It’s All in Your Head

If you believe there’s a generational issue, you’re right.
Two Heads With Brain Looking Opposite Side

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That phrase, “It’s all in your head,” reminds me of an observation made by Dr. Wayne Dyer: “You will see it when you believe it.” Dyer wasn’t talking about workplace dynamics but about goal attainment, yet his phrase is as true in the workplace as it is in your personal journey: If you believe there is a generational issue within your association, you are correct, because you believe it to be true.

How do you know if this is what you believe? Look for statements such as:

  1. “They need to pay their dues first (as in, serve in lesser capacities) before they can be considered for leadership.”
  2. “That’s how we have always done it.”
  3. “They’re not interested.”

If this is what you or your volunteer leadership thinks or what your membership hears, that generational issue you perceive is of your own making.

While there are always generational differences, problems happen when generations compare themselves to one another. Worse is when leaders look to someone just like them as a successor, instead of figuring out who the next generation is and how to engage them.

To assess how your association gets members new to the organization engaged, first think about how you engage with members generally. Are there areas of dichotomy due to the influence of generational values? Consider:

  • Education: Does the association value the professionalism and education of its members, or does it use education as a primary source of non-dues revenue?
  • Engagement: How do you measure engagement, and is it an objective metric?
  • Value: Do you need MLS revenue to be in the black? If so, think hard about the value your association—not the MLS—provides.
  • Transparency: Is there staff/leadership availability to the membership in an unstructured environment?
  • Meetings: Do you value members’ time by offering remote participation in governance?
  • Structure: When was the last time the staff and organizational structure was revamped?
  • Goals: How frequently are organizational documents—bylaws, policies, strategic plan—reviewed?
  • Futurists: How does the association stay abreast of national, state and local industry trends?
  • Core Standards: Is meeting this considered a chore, or is it a road map to greater member value?
  • Appreciation: Is the well-being and value of staff as important as that of members?

If you find that your answers to the questions above peg you as a being tied to one set of generational values, there are ways you can “mix it up” and help your staff do so as well.

  1. Establish a reverse mentorship or, as we call it, young professional adviser: We have added a nonvoting position to our board of directors that we fill annually with someone who has caught the attention of leadership.
  2. Encourage engagement: Find members newer to the business who are regularly attending board activities. They may be interested in volunteering and just need encouragement.
  3. Ask more than once: It is said that, on average, you need to ask five times before you get a yes. “No” from a member today is not always going to be a no.
  4. Know that timing is everything: Great ideas can fail if implemented at the wrong time. Reject “we tried it, and it didn’t work” as a final answer. Figure out if anything has changed or needs to change and try again.
  5. Don’t stop selling: Salesmanship is simply a slight modification of these two statements by Dwight D. Eisenhower:

“Salesmanship is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because they want to do it.”


“The supreme quality of salesmanship is unquestionable integrity.”

Finally, listen to what members say, don’t say and how they say it. Also, be open to new ideas. Even if only a small part of a new idea is a good one, it can add immeasurable value and foster generational engagement.

Bob Taylor headshot

Author Bob Taylor, RCE, is CEO of the Grosse Pointe Board of REALTORS® in Michigan.




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