A SHRM Chapter Leader’s Dilemma: Urgency or Importance?

Being a SHRM Chapter leader is a constant give and take between accomplishing the urgent versus the important. At the Texas SHRM Leadership meeting in Amarillo, Texas this weekend I remembered why.

Cadillac Ranch: Just Outside of Amarillo, Texas.
Cadillac Ranch: Just Outside of Amarillo, Texas.



At work we’re implementing the techniques detailed in The 4 Disciplines of Execution. Because of that, I chose to listen to the audio book on the long drive to Amarillo on Thursday. Not only did I see the immediate implications for my ‘day job’, but perhaps even more so, I saw tremendous opportunity for SHRM Chapters to clarify and execute their most important goals.

At the Texas SHRM Leadership meeting, chapter leaders from all over our state met to discuss best practices, learn about new requirements, and work with state council leaders to solve specific problems.  The work that gets done on behalf of our members statewide and the HR profession as whole is truly something to be admired.

Yet, I found myself repeating a few things to anyone who asked for help or advice: Do more through the power of focus. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a million goals. Focus on a few key initiatives, get them done right, and then move to the next one…

With The 4 Disciplines of Execution still fresh in my mind, and my chapter presidency (SAHRMA 2012) close enough to draw from I couldn’t help myself. I distinctly remember leaving these meetings highly motivated, and with a  long “to do list” of things that weren’t on my radar prior to the meeting!

Back in my day (all of 2 years ago), I found myself overwhelmed managing the day to day operation of the chapter. The same applied to everyone in our volunteer leader roles. We were often overcome by the urgent to the point of not being able to focus on the important.

Did we find ways to overcome day to day operations and get to do really important things? Yes. But we did so at a cost.

We worked extremely hard. We made tremendous sacrifices of our time (both at home and at work) to get great things done. It had impacts on our work, on the people most important to us, and to the general morale of everyone involved. And the cRaZy thing is that our experience is by no means rare!

SHRM Chapter leaders of all stripes make the same sacrifices every day to overcome what is referred to as the “whirlwind” of every day activity so that they can get to the things that make the biggest impact for their members!

It’s About Execution: 

As SHRM Volunteer leaders we have access to tremendous resources like our State Councils, the Volunteer Resource Center, SHRM Chat, and a network of leaders across the country. In Texas, our chapters have stepped it up the last few years and Texas SHRM is as vibrant as any time that I can remember. We’re truly doing amazing things and I’m sure the same can be said across the country.

As I’ve watched us progress, one thing is clear. The challenge isn’t necessarily access to resources and ideas anymore, its execution.

How can our volunteer leaders take that newly extended “to do list” back to their chapters and make it all happen? How can they prioritize that list along with everything else going on in their chapter, and not ignore the things that make the most impact?

On the other hand…

What if everyone was aligned around a few key goals instead of many? What if the simple clarity of purpose this brings could prevent volunteers from burning out? What if by focusing on a few important goals you could build the chapter’s capacity to take on greater and greater initiatives year after year?

I think it’s possible, and The 4 Disciplines of Execution is just one of many ways available to do it.

Here’s what I’m recommending:

  1. Watch the video below and take notes. It’s only 16 minutes long and gives a solid overview of the book. It’s detailed enough for you to understand the key concepts involved so that you can think about how they’d apply in your chapter (perhaps in a strategy session). Bonus: There’s no sales pitch!
  2. Because you can find practically anything on the internet with a simple Google search, read a summary of the book located here.

Make no mistake; the video and the summary are no replacement for the book. The level of detail in the book far exceeds the references above and it serves as the ultimate resource for implementing this in any organization.  That being said, the video and summary is a solid place to get a feel for what’s involved.

Here’s the video. What do you think???


Photo Credit: By Richie Diesterheft from Chicago, IL, USA (Tipping Painted Cars  Uploaded by PDTillman) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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