Today I'd like to follow up on last week's article, "Generational Shifts, Working for the Greater Cause," and include my opinion and thoughts on the future of NAHB leadership.
As NAHB continues towards the future, the present is constantly looking at "new blood" for boards and officers. State and national leadership depends mightily on the development of industry and association leaders that all come from the local level. It is only natural that the baby boomers are running out of potential candidates unless of course they bring back a past president to lead the charge once again. I applaud anyone who would offer to be of service, again, to lead an association. However if that reason is because no one from the next generation wants the responsibility then the leadership continuation process is broken. If it is broken or stumbling how can it be fixed?
The next generation, as written about in my past two articles (Generational Shifts and Generational Shifts, Working for the Greater Cause), has been placed in a box of misconceptions. Not because some of the "experts" are wrong. The misconceptions are for the overall, world view of Generation X and Y and not drilled down to NAHB specifically. While it is true that they value family time, are in an instant communication mindset and don't like associations, the misconceptions may really be lack of awareness, or worse yet, lack of in depth communication from nominating committees or current baby boomer leaders.
Let's list examples of some talking points for the boomers to successfully communicate the value of our association and and benefits derived from volunteer leadership. I will begin with atypical misconception/objection and follow with the counter;
- "I don't have time to be involved with the association. I'm too busy with work." If you, X or Y, are in the building industry for only a short period of time, then YES, you do not need to be active with the association. However, if this is your chosen career I would ask "how do you strategically prepare for your company for sustainability and growth? Do you have a 1 year, 3 year and 5 year plan? Where are you gathering the information to place you in optimal position to be as successful as you can possibly be?" They most likely will cite Google as a source to help them search for areas of expertise. However, as a point of fact, there is only one organization that is focused completely on the home building industry. Discuss with the next generation the features of being involved and then help them uncover the benefits of being involved. No bigger or better benefit is knowledge of your profession. So when an expert says the the next generation doesn't want to be involved with associations I would say that it is because they have a limited idea of what the association does for them on a specific basis.
- "I don't have the time to be involved on your board of directors." The common examples of a rejection for a committee appointment or a board seat are spousal, children and work. The association will take them away from those important factors (for single X & Y members, free time and work are the two main objections). My way of thinking on communicating the features of active roles within the association would be simply this; "spouses and children require 'things, such as a home to start begin your memories. Day trips or vacations that families enjoy. Uniforms for sports or scouts or equipment for sports or activities that require more than a uniform. You need to take time from work to go to sporting events or plays and parades so you can see and support your children and be the parent you need to be. You want to start a college savings account as well and prepare for your later years where your next chapter in life begins. I've been there and I can certainly tell you that this all takes dollars, and lots of them, with a stable source for ongoing funding." Only one organized body can help you achieve that financial security and longevity and that is our association. So when an expert says that the next generation doesn't want to be involved with associations, I will challenge them to let me know who else is out there protecting my income and my family's well being.
- "Mike, you're stilling not helping me understand why I should be on this association's board." Let me just say, and this is strictly my personal opinion, that I will not rely on any one member to protect my present and future without my personal involvement. If I'm going to fail, it will not be because I did nothing. If I fail it's because I failed . Personally, I need to make sure that my interests are being protected. I would not invest in a 401K unless I knew what would harm it or what would grow it. The 401K example applies to the board, and I would again repeat the question "are you in this business for the short term or is this your career?" If it is a career, why wouldn't you want to know what could harm it or grow it?
I'm not going to cover the roles of the association's officers. How the next generation fares with committees and boards will be on you, the established leaders at the local level. Change for the sake of change is not recommended. If your committees or board gets bogged down in minutiae while conducting business, have endless discussions on topics without clear cut relevance to the overall association cause or time certain dates, you will lose the next generation. If you cannot rein in your veteran members who are doomsayers and road blockers, Generation X and Y will not be your next generation as officers or presidents. They do not have the patience for this type of volunteerism. Please don't think "good, who needs them!?" We all need them, for our future.
I am extremely fortunate to know so many leaders at national, and in my state, that have recognized the need to cultivate our future leaders. My hope is that others are recognizing that need as well. This part is extremely important and a very blunt end to this article. If you don't have the next generation at the local level, the state and then national leadership will eventually fade away and all that we have worked for will be for us and not the future we should care about. Every leader in our association, at every level, has one true responsibility and that is fiduciary responsibility for our association, its members and its future.