• Board Corner
  • 03.20.19

Self Care and Association Care

  • by Michelle Appel, AIR President

MAppelI’ve been working on self care over the past couple of years, and I know some of you have too. It is hard for many of us to take time to focus on ourselves, to be certain that we are doing the things needed to stay healthy and energized. However, it is important that we do so. We are less effective in our jobs and our relationships when we neglect the basics of self care.

For me, routines and scheduled check in points are vital. I enjoy swimming and feel much better after a swim, but if I don’t put it into my morning routine, it doesn’t get done. Cooking a healthy and tasty meal is satisfying, both for my body and my psyche, but it is often much easier to just pick something up on the way home. Visits with longtime friends or family are deeply fulfilling, yet difficult to wedge into my already full schedule. Sometimes, I just don’t prioritize what I know will be good for me - I get distracted by the long list of things that are on my “To Do” list.

Organizations can just as easily fall into the same trap. We can get so distracted by the daily stuff that we forget the big picture and we forget to take care of the health of the organization. Keeping an eye on that overall health of the Association and on how well it is attending to the “big picture” is one of the things we do as the AIR Board.

Each month, the Board meets - typically via conference call plus three times in person. At the beginning of each agenda is the review of Monitoring Reports - documents written by the Executive Office on a variety of topics related to the overall health of the Association. It is part of our monthly routine - the Executive Office reflects on a topic such as finance or treatment of members and the Board reviews the document and engages in dialog about it. We make sure it comes first - not only because it is required of us as a Board but also because it ensures that the Association stays healthy.  When I first joined the Board, I viewed the Monitoring Reports as a box to check off on the agenda, a necessary evil - in much the same way as I viewed exercise before I got hooked on swimming. But now I see it as “Association Care” - the way in which the Board and the Executive Office work together make sure that AIR has what it needs to be effective.

The Board’s face-to-face meetings provide us the time and space to dig deeper into topics that need to be addressed and to process what we’ve heard from members. We also use that time to learn how to do our jobs as Board members more effectively and to connect with each other and the Executive Office staff. In much the same way as IR offices use retreats for the bigger work of “self care” and “big thinking” the Board uses these two-day meetings to care for the Board and the Association.

As we have come into our last few months of this Board year, I’ve been thinking about what we’ve accomplished. I’ll save the specifics for another Board Corner, but I feel confident we’ve done our best to care for the Association. We have engaged in conversations about what it means for the Association to achieve its goals, to be fiscally healthy, and to treat members and staff well. We’ve used our monthly routine for “Association Care,” and that has helped us to be more effective.