The other day I was in conversation with a colleague about two member organizations we both belong to and support. As I do every year, I review my work, what conferences I'll attend or present at, and what avenues are open to me to continuously learn. I also look at who I mentor and engage with and then make my decisions to move forward based on what comes up for me in those reviews.
In this case, for these two organizations, nothing much has happened for close to a year and even less since the new terms have started. As a past executive in both organizations, my loyalty is strong, but to a point. The question is, is my loyalty and support honored and is it earned?
Those are two of the questions I have to answer when I make my decision to renew my memberships and whether or not I'll be an advocate for them. As not much has been happening, at least that we're aware of, I thought I'd ask what was in the works for the coming year, how I could support the organizations and ask why they think I should rejoin. For one, I was told to rejoin because it's only $129. There was no other answer forthcoming. For the second, I was basically told I had no right to ask the questions, that asking was insulting.
So to get back to my conversation with my colleague, his response was "That's not what the organization stands for" to which I replied "That's not what it stood for". Things have radically changed. We cannot make decisions based on history. If an organization believes we should continue to support it just because we're founding members and nothing else, then it's resting on its laurels. They are not earning our support based on current action or honored commitments or basic respect for its members.
Should we continue to support organization which have fallen silent to its members or made commitments that haven't been kept? It's more than whether or not we waste money. In my opinion, when you attach your name and advocate for a person or organization, your reputation and professional integrity is on the line. Would I recommend an organization to a student or colleague that told a member they didn't have the right to ask the relevant questions? No. Would I disrespect myself in attaching my name to an organization that disregards its members? No.
We have to choose how we devote our time, energy and money. For me, devoting it to something or someone who will help others evolve and grow is a key criteria. Don't ask people for their support if you don't care what you give back. Don't ask people to support you based on past history. Ask them because you know you'll make a difference in their lives and professions and they'll be valued as contributors. Then you have earned their loyalty.
Great organizational leaders understand this and make sure the customer is always kept in mind for every decision that's made. Great leaders understand that if they forget who they serve, they won't have an organization left to lead as they won't have anyone left that they're serving.