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Building Community Through Strong Connections: LinkedIn Live with Angela Kisskeys of Associations North

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Video Transcript

Justin Bieganek: I’m the Founder of Mercury Creative Group and we are the branding professionals who bring clarity and purpose to teams to propel their organizations forward.

Over the last 24 years, I’ve had the honor and pleasure to work with so many of these leaders and their teams as both their brand advisor and strategic growth partner. So I’m delighted to be able to start sharing their stories with all of you. And that’s my goal is to connect these leaders who are building their communities to all of you who hopefully some of you haven’t met, so that you can make that connection here in the future.

So Angela is with us today and I want to highlight her story, her strengths, her challenges, and then her transformations individually and with the organization. So a little bit of housekeeping. The first 30 minutes will be very conversational and we do urge you to post questions and comments into the chat box and we’ll try to answer those throughout the time, but we also have 15 minutes set aside at the end to answer those questions. And Nicole Deveraux from my team will be feeding some of those questions to us as we go. And since this is all new technology and our first pilot, give us a little bit of grace. If we don’t get to all those questions, we will certainly follow up as best as possible. So, thank you.

Angela Kisskeys: Hi, Amy. Oh my gosh, there’s staff and Steph. Oh my god, all my people.

Justin: Yep. That’s our community, Angela.

Angela: I love this.

Justin: Alright. So this is just what happened with Ang right there is where I get excited is to bring our community together, bring our people together, and make those connections and be a bigger, stronger community to make change. And that’s really part of the reason that I started the business to A, use my talent as a designer. I didn’t know how that could turn into problem-solving on a bigger level for organizations and their businesses long term. So I’m delighted to bring now all those people together and share their stories and their questions. So it’s all about community for me. So thanks for joining.

Angela Kisskeys, president of Associations North is here with us. I’m going to give you a little information of what I think of Angela when she pops into my head. She’s a genuine connector and she knows how to bring the right people together to build something better, bigger, and different. She’s a very curious listener and she’s not afraid to ask for help and bring people into her circle to help her solve the problems that she just can’t tackle right now and to elevate her. And she’s a risk taker. She is definitely a leader with a growth mindset and she has this determination with a smile to tackle anything. So with that, Angela, welcome. Thank you for being my first guest here. Tell us a little bit more about who you are and connect us with Association North and what that organization does.

Angela: Well, thank you for having me. I had to take a couple of notes because that is a piece of who I am, a curious listener and determined with a smile. I love that. I was recently on a call for a different association and they said, “Angela, you have a spirit for victory.” And I think that sums all that up and a little bit about myself. So Angela Kisskeys, President at Associations North. I came into this scene back in 2007, so been here for about 15 years. I was an intern at Winona State University and didn’t really know where to turn. Reached out to some family friends and said, “I need this internship, I’m in my business courses, what should I do?” And the family friend said, “Oh, you’ve got to learn about, back then it was the Midwest Society of Association Executives. They can connect you to anybody and everybody.”

And I was like, okay, I don’t know anything about nonprofits. I learned about corporate and corporate America for like 3.5 years of my college career, not nonprofits. So went to Kathy Johnson, predecessor here at Associations North for 28, 29 years, and said, “Hey, I’m in this business school, I’d like an internship, I’m here to help. I’ll get my hands dirty. How can I help you make a difference?” And she’s like, “Oh, that’s the attitude and the spirit that I’m looking for. We’re having our 50th gala on Thursday.” Mind you, this was a Monday. So I started as an intern for Associations North back in 2007. And I really enjoyed it. I got thrown into meeting planning, the big scene with multiple, multiple attendees, and this big fancy event. And really what I think I fell in love with was the behind-the-scenes, where, really everything we were doing was making a difference.

And you could be so creative yet have an impact on such a greater level. It all started with those individual relationships and then it led to what can we do for their association and then larger as an industry. So 2007 came on the scene and then excelled through my career where just recently I was named president and celebrating 15 years. And how I plan to do that is not stopping anytime soon and making sure that I continue to make a difference and listen to our members and propel us forward.

A little bit about Associations North for those of you who don’t know us, back in 2016 we did go through a rebrand and a name change. We were previously the Midwest Society of Association Executives and we really wanted to take a look at who we are, who we serve, and where we wanted to go. Went through a big rebranding process for our 60th anniversary as well as a name change to Associations North. We are a member-based organization here in the Twin Cities area that represents over 300 associations from Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. As well as we have over a hundred vendors and product and service providers who want to connect with associations to help solve challenges and improve their productivity and efficiencies. So we really represent quite a fabulous community of associations and product and service providers together. That’s a little bit about myself and Associations North.

Justin: So Angela, you just mentioned community, which is the perfect tie-in and shameless plug, we got to do that rebrand and name change. So a proud client and a proud vendor over here. So talk to us a little bit about now becoming the leader, how has that changed your thinking or just your feeling in general for the organization?

Angela: Yes, it’s changed a lot actually. I’ve reflected quite frequently on this and I’m in executive coaching currently and I believe that the best investment you can do is investment in yourself. So I take the time to continually grow and stay green. I’ve always been under the impression that when you’re green you grow and when you’re ripe you rot. So I never want to rot and I always want to stay green and continue growing and with being a leader about who I can influence with my skills and what impact can I have on others. So I want to make informed decisions as a leader. I want to surround myself with a community and the people who make me better, who challenge myself and who are going to bring out the best in my skills so I can make the best difference and the greatest difference on others around me.

Justin: Angela, I think you are a natural-born leader and coaching is one of the best things. Cliff, if you’re out there, thank you. He’s probably like, oh my God. Tell me something that you just recently learned from your coach that you’ve been able to put into your work, your day-to-day.

Angela: Oh my gosh. Where are all my notes? I have so many.

Justin: First thing that comes to your head, what is it?

Angela: Yeah, well first of all, shout out to my coach. Her name is Madeline Petes from Bridges Consulting. She’s been a game changer in my world and one of the coolest things that she had said recently to me was I thanked her for all the work that we’ve done. And she said, “Girl, I just held up the mirror, you’ve done all the work.” So that was really neat. And then another thing that she tells me is to take the time to do less firefighting and build your deck. And what she means by that is stop putting out all the little fires and build your deck, plan for the future. Do you want to have boards? Do you want to have flowers? Do you want to have furniture? And it’s really to think strategic and look into the future. So she’s challenging me to say, “Hey, let’s clip these wings. You have these skills, let’s continue to grow them. And never be afraid to shine because the sun doesn’t care if it blinds you.”

Justin: That’s awesome. Madeline, if you’re watching, a shout out to you as well. How are you building community within Associations North?

Angela Kisskeys: We are all about community at Associations North. Everything we do is about community because ultimately at the end of the day, our people are who we are. It’s our brand, it’s our passion, it’s our mission. It’s all about bringing those together to continually advance them. So everything we do is trying to bring them together, whether it’s an in-person event, if it’s a cohort, if it’s an online community, if it’s one-off individual connections that we can make. I think one of the greatest joys that I have in my job is meeting somebody new and saying, Oh, you should work with or get to know Justin or have a coffee because you’ve got this and you’ve got this. And I feel like a little bit of a matchmaker, but it just makes me smile at the end of the day and that’s really what we’re about.

Justin: That’s awesome everyone. Everyone, Angela has been very instrumental in making those connections for us and my team. So thank you, Angela.

So yesterday we are at Pure Genius. So you kind of put that event together fast and furiously. I felt it was successful. What were you hearing from the attendees?

Angela: Oh, great question. Yes, that was yesterday. And I see Steph from our team is in the chat. So thanks Steph. Good to see you. They enjoyed the actionable takeaway, they enjoyed the quick learning, the rapid-fire information. And really we’re short on time, we’re short on resources and a lot of organizations are short on staff these days. And instead of sitting back and listening to a 45, 50-minute session full of concepts in theory and then saying, oh, how do I apply this back at my organization? This was peer sharing and peer learning. So perhaps you had a really great onboarding plan for new staff or a member retention timeline. We had our members come present on this and you actually walked away with samples, templates, checklists, things that you can go back to your association and you learned it today and you can apply it tomorrow. So they appreciated that rapid-fire learning that was actionable.

Justin: So what was your one takeaway?

Angela: Well, my one takeaway is that not all PowerPoints transfer to Macintosh computers. For all my meeting planning professionals out there and AV tech companies, if you’ve got any tips or tricks, let us know. But Associations North, we do use MacBook Pros for computers and not all PowerPoints are equal. So I learned that yesterday.

Justin: So who’s the techie out there? Chat or connect with Angela on that to help.

What else are you hearing just in general as you’re talking to our members, is there anything that’s bubbling up as something exciting that is consistent in the conversations?

Angela: Yeah, I think one of the biggest things that our members, I’m hearing on more repeat is there’s an enthusiasm and an energy around bringing us back in person. It’s the conversations and what you can have face to face and in that community feeling. I had one member tell me that getting back together in person and having these connections was like a warm hug and I thought that was so cool, because after a few years of challenges and hardship, we do need some warm hugs. And I know that doesn’t come without challenges as well. We live kind of in a world now where there is hybrid learning and hybrid events and it’s getting to that audience and really understanding what their needs are. But I think one of the coolest things is associations have this amazing ability to adapt and be flexible and remain nimble and that’s really when those are going to be sustainable into the future.

Justin: So you’re a big fan of hybrid, you don’t feel like there’s one way or the other. Have you noticed a change with members leaning a little bit more into some virtual or has that changed?

Angela: I have to give Steve a shout-out. Good job, Steve. Yes, Max. Love him. Yeah. So have we, repeated that? And I’m sorry I got distracted. I was excited.

Justin: Well, you and I have talked a lot about, and in our industry or for what you and I do, we don’t always have to be in person that we can use these tools to connect with our members and our people, but we don’t have to be in the room. But it is a delight to be in the room, but we don’t have to be in it all the time. So my question is, there was a lot of pushback in meeting virtually. Are you a warm-up to that?

Angela: Yeah, absolutely. And everyone’s preferences are going to be personal. There are a lot of times where it’s, do I want to leave my home office where I’m comfortable? What do I value? What is my work saying that’s valuable? What do I need? And to me it’s all about those personal connections and I have a more authentic, genuine connection in person and I want to be conscious of our members and empathetic towards their needs and their wants. So although in-person is hopefully coming back stronger than ever, we are still trying to curate those connections online. And I will say even a LinkedIn live platform like this, Justin, I think it’s very innovative and very creative and I love this chat here because I’m still able to make connections virtually where we might not have been able to do that a few years ago.

Justin: We learned early on after the pandemic when we moved everything virtually, just the power of the chat function and to gather so much information quickly and digitally and to be able to export it. But also there was a lot of people in the room that weren’t a huge fan to speak up, but they would speak up in chat and share their thoughts, their ideas. So it was nice to get more ideas in sometimes a lesser amount of time and without us taking notes. So that was a big win for us. And speaking of a win, what’s a big win for you right now recently?

Angela: So that is one thing that my coach has told me too is that you need to find a win every day. Small wins add up to big wins and small changes can equal success over time as well. So this is my win for today. This is my first LinkedIn live, so thank you for inviting me. But I would say a recent win is through transitioning into this leadership role, I really was hard on myself that I don’t know this side of the business, I’m not sure about this. And I had to really stretch my confidence muscles and I really had to build them and I dove in head first and said, I want to know the inside out of this business. I want to know every piece of it. And although I might not have all those years of experience or skills that I want to be totally polished, what I learned about myself is that I have the ability to learn it all and it was all about my mindset.

Angela: And recently I had a board meeting and was doing a presentation that yes, I lost sleep over it. Yes, I put way too many hours thinking about it. But when I got into that room, something came over me and it became just, this is Angela, this is you, this is your platform now go be you, go authentic and just crush it. And I was practicing to my very sweet audience at home of a seven-year-old and a 10-year-old. And my 10-year-old said, “Mommy, stop flubbing your words.” And I was like, Oh, they are tough critics. And then my little guy said, “You have a weird job.” And then my 10-year-old said, “Just like you told me, mom, you have it here now you have it here.” And it was just a good lesson that you know, have it in your heart and now you just have to believe in yourself and go after it. And that’s what I did. So that was a win for me.

Justin: That was a huge win. I serve on the board for associations north and that was probably one of our best board meetings that we’ve had in a very long time to have Angela just really dig in. And this goes back to that determination that I shared with you in the very beginning. There are a lot of things that she was thrown at that had to jump in and learn very quickly in a very short amount of time and come back to us with where is she going to take the organization and how can we help? And it was a primo presentation. The confidence and I would say the excitement and joy that you shared was so evident and allowed all of us to bring you back a little bit and prioritize some of the things that you were bringing to us. So we got to do what we need to do as a board. And that was a big win for all of us, Angela.

Angela: It was. And one thing about me, for those of you who don’t know, is one of my greatest strengths is my passion and my enthusiasm, but my greatest weakness is I don’t have any patience. God did not give me any patience and I want to go take these ideas and this passion I have and I want to go, but then I have to remember that time and resources are not always on your side and I need to just go a little bit slower. And recently I had a member tell me, Angela, just go slow to grow. And I was like, thank you for saying that because again, no patience, but a ton of enthusiasm.

Justin Bieganek: Oh, I don’t know how to I’m totally with you on that one. Patience is, that’s a hard one. I think that’s a sign of a leader also where you’re like, we got to keep going, keep going. And you’re a visionary, so some of the little stuff there is like, well God, do I have to do that, right?

Angela: Yes. I can go from A to Z, I have an idea and I can see it from inception to delivery. And it’s like, all right, here we go. And then I need my logistical people to say.

Justin: That’s a shout-out to my team right there.

Angela: Yeah. They keep me in check. I love it. Yes.

Justin: What is a challenge that you are facing or the association you’re maybe seeing is facing?

Angela: I took a couple of notes, I have to take a peek at this. I think future proofing your association is something that a lot of people are looking at right now. The fabulous Mary Byers gave us a quote the other day that COVID has given us a tailwind to really look at your organization and maybe there are things that should have changed a long time ago and now you have a reason to change them and don’t go back, create your next normal, create your new normal. And I would say that building your sustainable future is a challenge for some organizations who maybe haven’t looked at all the sides of the business or maybe their staff or their culture, but I also think that they are learning and growing and that the future is bright, that they are trying to make sure that they stay progressive in that area, because staffing and talent is an issue too and a challenge, but they’re learning how to retain them and that associations are more than a career and we’re more than just a paycheck.

Angela: It’s mission-driven work, and you can make a difference in so many people’s lives, and quite frankly, you can meet some fabulous people. This community is pretty spot on. And the other thing I would say is the accelerated digital learning and opportunities out there, delivering information is in a second. It’s kind of that Amazon, we want our products now how we want them when we want them, and prime it to me, where a lot of organizations are having to look at their business model and say, how am I delivering this information? How do my members want to receive it? And what enhancements or changes do I need to make in order to keep that value there?

Justin: So the pace of technology, I think we can all agree. Is there software or an app that you’re using right now that is helping you in the organization or just helping you personally? I know I threw that one at you right now. That wasn’t on the list, so…

Angela: I don’t know. Do you have one? Give me something to spur my ideas here.

Justin: Well, Google tasks. I live by it because that’s where I dump all of my ideas in and it’s sort of like the catchall and then filing them and that’s easier for me.

Angela: Oh, you don’t use the traditional notes app on your phone?

Justin: I don’t.

Angela: Okay. I guess I need to do that. I don’t have a technology or software, but if anyone has any recommendations, I would love to hear from you because that would be wonderful to have.

Justin: Guests, I think that’s a great opportunity. Well, what’s your favorite app that you’re using right now? Whatever it is, personal or for the business. How do you step away then, Angela, with everything that you’re doing and either take time with your family and friends, what’s your trick?

Angela: You have to make it a priority. I’m only as strong as I can be when I take time for myself. And recently I’ve picked up the wild crazy sport of golf, but I’ve chosen that because I’ve missed some of the connections I had with my girlfriends and family and I found that I become a much more whole person at the end of the day when I can step away from the grind. And I even step away from family life sometimes and focus on me. I do try very hard to turn off work and go be with family and friends. I know just even last night you and I were texting and I was like, ah, got to go do a dinner, it’s kiddo time. And I really mean that because these days are short, these years are even shorter, and I don’t want them to pass by and family and friends are my number one priority so I want to make sure that they know that too.

Justin: That’s beautiful. Yes. And you still didn’t get back to my question that I asked you about on text, so I’m kind of mad about that. Totally kidding. I’m totally kidding. What did somebody say, there is no work-life balance anymore. It’s work-life guardrails. So just sharing something I heard, which kind of clicked to me and made a lot of sense.

Angela: Look at all these resources really quick, Justin.

Justin: I know. How are we going to roll back and figure out what questions to ask? So this is fun. A couple more questions everyone, and then we’ll get to my questions for Angela first and then we’ll get to the Q&A. If you had all the money and the resources to do whatever you could to move the organization forward and just snap your fingers, what would that be? What would that look like?

Angela: That is a great question. Sometimes you have to ask yourself where do I start? I’m a big believer in technology. I love innovation, I love new ideas and I do believe that there is a way to mirror and to match the innovative ideas in technology to better serve our members, to customize it based on their needs and to deliver a product that is something perhaps my skills or staffs skills don’t have to deliver where it only enhances our work and it doesn’t take away from it, but it brings us stronger product to the member. Big fan of technology.

Justin: I’m seeing some consistency stitching through there. So one of my last questions is, is there one piece of advice, and I know when I ask you one, you always have seem to have a little more than one. So is there one piece of advice that you could give to our guests and leaders out there about anything?

Angela: Always find a reason to smile. I’m working really hard at that because there really truly is always a reason to smile and I work hard at that because I do love my job and it’s amazing when you can make an impact in somebody’s life, what it means. I also grew up in a household that life is about choices. And I just saw my dad this morning and he was talking to me about that. And I just want everyone to know that happiness is a choice and it’s work, it’s life, it’s the job you’re in, you can reach out to your community, you can reach out to your friends. You have a choice in all these matters that you have facing us right now. I would also say keep growing. Don’t rot, stay green. That is probably one of my most favorite ones. And in my coaching, one of the things they’ve always said is never outgrow feedback.

Angela: It’s something that will always keep those conversations and those communication loops going and just never outgrow feedback. It could be as simple as once a month asking your board or your manager or your leader to say what is one thing you want more of and what is one thing you want less of? It doesn’t have to be a big evaluation template, a big conversation. It can be a quick email once a month, What do you want more of or less of? Or there’s another format to do it where it’s one thing you want to start, one thing you want to stop and one thing you want to continue. And that’s one thing I think will always continue to make us develop and grow into the best people that we can possibly be.

Justin: So, everyone, Angela did not see how I described her in the very beginning and I’m feeling really good how I described her. She’s sort of just falling right into that determined smile to tackle. There is a fire in Angela’s eye and always a smile no matter what is happening. So I’m again joyful to have you share all that. Now I forgot what I was going to ask. There was something on top of that. It was coming back to community. I’ll come back to that shortly here.

Angela: I threw you off. This is good. This is our natural energy.

Justin: That’s okay. That’s okay. Firing round and here it is. Top industry podcast you’re listening to and why?

Angela: Yes. Let’s see here. Successful Associations Today with Mary Byers. She has one of my favorite industry gurus. She’s very innovative and makes me think future. I also like Raising Good humans by Dr. Aliza. This is not an industry one, but I need to raise good humans because I do believe that if you’re going to be any kind of human, be kind, and I want my little people to be raised that way. I also am a big sports fan, so in my personal life I really do like to step away and a non-work related podcast helps fill my bucket. So I like to listen to Let’s Go with Tom Brady as well as Games with Names, with Julian Edelman. It’s my release and my creative just outlet to think elsewhere.

Justin: Again, one, I don’t know, but there are so many. I love it. Favorite book you were reading. Hey, I remembered what I want to go back to because you just a lot described about your people and your little humans. Again, I love that you’re just talking about community in a bigger sense. It’s your family, it’s your friends and looking out for them. So I appreciate that. Favorite book you are reading?

Angela: Anything Mercer Mayor and Little Critter. All day long.

Justin: What song are you playing most right now? And tell us why. What on repeat?

Angela: I have too many… “I Like You” by Post Malone. 

Justin: And last thing, what do you do to unwind and to actually cut from all the digital strings?

Angela: Golf. I tried to keep it to one word. I like to enjoy life. I realized early on when I had a loss in our family that life is very short and it is to be celebrated and it doesn’t have to be anything big or grandiose, and sometimes it’s the smallest things that matter the most. And so I do work hard at that. And my husband and I are CEOs of Kisskeys Incorporated and our employees are these two little boys that mean the world to us, and we can’t keep this company going if we don’t focus on ourselves and us as parents in order to make them successful. So we try to live by that every day.

Justin: I think that could be a future book, Kisskeys and Co. Your kids could illustrate.

Angela: If anybody has a book on how to get brothers to like each other and want to play with each other and not fight all the time, I’m open to that.

Justin: I had three older brothers, I don’t know if they’re watching. Do you have any advice?

Angela: I know. I think someday they’ll realize it. I know Betsy, my girl, she’s got three boys. I need to chat with her. It’s just life. It’s life.

Justin: Alright, I’m getting our cue. We’re at 30 minutes and one second. Look at us, Angela. All right. First question is going back to Cassie. Angela, when we’re all stretched and understaffed, what recommendations do you or do we both have for cutting through the clutter to make those connections with our members and also convincing them to take the time for those personal connections themselves. We all know it’s important, but how do we prioritize? So Angela, in short, how do you get members to also connect with individuals that are important to them?

Angela: I try to lead by example. Personally, when I get an invite for a coffee or a connection, I don’t like to say no because I feel every connection that I make could be the next idea. I could connect them with somebody who could make a difference in their life or they can make a difference in somebody. And I say yes and yes I can meet you now or yes I can do this later or why don’t we try this? I do try to look at where I’m at in my world for work or personal and say, is there something that’s an immediate need that I need to answer? Or is this a future possibility that I don’t want to let go? But I also feel that all conversations can lead to learning.

Justin: Awesome. I would recommend everybody here to cut through the clutter, pick up the phone. Chat has been, or just texting has been very successful for me and many of you who know me, I love animated gifts. So if there’s any way I can help someone feel better or get in touch with them and have a little bit of fun and make them smile is to do that. But there’s too many ways to communicate digitally and if you can just pick up the phone and actually get them on the phone, you can get so much done in a short amount of time. Plus that emotion comes across in your voice. So that would be my recommendation, Cassie and everybody is pick up the phone. It’s a little old school. And also when you said how do you help them get there? I think just listening also and seeing where they’re at and pulling them away from their work a little bit and being their friend, just listening to them when you can. Next question, Steve wanted to know Angela, what knowledge gap, personal or professional are you devoting time to fill? So what’s the one thing you’re working on?

Angela: Oh, this is great. I will go with a professional route. There is a list a mile long of things that I would like to fill, but right now I am reading and learning about a business model and operation system traction. I do feel that accountability and tracking what we do in the next 90 days to reach a larger goal or mission is really important. So I am spending time to work on that piece of the business. I would also say I’m taking a diligent effort to work on the business and not in the business. However, it’s kind of a catch-22 because I’m working so much by working in the business that I can help apply to working on the business. So right now it’s really an operational efficiencies piece for what I’m going after.

Justin Bieganek: I would say you are working on the business, Angela, rethinking a lot of things.

Next question. And actually, I saw a little bit, I think Abby and Betsy said they have advice for friendly brothers so you can reach out to either one of them for some help on those bros. Wait, this is hard to move through. Other questions. Nicole, can you fire? I’m scanning, I’m scanning everybody. Angela this is where you could sing if you wanted to.

Angela: Oh, I was actually just going to say I took a few notes for this and I also am in love with “Good Days” by Surfaces and that’s like a very good feel-good song. I recently read a meme and it said if you started your day every day by an impromptu dance party, you would have the best day. And there are so many mornings in this Kisskeys household that we turn on the good old Alexa, I can’t say it cause she’s over here. We just rock out to a tune. So I highly encourage you to try it is start with your day with a little dance party.

Justin: You are full of sage advice, music, dance, art, number one, you’re going to raise some great little kids, little ones, little humans right there.

I was recently listening to John Legend’s new album everyone, which is really good. And there’s actually, it looks like there are two discs to it, so I highly recommend that one for a little musical advice. Are there any questions I didn’t ask you, Angela? Is there anything that you would maybe like to do a shameless plug or a shout-out to this crew?

Angela: Well, one thing I was going to say too is we had talked about this before, but I do, I love ideas. I’m inspired by them. It sparked something within me that is just this power and sunshine and I’m so gravitated towards it. And I just want everyone to know that you don’t have to have just specific time to be creative or inspired and that it really is everywhere. There are a lot of times when I’m driving or I’m at my children’s school or I am in the for-profit world and I just can find an idea and say, how can I relate that back? How can I make a difference? How can I solve a challenge? And that goes back to a huge shout out to a lot of these participants on this call that I have relationships with as members and you all inspire me to keep going and to continue to make a difference. And I just wanted to say thank you for allowing me into your community because you are what makes me smile every single day.

Justin: Thanks, Angela. More questions are coming in for both of us. Where are you going to spend time connecting to community? Is it in events, is it in lunch, networking or is it other? I’ll let you answer first, Angela.

Angela: I think it’s all above because it’s not a one size fits all platform. Some of our members like to be connecting and creating their community in person, but I think it’s just as valuable that we as an association can help curate those connections online, offline. Whether it’s via email, it via chat, and I think it’s up to us to understand our members and their needs to help them have that curated time.

Justin: I would second that and I would say even doing something like we’re doing right now where we can do one-to-many, where we can still make some quick connections and share insights and our thoughts and make some connections and hopefully for some bigger connections. But anytime to have a coffee for me or literally get a phone call, walk around on my headphones and talk to somebody and just catch up and reconnect is some of the ways that I like to re-share, and happy hours as I also like happy hours most people.

Angela: It’s kind of like today for instance, one of my best friends is a teacher and she’s going through conferences and anybody who knows the education world conferences are very challenging. So I don’t have time to talk to her right now. And I sent her via Venmo, just a best friend latte and I just said, teacher appreciation, love you. That’s it. And you want to know what, when she hasn’t minute to text me, it’ll be the best way to connect and keep that community going.

Justin: So you brought up something that I was taught as a youngster from my mom, a handwritten thank you note goes miles. And I know Angela, you do that a lot and I love to receive them, I like to send them, but you don’t even have to do a handwritten note that can go into text now. And even knowing where people’s address are is a little more difficult sometimes. So again, an email or a text as is one way to connect.

Justin: Christine, you have a question for me, how do you provide a variety of entry points to your association for people who don’t join or engage? How do you personalize that experience to make membership compelling? That really comes back to coming to the heart of your organization and really uncovering what’s the one thing you do better than any other association or organization or anything that you’re competing with. And being able to share that story simply so those non-members or prospective members or members who maybe have left can realign or if they’re a prospect, align with your organization because they have the same beliefs now. They see your story, they understand what you do, and they can connect and want to be part of that organization or part of that bigger community. So it’s distilling your organization down to a word or two that others can really connect with and be a part of.

Angela: Justin, I have to share, this is what I mean by a handwritten card, like this card storage in the Kisskeys’, and I will let you know that even my seven-year-old knows how to write a card and say, Thank you grandma for my birthday present. And this is a lost art, but let’s bring it back everybody.

Justin: I agree. It is a lost art and a very effective art. And honestly, if you have a piece of paper and a crayon or… sharpie, everyone, you can do wonders with it and don’t overthink it. Just work from the heart.

Angela: Yeah, absolutely. What is a crunchy culture? Can someone help me with that?

Regina says, How do you turn a crunchy culture into a more professional environment? Is a crunchy culture where we’re crunching numbers, crunching time, where we’re all about get done, get done, get done. Is that a crunchy culture? I would love to know more.

Justin: We’ll let Regina come back to that one. Ingrid Christensen, let’s talk about trust. What are some things you do to cultivate trust with your team? I was just talking about this yesterday at Pure Genius. I think it is, trust is so hard to get to, but it’s so important. And you first have to trust yourself as a leader and be open and make mistakes and let them see you make mistakes and just be honest where you’re at. But helping them in their job and helping them become better humans, better at their job, but also getting out of the way. Give them a project, give them some direction, give them maybe some guardrails and then help them just get out of the way. Let them solve it. them come back to you or your client and take that ownership and they’re going to grow immensely and they’ll constantly scale and that just allows you as the leader to be alongside and smile and see that growth and know I don’t have to, they got that. And that’s just you being a really authentic true leader first trusting yourself and then trusting them and get out of the way and be there to support and take down barriers as need and solve problems together. Angela, how would you answer that question?

Angela: I think that’s great. One thing that I’ve always appreciated with creating and generating trust is repetition, is repetition in behaviors. And I’ve always been told that you get the behavior you reward. You reward bad behavior, good behavior, even with my kids, if I tell them three times to put their shoes on, I’m rewarding them on the third time, not on the first time. So it’s all these valuable lessons and it is, it’s trust, it’s empowerment, it’s support, it’s that having the back, it’s allowing them to have the freedom to do them and be them, but at the end of the day, support them as well.

Justin: And laughing and smiling, figuring things out and being adaptable and nimble and creative problem solvers. And also ask really good questions as a leader, ask, just don’t solve things. Ask better questions. And I can go on for days about that to be honest. So Regina is coming up saying crunchy is unhappy or attitude and I’m just going to take crunchy as in I think people are still on edge. I think there’s still a lot of fear, especially I’m seeing that with a lot of other leaders and crunchy just being, it’s bumpy. I think it’s going to be crunchy and bumpy for a while, Regina and everyone. But it’s our jobs to take that crunch down and to smash that crunch. And I would say hit something head-on. If you’re seeing something that you don’t like and have a good maybe hard conversation about whatever it is that I will just call it crunchy that you’re not digging and hear that other side authentically as well and try to understand where that person’s coming from or that group is coming from and hopefully coming out of it with something smooth, to bring out the crunchy there.

Angela: Crunchy culture- it starts with the culture. It’s something’s broken. Is it the leader? Is it the values? Is it the team? What behavior are you rewarding? Like Steve said, don’t reward dysfunction. Perhaps there are some broken pieces here that we can learn through and create. Whenever I hear the word crunchy, I either want to be crunchy or smooth peanut butter. So maybe…

Justin: So I guess what Regina’s saying is she probably likes creamy peanut butter too. Seeing a little bit more of your comments, Regina, I believe you’re also asking like there’s a sloppiness maybe and a lack of professionalism. That’s a tough one. But I think we all have to address the part and represent, and again, influence those that we feel could maybe do better or dress a little better or represent the organization or whatever they’re serving in the appropriate way. Could be a, just don’t watch it. Like say something, be kind and be helpful. Just don’t be passive is where I would go with that one.

Justin: We are just about at time and I want to be very respectful of everyone’s time. I am delighted, absolutely delighted with this. This was super fun. Wait, there’s one more. Give us a few words we can use as a connection starter in person. Oh, just moved. On LinkedIn, wherever. Oh, Sherry, that’s coming from my team. Just be real. If whatever’s coming to your mind, have fun with it and ask, I guess ask yourself and how would people describe you in a word or two? And maybe just have that conversation with a bunch of people. Shoot off an email and see what everybody says and see what one or two words really stick and use that as a jumping-off board to be your opener in LinkedIn or your opener, wherever it may be.

Up next month will be Angi Farren, President and CEO of UMACHA. Angela, thank you for being here and being open and sharing all the things that you’re learning on your journey. We are super proud of you. I’m just delighted to have you as a great friend. And that’s it, everybody. So we’re going to say farewell, goodbye, and good luck everybody. See ya later.


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