An international trade association had promoted one of their own members into the executive director role. The new executive had tremendous industry experience and influence, great instincts and leadership skills, but little association management experience. The organization had several other things going for it, a successful trade show, a committed volunteer base and a strong staff team that believed in their new executive. It also had a series of three volunteer presidents who were passionate and committed to the idea of working together to affect lasting change. There were some significant challenges, too. The new executive inherited a dysfunctional two-board governance structure, a disengaged membership, and an unclear vision and plan for the future.
The original engagement was to create a strategic plan for the organization. Almost immediately it became apparent that the two boards system was impeding the progress of the association. Conflicting roles and responsibilities, power dynamics, and a series of leadership changes had led to a culture with little trust. The focus of the consulting engagement needed to shift and focus on a governance restructuring and the elimination of the two board system. A series of facilitated focus groups and larger town hall meetings lead to an action plan that redefined the role of one of the boards and clarified the role of the board of directors. Trust began to grow as the volunteers defined and then worked toward a new shared vision of the association.
As the governance restructure began to set in, staff and volunteers began to discuss the needs of members and how best to help their constituents achieve success. A strategic plan was developed and the board began to think about accountability metrics and how to balance its fiduciary responsibilities with strategic thinking and acting with foresight. The executive survived the trial-by-fire experience and is now focused on how to bring consistency and value to constituents.