Having worked with 2 Chambers in 20 years, the recognition of Board Members has always been an undernourished point of value. Years ago, January 1, 1995, to be specific, was my first day at the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce. The current Board was in their 6th month of their current term, as June 1 is their New Year. I had made a special effort to meet personally each current board member as I started my first week. With hundreds of calls each day, a few of them were from board members, and the staff would often forward Board Member calls to me at their request. I heard more oft than not that the board member was not certain the staff member knew he or she was a board member until they informed them. I listened to those repeated comments and made a startling discovery with the staff at that time.
Staff development and edification is an ongoing process for staff and the CEO.
What occurred as a result of this “lack of recognition” turned out to be a great opportunity for one of my best… “Chamber Lessons Learned”.
So after the second week, I called each staff member together at the front desk before we opened up one morning, and slapped a $20 bill on the front counter. I announced that someone here is going to earn this $20 bill in less than 5 minutes. I invited all 11 to get a pencil and paper and who ever can name the highest number of the 27 current Board Members, just pick up the $20 and enjoy it.
With a 5 minute time limit up, and pencils down, the highest number of correct, current board members that could be recalled by the 11 staff members was a total of 16.
The winner took the $20 bill, and we had an enlightened conversation among all of us, as to how we could name all 27 if we did this exercise again.
From this quick, and profitable, exercise, the following idea was born.
I put the staff in teams of threes and invited them, with the board members permission, to visit the board member in his or hers place of business for a half hour visit, tour and explanation of that board members position and responsibility in their company or business. I included myself in a team of 3, and we had three tours a week until all board members had a personal visit from the staff.
This was presented as a bonus, treat, and special opportunity for the staff and myself to also understand what Board Members are leaving, and missing for those few hours a week that they attend Board Meetings, committee meetings, Ribbon Cuttings when they are not at work making a living.
This was a huge success for the staff, myself and our Board members, and it did not take long to get around town that the Board members were now looking forward to calling the chamber office, interacting with the staff, and realize that we all have one common thread, that being building a better Chamber, Organization and Community.
After a month, it was apparent that the value was increasing in value, as board members joined events, ribbon cuttings etc, and the staff recognized the Board members and the Board Members recognized the staff members. Both interacting with each other with a common thread of interest and passion for the chamber.
I heard about this for many months, and I found this was the Best $20.00 I spent in 20 years of chamber Management.
Footnote is that after 10 years, most of the staff stayed on the team, and we often had a bit of a chuckle about this learning exercise every time we got a new staff person or intern that joined the team.
Bottom line is that Board Members and Staff members deserve and can benefit from knowing each other, their business, their responsibilities and how we all need each other as we build our organizations.