGA) designation. 
The NAHB Associate Members Committee also has  two working groups;
  1. Associate Outreach Network (click here): a communications vehicle that delivers/receives NAHB information to/from the local associate leadership using the best source; direct communication by Associate to Associate. This group's role is extremely important as it made great strides, starting in 2011, to make every effort to make contact with the actively engaged associates at the local level. This system enhances the efforts of the three in person meetings a year that take place during the year and make "two way street." member to member communications a continuing effort through the utilization of email, social media and good old fashioned conversation.
  2. Strategic Planning: from the committee start of year to it's conclusion, the sub chairs work together to ensure the initiatives for that year are on or ahead of schedule, tweaking the initiatives as they take shape to maximize the national volunteers efforts.

  2013 National Associate Leadership "Triumvirate"

The 2013 Associate Members Committee Leadership

To find out more about the national level of associate volunteerism and how it good provide value for you;
1. Contact Betty Thweatt (click here),  NAHB staff with associate member oversight 
2. Join in discussions with NAHB Associates on LinkedIn (click here) 
3. Visit our NAHB Associates on Facebook (click here). If you like what you see, "like" us.

March 4, 2013

"Hello, My Name is...."

There are many reasons you may have joined your local HBA. Business is one, networking with industry peers is another. 
One of the best aspects of being an HBA member, in my opinion, is grass roots advocacy. Uh oh, there's that word again. A dear friend of mine explained to me once that the word advocacy may be a word that doesn't make a meaningful impact. At first I didn't believe that to be true but I have come to the realization that she is on target. 
For people who make politics a passion in life, it's an easy word to understand and the action that the word advocacy implies.  But when you hear the word advocacy it sometimes sounds so distant, no direct tug at your heart strings. Even the definition sounds cold; according to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, advocacy is defined as "the act or process of advocating or supporting a cause or proposal. Doesn't exactly ignite a "fire in the belly." Yet advocacy is what the end result of your membership does for our industry.

A better way to describe advocacy, when spoken in our building industry world, would be "the fight for housing." Or, to be very direct, "the fight for our careers, income, way of life." That is how I define advocacy, my own bottom line called income. In a past "Association Maximization" article that was posted in July 2011, I discussed "Political Synergy" (click here to read) and what happens at the national level of your NAHB membership. You can easily substitute national references for your state HBA's fight for housing because everything is truly about politics, particularly in our industry. When you advocate, or support a cause (your job), you are actually in the process of selling. Selling is nothing more than influencing someone to buy your product or service because they have a need for it or they see a benefit in it.  Having an open ended discussion brings out questions of concern, how it applies to a better situation and who it affects. 

The political process is no different and it's not complicated, but so many of our members seem to be intimidated by meeting with those in office or with those aspiring to be in office. Political discussion, and helping to create a clear vision for the cause, is no different then selling a home or selling your product (supply, service or trade). You have an item, you highlight the reason for that item, you "sell" the benefit of that item to the end user. 

Your HBA most likely has scheduled visits with the legislators in your state. They can be in the form of meeting in the legislators' office in the state capitol or possibly in their private offices. Maybe even a local diner. At national level, NAHB has it's annual Legislative Conference where many of our building industry peers gather to meet in with their respective members of Congress. There are also times of the year when your members of Congress are back in their home districts and, just like your state legislators, you can meet with them to discuss your future.
Some of you may want to know more and I would ask that you contact your executive officer, or local president, at your HBA. They should be able to give you are better idea of  how to take part in the fight for housing at the state and national levels. Politics, even at the national level, begin at the local HBA level because that is where they legislator was elected or will be re-elected.

Special note for associate members: becoming engaged in the fight for housing is a great way to understand what affects your business, demonstrates to builders that you care about the industry as well and you get to work shoulder to shoulder with builder members on issues that affect all of us. If it affects builders, it will affect you.

When you do decide to make it a priority to fight for housing, and you begin visiting with your state or federal representatives with groups from your local HBA  there are "things" you should be aware of from the outset and remember, it's exactly like what we do to earn our income; selling.

1. Understand the reason for the meeting. Know "our" talking points. If you don't understand the talking points ask someone from your HBA government affairs staff to clearly explain the talking points meaning and how they affect you.
2. Stay on message. You will have roughly 15 minutes to get your message through to your legislator. Keep him/her focused on the issue(s) at hand for the home building industry.
3. Make sure you have at least one associate in attendance who understands the issues and can speak to how the issue(s) affects on their own businesses so the legislator(s) understand that it is a building industry issue, not just builder related.
4. Have one or two of your group's members be the key speakers in the group, but make sure that they identify all in the meeting and how they are each related to the building industry.
5. Bring updated building industry literature, specific to reason for meeting, to leave with the legislator and have HBA staff follow up with whatever you could not answer for the legislator(s).
6. Invite your legislator(s) to one of your HBA events when their calendar permits.
1. Don't be unprepared. Shooting from the hip is great in old TV westerns but not when our industry's survival, your income, is on the line.
2. Don't discuss campaign contributions when discussing your reasons for the visit. Ever.

3. Don't allow a fellow member(s) to stray off message. It confuses the issues and the reason you set up the meeting will become lost in other discussions.
4. Don't forget to follow up with the legislator(s) on issues that were unresolved or he/she said would be taken care of (like co-sponsoring a bill).

There are probably more "do's and don'ts" that I have missed but the above are the heart of any successful legislative discussions. 

My name is Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP, and I am a  "Building Industry Advocate"