Faulty Governance Models Can Obliterate Your Conference

This is what it would be like if the highway was your playground ;)

Does your organization have a permission-withholding culture or a permission-granting culture?

One of those cultures is empowering, healthy and life-giving. The other is stifling, frustrating, dysfunctional and can annihilate your conference success.

Unfortunately, I’ve found that more organizations have permission-withholding cultures. They foster three characteristics: bureaucracy, control and mistrust. These three dysfunctions disempower leaders and can crush a conference.

Tollbooth Frustration: Permission-Withholding

Recently I was in the Washington DC/Northern Virginia area.

I arrived during rush hour. Both my driver and I were extremely frustrated at the traffic’s slow pace and maze of tollbooths.

All cars had to stop or slow down at every tollbooth. Besides being a waste of time it is incredibly inefficient.

Too many organizations use a tollbooth mentality for their conference planning process. They have tollbooths where conference organizers and their teams must get permission, funding, agreement and buy in to change or move their conference forward. These permission-withholding cultures come with a high cost: wasted time, lost opportunities, mediocrity, stagnation, disloyal and no repeat customers, frustrated leaders and fatigued staff teams.

Hat tips to T. J. Addington for this brilliant analogy that I remember every time I go through a tollbooth.

15 Questions To Uncover Your Conference Governance Model

Here are 15 questions to uncover your organization’s decision making process when dealing with conference planning and implementation. Think about your conference planning team, your leadership and your governance system as you answer each question. These questions have been adapted from author Addington’s writings about leadership, governance and high impact boards.

1. Are you ever frustrated by the pace of decision making for your conference planning process?

2. Is it necessary to get approval from more than one group in order to get something done?

3. Do you ever find your leaders, board, committee members or staff revisiting issues you thought were settled?

4. Is there confusion, conflict or tension regarding the role the membership, volunteers, leaders, board, staff play in decision making?

5. Does your conference planning committee and/or board have a clear job description and understand its responsibilities?

6. Does your conference planning committee and/or board spend more time managing day-to-day activities than thinking, planning and strategizing for the future?

7. Can you identify the vision for where the conference is to go and is this a shared dream of your conference committee, board and its leadership?

8. Does your conference planning team (staff and volunteers) align with clear annual goals and plan?

9. Are you frustrated with the number of conference decisions that must go to various committees, leaders and the board for approval?

10. Does your board and conference planning committee exhibit a high level of unity and relational health?

11. Do your organization’s governance model, structure and bylaws hinder rather than help leaders make timely decisions?

12. Does your organization have a process to find the best leaders for your conference planning team and board?

13. Do you believe that your organization is maximizing its mission impact?

14. Is there tension or confusion between staff, the board and volunteer leaders over who is responsible for what?

15. Are your conference volunteer leaders good at strategic thinking instead of micromanaging the execution of your conference?

The Results

Give these 15 questions to your board, conference planning team and staff. Discuss the results and questions together. That conversation will help you identify your organization-leadership paradigm that may need to change to maximize your conference mission impact.

A perfect score, a permission-granting culture, answered:
• Yes to: 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13 and 15
• No to : 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 11 and 14

What happens to your conference planning and implementation if you failed the majority of the questions listed? What will it take for your organization to have a paradigm shift with the conference decision planning process?

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