The Best Books for Association Executives

It’s the time of year when booksellers tell us what books make good gifts for certain categories of readers.  It made me wonder if there was a list of the best books for association executives?  Somewhat surprisingly, I couldn’t find one.  So here is the list of what I think are some of the best books for association executives.

 18 Minutes
By Peter Bregman

What makes this book relevant for association executives is the focus on focus.  Bregman is keenly aware of the increasing distractions of modern life and the difficulty in staying focused on what you really hope to accomplish today, this week, or this year.  Washington, D.C. business leader Ted Leonsis uses radio terminology, saying that  he’s able to accomplish so much because he distinguishes between the “signal” and “noise.”  Ted’s comment was a big help to me and 18 Minutes takes it a step further.  If you are going to accomplish anything meaningful this year you must define your focus.  Without adequate focus, association executives sometimes end up letting their in-boxes run their day.

Read This Before our Next Meeting
By Al Pittampalli

Meetings are the essence of associations, but they don’t always feel as efficient or productive as they should.  In fact, I think association meetings are largely broken and one of the reasons corporate leaders get frustrated with the association environment is because the meetings run so differently from the ones at their companies.  Some of this is due to a culture where all points of view are heard and leaders are more reluctant to leave dissenters behind.  But there is no doubt that association meetings, particularly board meetings, need to run better.  How to do this?  Many articles have been written about the pain and suffering caused by bad meetings.  In Read This Before our Next Meeting, Al Pittampalli give you specific tools and rules for avoiding this.

Pittampalli writes: “Meetings are too expensive and disruptive to justify using them for the most common types of communication, like making announcements, clarifying issues, or even gathering intelligence.”

Seven Principles of Modern Meetings

The Modern Meeting…

1. Supports a decision that has already been made.
2. Moves fast and ends on schedule.
3. Limits the number of attendees.
4. Rejects the unprepared.
5. Produces committed action plans.
6. Refuses to be informational; reading memos is mandatory.
7. Works only alongside a culture of brainstorming.

Following Pittampalli’s Modern Meeting rules in the association environment does have its challenges, particularly rejecting the unprepared and refusing to be informational.  These rules are routinely broken during association meetings that I attend.  But non-profit and association work is almost always considered secondary to a “day job” for board members and other leaders.  In a time when it is increasingly challenging to find good volunteers doesn’t it seem wrong to be too strict about their meeting preparation?

If you play any role in planning or executing association meetings, particularly board meetings, read this awesome and easy to read (66 pages) book.

Quite Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work
David Rock

There are lots of books about how managers should communicate with their team and their peers, but this is by far the most helpful management communication book that I’ve read.  David Rock is interested in neuroscience and the impact of brain functions on communications and leadership.  But after he explains the science he provides simple and straightforward tips to help you get more out of every conversation at work.  Rock suggests a 4-point diagram that includes the directions a conversation can take: tell, complain, ask, or solution.  This book will help you always stay focused on the last two of these.

Permission Marketing
Seth Godin

Seth Godin writes about marketing and entrepreneurship.  He’s a prolific writer of books and blog posts, and a very creative thinker.  He has about a half dozen interesting books, but the one I recommend to association leaders is Permission Marketing.

Every week associations communicate with their members, providing insight or updates and marketing upcoming events.  Communications from the association are accepted and trusted far more than traditional interuption marketing.  For association executives, it means that this trust must be carefully protected or it will be lost.  Don’t forget – every time your association communicates with its members its marketing something.

Daniel Pink

Mr. Pink is well known in the association community.  He was a keynote speaker at this year’s ASAE Annual Convention, and Associations Now  featured an interview with him leading up to his speech.  I’ve blogged about Pink before and I really think he’s onto something regarding human motivation; quite simply, it takes more than money to motivate and satisfy humans.  We need praise and recognition as much or more than financial rewards.  Drive contains insights that will help you make both your employees and your association volunteers feel more like they are part of a team.

Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life
Marshall Rosenberg

When it comes to challenging conversations, at home or at work, Marshall Rosenberg gives you the tools to make them more productive and less stressful.  I’ve always thought the title of this amazing book was a little strange, but it’s a really effective guide to improving the quality of your conversations.  Be patient with whoever you’re speaking with and try your best to understand their point of view before you try to meet their needs.  Read this book and you will improve all of your conversations.

How: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything
By Dov Seidman

This book is about the most fundamental elements of human existence – trust, reputation, transparency, and culture.  All of these elements are critical to a successful association; in fact they are required for the health and success of every human endeavor.  So much has changed concerning basic human expectations and interactions.

From the Amazon Q&A with Dov Seidman:

For many, business and life has always been about the pursuit of What: “What do we do? What’s on the agenda? What do we need to accomplish?” Whats are commodities; they are easily duplicated or reverse-engineered and delivered faster and at a lower cost by someone else.

How is a philosophy. It’s a way of thinking about individual and organizational behavior. And How we do what we do – our behavior – has become today’s greatest source of our advantage. In this world, How is no longer a question, but the answer to what ails us as people, institutions, companies, nations. How we behave, how we consume, how we build trust in our relationships and how we relate to others provides us with the power to not just survive, but thrive and endure.

I love reading books about business, success stories and profiles of business leaders.  I enjoy these books because they are interesting and because hopefully they help me be a better association executive.

What books do you think I missed?  If you are an association executive what books have you read lately that helped you be a better leader?

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2 Responses to The Best Books for Association Executives

  1. Anne Collier says:

    Hi John, Great blog posting! I love your choices and what you said about them. I have attached my “Create A Win-Win Conversation”, which is based on NVC. This model and my coaching model make up my communication course. Feel free to share it.

    I look forward to our call on Friday.

    Best, Anne Anne E. Collier, MPP, JD, PCC P: 202.449.9751 M: 202.744.2015 S: acollier66 @annecollier1

  2. Pingback: How to Make 2013 a Great Year: Your Guide to a More Productive Life | the Association Navigator

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