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Expertise Builds Trust

Expertise Builds Trust

by Melynn Sight

One of the most effective things you can do to develop trust as an association executive is demonstrate a personal commitment to your own ongoing education and professional development. You want your members, leadership, and staff to think of you as an AE who is on top of the latest strategies, trends, and technology in association management.

To do that, you must devote time and energy to continuously developing your knowledge. It’s not enough to simply make the commitment to yourself, though; it’s also very important to let everyone know how you’re dedicated to expanding your professional development to better serve the organization. Your own commitment not only will garner you the respect and trust of your association, but will also set an example for staff, volunteers, and members.

Here are three steps toward building your expertise and trust:

1. Make professional development a priority for you and the association.

First, detail an annual plan for ongoing professional development and present it to your board. Include as goals attaining your REALTOR® association Certified Executive (RCE) and Certified Association Executive (CAE) designations within a set time frame as well as attending NAR’s Association Executives Institute and local events.

If you’re uncertain about what skills you may want, or need, to acquire, NAR’s newly revised -REALTOR® Association Models Online Planning Tool (at can help you self-evaluate. The report this tool generates will detail what skills you need to advance your association.
Also, work diligently to get professional development funding into your annual budget, including time out of the office to attend classes.

2. Take advantage of formal and informal learning opportunities.

Keep checking the AE page at for new programs (webinars, reports, toolkits, etc.) to stay up-to-date on such topics as technology, social networking, and more efficient service delivery.

Take advantage of the online and face-to-face workshops with networking opportunities that are part of the full menu of educational offerings from the American Society of Association Executives (

3. Communicate your new knowledge and skills.

The final step is to make sure that your members and volunteers are well aware that you are seeking—and acquiring—new knowledge on an ongoing basis. Share your progress through short briefings in newsletters, blogs, and e-mails as well as in person.

Your dedication to personal professional development is one of your most valuable assets. As you continue to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to your professional development, your members will look to you as a trusted and knowledgeable leader. You’ll be proud that your association is sought out as the one-stop shop for information.

Must AEs be real estate experts, too?

It’s certainly enough work just to keep your association management skills sharp, but as a REALTOR® AE, you must maintain knowledge of local and national real estate industry developments as well. But must you be expert in both?

For most AEs, the answer is in your job description. Has your board of directors determined that you should be first and foremost the association’s chief administrator or should you be the go-to source for industry information? Certainly the two are not mutually exclusive.

One tip is to devote a set amount of time every day (even just 10 minutes) to reading real estate industry news. Subscribe to the daily news at and a local resource. If you have staff, assign them an industry topic to follow (technology, marketing, regulations, etc.) and have them report weekly.

Melynn Sight is president of nSight Marketing ( As a marketing adviser and consultant, she has dedicated her business to real estate associations.

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