When it comes to association involvement, 80 percent of success is just showing up
By Travel Buyers Think Tank, Rosemary E. Maloney
We are all talking about why you should get involved with the industry associations this month here at the BTE Think Tank, so it is the perfect time for me to not only bring up why but also the how. If I am being honest, I am way too involved. What has started as a hobby has taken over my entire life. My current roles include being a co-chair for the GBTA Ladders Program, President of the New York City Chapter of GBTA, and President of the Chapter Presidents Council of GBTA (with this role you have a seat on the GBTA Board of Directors). It’s a lot…some might even say too much (I’m the “some” saying this).
How do you get involved? At the most basic level, engage with your organizations, whether it’s GBTA or TAMS. Attend meetings and webinars. And vote. So often we are barely making a quorum for voting at the chapters and global organizations, with many leaders getting excited when they see over 25 percent of the members voting.
At the Chapter level, volunteer for local committees, to speak at education sessions, or help coordinate special events like education days, golf tournaments, or anniversary celebrations. On a more global level, applying to a committee gives you an opportunity to provide research papers and education sessions to the business travel industry.
At TAMS (Travel and Meeting Society), you can join their committees, including Community & Engagement, Data, Finance, DE&I, Governance, Innovation & Disruption, Marketplace, Sustainability, Technology, Professional Training & Career Development, Technology, and Verticals. You can also apply to be a mentee with GBTA’s Ladders Program, where you can work with a cross functional team to work on solutions for an industry issue while also building up your network. Anyone can be a mentee in the program – it is not just for those early in their career.
Often I’m asked why I do all these things. Even more often, I get the comment, “I don’t know how you do it.” It comes down to wanting to see change in the organizations that I am a member of. I believed they could be better, and I wanted to use my brain power and resources to help make that happen.
When GBTA was going through tough times in 2020, a lot of my industry colleagues were leaving the association. When they asked me why I was staying I would send them a gif from the show “The Boys.” In this particular gif, the character Starlight says, “If you jump ship and let the [jerks (edited, as that show uses a lot of NSFW language)] steer, you’re part of the problem.” I feel this at my core.
When people who are in it for the right reasons – those who want what’s best for the business travel industry – leave, the ones who remain are those who lead for their own egos. If the leadership is not saying “it’s not about me,” then it’s not the right volunteer leadership for a non-profit organization.
We always need new people to get involved. The best thing that the membership of GBTA has done as a result of the association’s troubles in 2020 was to establish term limits for the board. This is not a knock on any member of the board, rather a truth. People need to cycle out to make space for new volunteer leaders to come in (I realize the irony of that statement based on all I listed in the first paragraph but stick with me).
Those who do cycle off need to learn how to not only set up their successors to be successful before they leave, but also how to support them as an ex-president or ex-chair – avoiding undermining or criticizing publicly or deciding that just because it was not the way you have done it in the past that the actions of the new leader are wrong. This messaging makes former leader taking smack look bad and sends a message to others who may be interested in stepping up to volunteer: Reconsider.
As I start to step away from my roles, I look forward to enjoying events without having a hand in planning them, and instead supporting those who come after me, and providing them guidance that I can offer from having been in their shoes.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a mentor who has done much of this before me and I am so thankful to Jennifer Steinke for pushing me to get involved and providing me with counsel when I’ve needed it. I look forward to the future of our industry and how organizations like TAMS and GBTA can support our industry’s needs. All we need is for you to get involved.