February 2021 From the Executive’s Desk: Being a Board Member

Tips on being an ASPE Board of Directors memberHere’s hoping that my February column finds each of you enjoying a great start to 2021. Please allow me to take this opportunity to express how important ASPE members are to the success of ASPE. I would also like to take this opportunity to express how thankful I am for our members. If you are a member and know others who should be ASPE members, let’s show them the way. Joining ASPE is a life and career decision that will bring numerous benefits.

If you aren’t currently an ASPE member, we would love to have you join ASPE and work alongside our existing members, Board of Directors, Chapters, and Staff to increase our abilities to advance the science of plumbing engineering, improve the professional growth of our members, and safeguard the health, welfare, and safety of the public. Becoming and remaining an ASPE member is one of the best choices you could ever make relative to your individual professional growth opportunities. Also, being an ASPE member is special to the continued growth of our industry and to increasing the visibility of the many talents provided by plumbing engineering professionals.

You may have a desire to become a more functional member by getting involved with one of the many available opportunities ASPE can provide. Have you heard the phrase “Membership has its privileges?” Well, ASPE would like to provide you with the privilege of choosing how you want to become more functional as it relates to being an ASPE member. I would suggest and encourage you to consider functioning as a Chapter Board member and then in the future to consider serving as one of our Society Board of Directors members.

What Is Involved in Being an ASPE Board Member?

Speaking of serving ASPE as either a Chapter or Society Board member, I’ll provide some direction as to what that looks like so you can have a better idea of the requirements and time allotment. I have the unique perspective of serving on the Society Board of Directors for 10 years, which was a valuable time in my career of personal and professional development through invaluable networking and life-long relationship building.

A few years ago, I worked with the then Society President, Mr. Mitch Clemente, CPD, FASPE (currently the immediate Past President), to develop a PowerPoint outlining “The Role of a Society Board Member.” I will share some of that helpful information in this column to hopefully assist you in determining to serve at the Society’s highest level of leadership through your growth while serving at the Chapter level.

Over the years, many first-time Board members have provided the following quotes related to some of their experiences:

  • “I wondered how much time it would take and how much I’d be away from my family fulfilling the obligations.”
  • “The first year is like drinking from a fire hose.”
  • “I wish I had known that the Board meeting is not always where suggestions are made or where the work gets accomplished.”
  • “I wish I’d had a thorough study of Robert’s Rules of Order.”

I’ve also heard the following comment from many Board members over the years: “I’m just a volunteer.” Indeed, but I’ll also provide you with the following factual statement: “A Board member is a volunteer, but you volunteered to do the work.” Many have asked what the Board of Directors works on together as a team. Well, that is an easy answer: everything!

The Society Board of Directors should develop a plan for accomplishing its own work. They should speak as one voice, regardless of decisions and personal opinions. The Society Board’s responsibilities are to adopt policies that give direction to the Executive Director/CEO and Staff, thus enabling them to manage the Society membership. The Board does not execute the policy. The execution of the policy is performed by the Executive Director/CEO and Staff. The Board works alongside the ED/CEO to review, develop, and implement a strategic plan and change it accordingly over the years as needed. The Board also works alongside the ED/CEO to review, develop, and approve an operating budget.

When differences of opinion arise during Board discussions, the entire Board should accept and support the final decisions and be unified in their efforts, which helps make the Society successful and assists in achieving our mission. This simply can’t be accomplished when an individual Board member wants to operate individually. Therefore, when deciding to run for a Society Board position, do so with the mindset of being a proper team member, not a team of one. What does that mean? I’ll explain it with this example: A Board member is elected as an individual, yet not to perform as an individual. When joining a Board meeting, it’s important to leave the “this is about me” attitude at the door prior to entering.

How to Be Successful

It’s important to plan accordingly to attend and participate in all meetings and conference calls. Thoroughly review all materials before each meeting. Focus on bringing innovative ideas and energy, be prepared to engage in discussions and decisions, and exercise independent judgment when votes are taken. Each Board meeting has a set agenda to be covered accordingly. No individual agendas are allowed.

A Society Board member should have an open mind and share their perspective with fellow Board members while communicating openly and with respect to all. As part of the team concept, each Board member has responsibilities and tasks and should work to accomplish those on schedule—again, working together and operating with integrity as a team for the common good of the Society.

To become a successful Board member, here are some important things to remember. Get to know what your role is as a Board member. You were elected by ASPE members, so try to represent their voices and needs. Once the Board makes a decision on an issue, the entire Board should support that decision regardless of individual opinions. Individual votes do make up the final vote of the entire Board, but once that vote has been tallied, the decision should be supported by all. Being respectful of the opinions of your fellow Board members is so important to the overall success of a Board’s term, as many decisions will be made and not all decisions will go your way. Likewise, be respectful of past Board decisions and the hard work and accomplishments of prior Boards. A Board’s authority resides within the group, not with the individuals.

Remember that when giving consideration to becoming a Chapter or Society Board member, a “Respecting the Team” concept is a must for success. The Board sets the tone for the entire Society. Our members and the industry are and should be watching closely. The best way to succeed as a Board is to practice collaboration and respect. Boards whose members treat one another with respect tend to be the most effective, and effective Boards establish a model of collaboration that builds confidence across the Society.

So, as an ASPE member or a prospective member, I hope you will plan to continue your respective growth in the Society to the point of one day deciding to run for a Chapter or Society Board position. Either way, a good Board member begins by being a good member, period.

I recently came across a description of two types of association members. Simply put, one type of member is just focused on receiving. The only thing important to them is whatever benefits they may garner through their membership. The second member is also happy to gain the benefits of being a member; however, they are also interested in being involved functionally in their areas of interest to help grow future benefits for themselves and all members. It’s a concept based on the famous quote by the late President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” The second type of member is more focused on growing and advancing by giving rather than receiving.

In closing, I would like to offer that I find it much more gratifying in most areas of life to give rather than to receive. I consider our industry, and specifically our Society, to be one of those areas where our members would gain the most gratification from their respective membership by giving back rather than seeking just to receive. Many times when someone is focused solely on giving, they in turn become the person who receives the most in the end.

Let’s all work together moving forward by continuing to focus on increasing the benefits of an ASPE membership. We can only be successful through the willingness of each of us to focus on giving rather than receiving.

With that in mind, what kind of member or Board member can you become?

Thanks for allowing me the time to visit with you today through this column in ASPE Pipeline. Thanks for your willingness to give your time and talents to our great Society.

Stay healthy and safe!

Carry on….

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