By Oyango A. Snell
CEO and Executive Director
Early in my career as an association leader, I learned a valuable lesson: Always have a member or member-led committee or board between me and a final decision. While lobbying on a tough issue in the North Carolina Legislature, I took a stand on a matter and was met with success. But the process of achieving victory was bumpy, and I should have considered the impact on one of my key members. That was an epic failure on my part. I may have won on the issues, but I had to repair and build back trust with some of my association members.
Some may view member-led decision-making as a negative form of micro-management. I view it as a process to seek member buy-in and increase engagement. Member engagement is core to the long-term success of CLA, and this mindset is embedded throughout our newly adopted strategic plan. Without our members and volunteer leaders, our association would not exist. In fact, the primary focus of any association, especially a professional membership association like CLA, is, and should always be, the interests of its members.
Throughout my 15-plus years of association management and leadership experience, I’ve learned that in order to succeed as an association, staff must be member-driven, but also empowered. The two are not mutually exclusive. An association’s professional team must keep the members’ interests at the forefront of their scope of work. However, member leaders must also empower, trust, and provide strategic guidance to the professional team and allow lanes for execution without micro-managing the process.
To that end, I hope you’ll consider how CLA can increase and enhance your engagement. In the coming weeks, you’ll be receiving several survey requests to solicit your feedback and guidance. It’s important that you share your insights with us so that we can expand our operations, increase our membership, and enhance our member engagement. Your feedback is extremely vital to the success of our strategic plan.
If we are to be the premier bar association of choice for California attorneys, we must have strong sections, committees, engaged members, and customer service-oriented professional team members that work together to execute CLA’s strategic goals! And guess what? We have all of this and a bag of chips!