Make sure to ask
Gary Leeper, executive director of the Rocky Mountain GCSA (RMGCSA), believes that if you want future leaders, you need to ask them to serve. The RMGCSA sends a volunteer interest form with membership renewal forms. When a member circles one of the volunteer categories on the renewal form, he or she receives a phone call from either a committee member or Leeper.
It’s important to the Rocky Mountain GCSA that the volunteer experience is a positive one. “One of the first things we do is ascertain a member’s interest and commitment level,” Leeper explains. “For instance, our newsletter committee members are expected to write articles. If a potential volunteer doesn’t like to write, and didn’t realize the writing commitment, it would be a bad fit.”
Eric Gustafson, Rocky Mountain GCSA president and superintendent at Boomerang Golf Links in Greeley, Colo., agrees that board members and staff need to be willing to pick up the phone and call prospective leaders. “I remember when I became involved with the RMGCSA it was because my peers talked me into it,” Gustafson said.
That is one way the RMGCSA recruits committee members as needed. Giving people the opportunity to volunteer is an important way to engage members and encourage them to flex their leadership skills.
Rocky Mountain GCSA Board of Directors top row (L to R): Mike Dahlin; Lance Johnson, CGCS; David Cahalane; Andrew Nikkari; John Madden, Jr.; Steve Sarro; and Nick Di Lorenzo. Bottom Row (L to R): Mike Osley, CGCS; Eric Gustafson; Mark Krick, CGCS; and Scott Phelps, CGCS.
Be willing to change the status quo
Gustafson remembers the day that he had an "Aha" moment regarding leadership. "It was three years ago, and Gary Leeper and I were attending the GCSAA Chapter Leadership Symposium at headquarters. The attendees were learning about leadership and leadership growth," Gustafson recalls. He remembers thinking that there weren't lines of people waiting to run for the RMGCSA board of directors. Gustafson and Leeper talked about what they could do to help grow future leaders on the ride back to Colorado. They decided to rethink how their committees were structured.
"A board member had always been the committee chair in the past. We decided to have the board become liaisons instead. This created a leadership role for a member," Gustafson explains. The board liaison acts like a conduit between the board of directors and the committee members. "Take the golf committee for example. The board might decide they want eight outings in the coming year. The board liaison informs the committee and then turns it over to them to work out the details. Once they have the dates, time and locations nailed down, the board liaison reports back to the full board of directors," Gustafson explains.
This encourages the committee chair and committee members to actually get the work done themselves, instead of relying on a board member or staff. Interestingly enough Gustafson has seen this committee work really pay off in meeting attendance. "When you get more people involved in your chapter, whether it's organizing golf outings or educational events, they are more likely to stop feeling intimidated about attending chapter functions. What's more, they will likely call their friends and encourage them to attend the events they've helped organize," he adds. Gustafson believes that the more volunteers and leaders in an association the more engaged the membership becomes.
The RMGCSA also uses their awards as a way to keep an eye out for potential leaders. "We use our Superintendent of the Year Award nominations as a way to scout out future leaders," Leeper said. "If they've been nominated for this award it's pretty obvious they are a leader in their profession, and they enjoy the respect of their peers. If they aren't involved in the chapter in a leadership role, we'll ask them to consider it."
Gustafson is certain that by having an executive director like Gary Leeper, the RMGCSA is able to recruit and retain leaders. "Gary's abilities have allowed the board to focus more on relationship building with our members. This has really created opportunities for us to encourage people to volunteer. We know that once we have someone interested, Gary will take care of the rest," Gustafson said.
To share your chapter's success stories, please email them to Leann Cooper.