You may have noticed that association leaders are easy to criticize. They have hundreds and thousands of people to answer to, but first of all they ask for the criticism by way of any channel of feedback from casual conversations to surveys.
We’ll be the first to say that feedback is absolutely essential to being a great leader, making members happy, and, well, keeping your job. Honestly, as an association leader you probably wish you had more of it... from some people.
But sometimes all that wonderful, helpful criticism can get overwhelming or, more likely, you’re not getting a lot of helpful criticism but a heap of nagging or lecturing instead. A constant stream of negative feedback can have some pretty destructive consequences for association leaders: it can interrupt the transmission of useful feedback, wear on your psyche and general motivation, and at the very worst just being the loudest voice may not actually speak for the general interest of your members as a whole. So how do you deal with it?
As much as it pains me to write this, consider it all. Lightly, perhaps, but do make a conscious effort to listen to every piece of feedback presented. Often a squeaky (repetitive, sometimes annoying) wheel needs the grease of being heard. You also want to set a precedent and reputation for being open and accepting of criticism!
Stand your ground. If an issue keeps coming up, be firm in your decision, but acknowledge that you’ve heard the concern or criticism.
Invite others to join the conversation. Sometimes a fresh perspective or a resounding opinion is all you (or your critic) needs to get out of this cycle.
Be kind to yourself! Constantly hearing negative feedback can definitely be grating, and chances are you don’t get a lot of gold stars (although you deserve them!) Take note of your victories, and make it a point to bring them up to yourself regularly and to your members. A boost in morale all around never hurt anyone, just take care not to get too boastful.
Finally, make sure you and your critic are both on the same page. He or she may not know your limitations, and you may not know exactly what the desires or complaints are. It can be easy to shut out criticism or contradictions, especially if there’s already a communication lapse. A frank, open conversation about the real issue at hand may be just the ticket!
One complaint we hear from association pros is that they run into a lapse with their board when shopping for an AMS. Need some help convincing them to get on board? We have a free guide below to get that conversation going in the right direction!