I was there, at Leadership Institute. And I am not on the international board right now. I am not just a long-time member, but a very, very long-time volunteer. Which is frankly more than I can say about many of the individuals writing snarky missives about IABC. Even David Murray refers to himself as an “IABC watcher” in his recent “coverage” of the town hall at LI – why don’t you try giving more of yourself David?

I came to LI after many years away because I’m being asked to expand my role on the Southern Region Board, a role I am happy to take on for the good of members, many of whom I call friends.

I found the experience of the town hall to be very positive. The leadership gave open and frank feedback to questions, acknowledged shortcomings and gave me confidence for the future. Unless you are engaged in the association as a volunteer, how can you possibly have a full grasp of the challenges? And how could you appreciate the time other volunteers give to move the organization in a different direction? Let’s face it, most of the IABC experience happens at the chapter level thanks to great local volunteers. But to get the full experience, you have to jump in with heart in hand.

I know how hard change is because I was on the receiving end of the arrows when I and the other US district directors at the time proposed changing the US map to a region structure. Change in IABC is very hard.

Let’s take a closer look at some of David’s commentary.

“…growing unrest…”: Much of this is stirred by a small group, several of whom are not members and nearly all of whom do not volunteer. They fuel the fire with negative commentary rather than constructive, useful solutions.

“…{Kerby’s} shambling style…”: As a former improv artist, Kerby brings a comic and sometimes sarcastic tone I appreciate. This isn’t brain surgery, it’s communication. This type of personal attack is not ok.

“…high failure rates…Russia…”: The high ABC failure rates are global, not specific to those areas. The discussion about areas outside North America and Europe actually focused on needing a different certification approach because the profession is very immature in these areas. My client work in Africa this past 18 months has proven that out for me personally. Moreover, as an ABC mentor, I can confirm how frustrating it is to wait 4, even 6 months for results, and then get marginal comments back. This is due to a lack of qualified evaluators. I want to thank those who have offered constructive concern and suggestions for the program.

“…people…were divorced from the…volunteers…”: Chris was speaking the truth. I quit volunteering at the international level years ago because of the clubby atmosphere among volunteers and the downright antagonistic attitude of staff. Chris is up against a big challenge in this area.

“…Nobody knows anything about IABC…”: Ok, maybe this was a little over stated, but in large part I think Chris is again speaking the truth. I am always amazed how many people I run into who’ve never heard of IABC. I take that as my evangelizing cue. He’s also correct about many organizations not recognizing the bottom-line value of communication. We’ve been talking about that for years, and it hasn’t improved much. Chris also is correct about his lack of accreditation not hurting his career. It won’t hurt you to not have it, but how much can it help you if you do? IABC has never quantified this. Being accredited never helped me much until I became a consultant.

“…It’s kind of difficult to call up everybody…lapsing…”: Communicating with lapsed members should be the responsibility of local/regional volunteers. If the lapsing member was a member of a chapter, that chapter needs to be on point. They get the reports and know who is lapsing. This is not something that should be the responsibility of international staff. The non-renewal rate is a reflection of the economy and a historic mindset that the employer must pay for the value I personally get from IABC. We need to change that member mindset and get chapters engaged in driving renewals. Chapter leaders at LI engaged in productive discussion about how to curb the trend.

In summary, I believe there is a small – and not so merry – band of individuals sabotaging the change effort with negative attacks. I’m sad because I used to count some of them as friends.

As I challenged those present at LI, I’ll challenge those in my broader community to contribute positive and constructive feedback and solutions. Change was overdue, but it won’t come easy. If you don’t believe in IABC, then get out of the conversation. If you do believe and are excited to make positive change happen, then step up, volunteer and give voice to your positive ideas.

It’s too easy to sit on the sidelines and throw arrows into the collective – much easier than being part of the collective in a participatory, positive and giving way. I choose the latter.