Thursday, February 27, 2014

Unwritten Rules of Association Board and Staff Determine Its Culture



The other day Ron Edmondson offered 7 Examples of Unwritten Rules that Shape an Organization.

“In an organization, what is passed down, maintained over the years, repeated the most, become a part of tradition…that’s what is real. That’s the DNA. They may have never been written down, voted on or ‘put in the minutes,’ but they are assumed true by the majority.”

As I read Ron’s commentary, I reflected on the associations I have worked for or served as a consultant.


After working in an “open door” culture for several years, I was stunned when I visited a large national association and discovered all the doors closed starting with the CEOs. I had never worked in a “closed door” environment before so the scene surprised me. The “atmosphere” in the office was so much different that what I had experienced.

The same can be said about the culture of the association board and the relationship between the board and staff.

I’ve been part of organizations where the board and staff worked as partners and shared freely. In others, however, the staff are treated as hired hands, put at the back of the room and essentially told don’t speak unless we ask.

Association professionals who are exploring employment with a new association need to closely examine the new association to determine the unwritten rules and decide whether this is a culture of which you want to be a part.

Why? Because as Ron notes, it is difficult, if not impossible, to change long-held unwritten rules.

Here are a couple of Ron’s seven examples:
  • The leader’s accessibility and temperament.
  • The relationships of team members to each other.
  • The sense of work satisfaction.
  • The reaction to change.
What are the unwritten rules of your association ... staff and/or board?

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