“We have to do a better job in our associations and at our events in building trust and helping people understand that this is an environment where people are interested in what you have on your mind, even if it is contrary or disruptive.”
U.S. Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno, and [one segment of it was watched by] 300,000 people. I never would have projected that would have been the high-point moment.
CERTIFICATION MADE POSSIBLE
You lead a consortium of 200-plus learning leaders, many of whom are chief learning officers of Fortune 500 companies. Please describe this consortium model, and share some of the cutting-edge issues the members of the consortium are exploring. Early on, I decided that I didn’t want to hire myself out for five days as a consultant. I was more interested in building sus- tainable learning communities. My original model was 20 companies, and now, 25 years later, we are up to 242 organi- zations. What we do is really simple:We look at problems that
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we face and explore how we can collaborate to figure out a better way of doing things. Let me give you two existing projects we are working on
now in the consortium. One is about how you get someone’s expertise from their previous job to become an asset to the organization. So we hire Patti, who has great experience in the last company she worked for. How do we get that information transferred to the new company? Put it up on Facebook, on a special site? When you talk to our members—who include people from Microsoft, Intel, IBM, and John Hancock—they are fascinated with doing this. So we are facilitating their thinking. The second one I am working on now, which is an exten-
sion of a trip we just took in China, is how do we get organi- zations to prepare people to work globally? So, if you have someone working in a factory in Shanghai or an office in Thailand, how do you get that person comfortable picking up the phone and talking to a colleague in Brazil or Texas or
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Toronto? Just giving them an email account or a SharePoint account is not enough. We are looking at having our consortium
do things around collaborating. The other thing is that we don’t endorse the solution but we are harvesting the next question. I
am not interested in saying the answer is “put videoconferenc- ing in every facility,” as an example.We think our role is to get at the right question, not necessarily having the right answer. Finally, we have members for 20 years and trust is key. If
you look at the work of Stephen Covey and others, what makes learning most effective is the trust that people have.We have to do a better job in our associations and at our events in building trust and helping people understand that this is an environment where people are interested in what you have on your mind, even if it is contrary or disruptive.
How would you define the kind of trust you are talking about? Trust is a learned competency. I don’t think it is a personality trait. It is the ability to listen clearly, the ability to be a good learner, and, in some cases, a good negotiator. Look, if five friends go out to dinner, nobody has to take notes. If I want to make them laugh, I don’t think it will take me many hours to come up with something funny. Often at meetings there is an assignment in common but not necessarily trust. I actually think you build it. A really good magazine is trusted by everyone. An organi-
zation can get ripped to shreds in the publication and still trust the magazine as a place to advertise. There are models out there for building trust. The dilemma for associations and for conferences is that
we sometimes sell access with a big check, and five years later that company is not paying the check anymore—and their absence becomes a void. The big buzz this morning at a large association event was that this may be Microsoft’s last year [as an exhibitor]. That’s not what the buzz should be about, but rather how their industry is continuing to change the world. We need to position ourselves as trust leaders.
Susan Sarfati served as CEO of the GreaterWashington Society of Associ- ation Executives and was the founding CEO of The Center for Association Leadership and executive vice president of the American Society of Associa- tion Executives (ASAE).A Fellow of ASAE, she received ASAE’s first Lifetime Achievement Award. Sarfati is currently CEO of High Performance Strategies, a firm that focuses on creating high-performance individuals, teams, and organizations to achieve extraordinary bottom-line results, where she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.