No Drama Needed: How Emotional Intelligence Creates a Positive Association Culture

Line Drawing showing symbols of Emotional Intelligence

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Cropped Version of Madison Wallace Profile Pic
Cropped profile photo of DeLaine Bender

Madison Wallace and DeLaine Bender CAE


Picture this: You’re newly elected to an association Board of Directors. You were thrilled to be elected to this leadership position and eager to contribute to the success of the association, but you quickly realized that your ideas weren’t being heard or valued. As a result, you started to feel disengaged and wondered if this was the norm for all Boards or committees.

This scenario illustrates a negative culture that is all too common. Poor communication, lack of trust, and conflict are contributing to an environment that leaves Board and committee members feeling undervalued and disengaged. And the consequences can be significant, such as decreased engagement, retention rates, and a negative reputation.

So, what’s missing in this scenario, and what steps can leaders take to create a more positive culture?

In an association setting, leaders are often very passionate about the organization and its cause – which can sometimes lead to conflict. The key to successfully managing that conflict and creating an environment of members who feel valued, respected, and engaged is emotional intelligence. Considered a fundamental element of executive presence, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions, as well as understand and respond effectively to the emotions of others.

A high level of emotional intelligence helps leaders communicate effectively, think rationally, and be more attuned to the perspectives of others, which contributes to a positive culture, higher productivity, enhanced teamwork, and better outcomes. By modeling healthy emotional intelligence practices, association leaders can more effectively govern the organization and play a significant role in the personal and professional growth of others, making it a crucial skill to develop in life.

If you’re experiencing a negative association culture, don’t despair. There are actionable steps you can take to improve emotional intelligence and create a more positive environment. Let’s explore some specific ways to improve emotional intelligence within an association culture.

Actionable Steps

1. Get to know yourself

Before you can understand others, you need to understand yourself. Take a long, hard look in the mirror and recognize how your emotions affect your thoughts and behavior. Reflect on how you’ve reacted in the past and how those reactions impacted the situation—for better or for worse. Then, use that self-awareness to be more thoughtful and measured in your future responses.

2. Mind your mindfulness

Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help you manage your emotions effectively. Take a break from the chaos of daily life and practice mindfulness techniques like meditation or deep breathing exercises. When you feel yourself getting worked up, bring yourself back to the present moment and focus on your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations to avoid reacting impulsively.

3. Walk a mile in their shoes

Empathy is key to understanding and connecting with others. When someone shares their thoughts or feelings with you, listen without judgment. Show them that you care about their well-being, respect their point of view, and will support them when they need it. And most importantly, be open to their constructive feedback.

4. Lead by example

Effective communication starts with you. Pay attention to your verbal and nonverbal cues, like your tone, body language, and eye contact. When someone is speaking, give them your undivided attention, avoid interrupting, and ask clarifying questions to help you understand their message. Summarize key points to ensure you both understand each other.

5. Keep your emotions in check

We all have triggers that can send us into a tailspin. The key is to recognize what those triggers are and develop coping strategies to manage them. Think back to past experiences that left you feeling reactive or out of control. Identify negative beliefs that contribute to those emotional reactions and replace them with positive self-talk and rational thinking.

Improving emotional intelligence is a process that takes time and effort. Be patient and consistent in your efforts. You may also find value in seeking out support from a trusted friend or professional mentor in whom you see a high level of emotional intelligence. Enhancing your emotional intelligence will strengthen your effectiveness as a leader, contribute to the success of your association, and heighten your executive presence. Start implementing these tips today and watch your association culture thrive!


About AMR Management Services

If you are looking to enhance the executive skills of your association, AMR Management Services is here to help. We specialize in association management and offer a range of services, including strategic leadership support, to help you achieve your goals. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you take your association to the next level.

Cropped Version of Madison Wallace Profile Pic
Madison Wallace
Project Coordinator

Degrees and Credentials:
Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communication from Morehead State University and a Master of Arts in Communication

Association Management Professional Since:

What inspires you about your work?
I enjoy collaborating with committees and team members to create worthwhile projects that meets the evolving needs of the members we serve. It’s inspiring to work alongside such dedicated volunteers who are striving to move their industries forward.

Cropped profile photo of DeLaine Bender
DeLaine Bender CAE
Vice President of Client Services

Degrees and Credentials:
Certified Association Executive (CAE), Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Oklahoma

Association Management Professional Since:

What inspires you about your work?
In my career, I have been blessed to work with some amazing, inspiring association leaders, who have become mentors and friends. I also enjoy the challenging, ever-changing environment of associations, and the sense of fulfillment in having made a difference in a profession or on an issue.

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