STC (Society for Technical Communication) members received word this week that CEO Chris Lyons will step down. A search for a new CEO will begin soon.
I know a good bit about the CEO’s role and about the search process, having served on the search committee that recommended Kathryn Burton to the STC board of directors in 2006.
In the hope that our society will grow and thrive under its new leadership, I have some advice for the STC members (search committee and board of directors) who will evaluate candidates to be our next CEO.
He or she will be an association professional, aware of the challenges faced by today’s professional societies and up to date on best practices.
Beyond that, STC faces challenges in growth, in membership retention, and in a perception that it hasn’t kept up with the times. So there are certain skills and attributes that I especially hope our new CEO will bring.
Important note: By listing these skills and attributes I’m not implying that Chris or the existing office staff have fallen short in any way. I’m simply looking to the future.
In other words, selling the benefits of STC to members, to potential members, and to the world at large. Ten years ago, when I worked with STC’s leaders to update our strategic plan, we talked a lot about telling our powerful story. I don’t think we ever really succeeded at doing that, but it was — and still is — a good idea. We’re gifted in the art of telling stories, and we have a good one to tell. I hope the new CEO will bring some marketing savvy to add to the gifts we have.
Activating and energizing volunteers
While STC relies on its CEO to provide overall direction and management, and on its office staff to execute day-to-day operations, STC’s backbone has always been its volunteer members — from the board of directors to Society-level workers to individual chapters and SIGs. While STC already has a good infrastructure in place for nurturing and training volunteers, I hope the new CEO will help us become better at finding new volunteers and then keeping them energized.
STC recently relaunched its Certified Professional Technical Communicator program. Anyone who’s been involved in running such a program will tell you that there’s a long incubation period in which it gains the acceptance of practitioners and employers. STC’s program is taking its first baby steps. I hope the new CEO will nurture it and bring it to maturity.
Finding new sources of revenue
STC continutes to rely on membership dues and the Summit conference for most of its income, while striving to make both the dues and the conference affordable. That produces a squeeze: there’s isn’t much money to cover operating expenses, let alone to launch new initiatives and pursue growth. I hope the new CEO will have insights into how associations can tap into other income sources.
STC can have a bright future. In the short term, we’re fortunate to have two outstanding people who’ll step in during the transition: Interim CEO Liz Pohland and Interim COO Stacey O’Donnell.
When you look to the future for STC, what attributes would you like its next CEO to have?