Posted in CEO

BACon BLOG - Association CEO: Are You Spending Time with Your Board and Your Members?

The demands on an association CEO’s time are significant. As the staff leader of the organization, everyone wants a few minutes to run an idea by you, to get a decision from you, or to discuss a pressing issue with you.

Everyone wants a piece of your time. But there are two groups at your association on which you should spend most of your time: The members of the association and your Board of Directors.

Your Members

One of the key roles for an association CEO is to be able to identify, document and articulate the needs of the members of the association. There is a large amount of data that is available to you as CEO that will help you in this task, including membership survey data, reports on member inquiries, and numbers on the progress of your membership recruitment and retention program.

But to really understand the needs, hopes and desires of the members of your association you need to spend time with them. Meet them where they are: at your annual meeting, at state chapter meetings, at their places of employ. And go beyond giving a speech then grabbing the next flight out of town. Spend time one-on-one with your members and have deep, meaningful conversations about their lives and the role the association might play to enhance their lives.

This “anecdotal” information about the association’s members will help bring meat to the bones of the black-and-white data of membership surveys and reports.

Your Board

Your association’s Board of Directors is the primary governance entity at your association. They make the critical decisions on the direction of the association, including the strategic plan and the association’s policies. And they need your help.

As the CEO, you should be helping the Board of Directors as they conduct this important work. And you should be helping them get better at the work that they do, through a consistent and focused board development initiative.

There is a misnomer that a Board member knows how to be a Board member the second they are chosen for the position. Nothing could be further from the truth. They bring a significant amount of talent and commitment when they join the Board, but everyone can get better at what they do. And as the association’s CEO, you should be spending time with the Board of Directors, both as a group and one-on-one, helping them do their work and helping them get better at their work.

All of this time that you spend with the association’s members and Board of Directors will have a tangible payoff… it will make you a better CEO.

So all of the other demands on your time… and they are considerable… should come second to the time you must spend with your Board of Directors and your members. When you get to the office each morning, they should be the primary focus of your day and they should get the biggest chunk of your time.

John Barnes is President of Barnes Association Consultants. Barnes Association Consultants helps association Boards and CEOs address the wide range of challenges and opportunities facing today’s association leaders. Barnes Association Consultants helps association leaders make their associations better.

John can be reached at or 703.321.6866. For more information about Barnes Association Consultants, go to