New Insights from a New CAE

My new weekly column New Insights from a New CAE debuted on SmartBlog Insights this week. Here is the first post.


I’ll be sharing New Insights from a New CAE with you each week here on SmartBlog Insights. Studying for the Certified Association Executive (CAE) exam gave me insight into corners of the association office that I merely peeked into before. It reignited my commitment to and fascination for this industry. Julia Child once said that she loved her job because she learns something new each day. I know what she means.

When I was working at associations, I struggled to find the time to think about the larger issues that we, and all associations, faced. My mind was overloaded by my interminable “get it done” lists – a typical symptom of those who, as the old cliché goes, wear many hats and juggle many balls. I had hundreds of bookmarked posts, piles of magazines, and unread notes from educational sessions. My mind only found the space to wrestle with these challenges while driving, chopping vegetables or before falling asleep. How many times have you scribbled great ideas down on a notepad in the dark?

Imagine the joy I took in simply reading and reflecting during my CAE studies. I had the opportunity to delve deeply into areas that I could only dip into before, and it brought me a much deeper and future-oriented perspective.

However, this new perspective is somewhat tempered by my conditioning – ten years working for trade associations. I know that “what could be” is often sacrificed for the challenges staring us in the face; that what we can realistically expect to get done is based on the limited staff, volunteer and financial resources on hand; and that change, no matter how beneficial, can be challenging. However, I fear that staying stuck because of these challenges prevents us from seeing where we could go, what we could be.

Many of our members are innovative entrepreneurs who have succeeded in starting a business and making their dreams a reality. How can associations capture some of that same spirit and create new 21st century ways of associating? Engaging our members, serving them and bonding them to us?

I believe there are lessons to learn (and inspiration to gain) from many sources, including each other. I’ve written about my CAE journey of learning. It is never-ending. I invite you to suggest topics for my weekly SmartBlog post so that we can get inspired and continue learning together.

Author: deirdrereid

Deirdre is a freelance writer for companies serving the association market, who after more than 20 years in the association and restaurant industries, is enjoying the good life as a ghostblogger and content marketing writer. Away from her laptop, you can find her walking in the woods, doing yoga, going to shows, journaling, cooking, or relaxing in a comfy chair with a good book and a glass of something tasty in hand.

2 thoughts on “New Insights from a New CAE”

  1. Deirdre — “My mind was overloaded by my interminable ‘get it done’ lists – a typical symptom of those who, as the old cliché goes, wear many hats and juggle many balls. I had hundreds of bookmarked posts, piles of magazines, and unread notes from educational sessions.”


    And our member volunteers probably feel the same way 🙂

    I once read some advice to writers that said you should set aside 15 minutes a day (30 if you can manage it) just to focus on writing. Set the time as if it’s an appointment you cannot miss. Then honor that appointment no matter what.

    At a lunch with someone else when your appointment time hits? Excuse yourself to another spot in the restaurant or outside for your fifteen minutes, and write.

    Phone ringing at the appointed time? Let it go to voice mail.

    The point was this: if writing is THAT important to someone, it should deserve this sort of commitment. Or you’re really not serious about it.

    We should do the same for our own professional development, don’t you think?

    If we don’t make time to nourish our own development, it won’t be long before we won’t have anything to give others.

    What you’ve found in the CAE prep is that you must reserve those 15 or 30 or 60 minutes to be successful in meeting your goal.

    Prepping for the CAE or not, we should all set daily appointments with ourselves to cover the tasks you mention.

    Put it on your daily calendar like any other task or appointment. Close your office door and hold all calls.

    How hard is that?


  2. That’s great advice. As an executive director, I would build that into the association culture and staff expectations. Ask staff about what they’ve been reading or learning. Have a sharing spot on the intranet or Yammer. How refreshing that would be. Thanks Ellen for reading and commenting.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: