Systematic Excellence Podcast

SE 4: Getting Results For Non-Profits With Joy Duling

Episode Summary

Successfully managing a business is challenging enough, working with nonprofits, trade groups, and associations requires a whole different level of expertise to be successful. It is important to set the right tone to motivate your team members to work towards the end goal, and that’s exactly Joy Duling’s biggest strength. Joy, founder and CEO of The Joy of Membership, has extensive experience in strategic planning, team facilitation, change management and association operations. On this episode she will tell you all about managing and leading teams.

Episode Notes

Managing associations and nonprofit organizations doesn’t have to be a headache every time. 

In this episode, we explore, with expert Joy Duling, everything related to dealing with unmotivated teams, missed deadlines, and even tasks that no one wants to be responsible for.

Joy is the founder and CEO of the Joy of Membership. Since 2005 Joy has served as a trusted advisor for hundreds of associations, trade groups, and membership based nonprofits, twice winning the unsung hero award from the National Association of Women Business Awards, Central Illinois Chapter. She is a national speaker on topics related to member engagement and organizational growth and was Executive Director of a membership-based nonprofit for nearly a decade which achieved annual revenue of $1M exclusively from membership contributions.  

We’ll talk about how to master managing small or large groups, the most efficient way to approach and organize people and actually accomplish goals by deadlines. 

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Episode Transcription

Intro:              00:02 Go behind the scenes with Janine and Amalie seasoned military veterans, as they talk about how to overcome the challenges of leadership, running teams, and coordinating all the moving parts of an organization to accomplish the mission, whether it's 40 pirated vessels, saving lives in combat, helping CEOs lead their companies to victory on the business battlefield, every week Janine and Amalie share insights from their experiences, the leaders they work with, and their guests experts as they dive into lessons learned and successful solutions to real-world business issues.

Amalie:             00:37 All right. Welcome back to our podcast. Today we have a special guest, Joy Duling who is founder and CEO of the Joy of Membership. Since 2005 Joy has served as a trusted advisor for hundreds of associations, trade groups and membership based on profits twice winning the unsung hero award from the National Association of Women Business Awards, Central Illinois Chapter. She was Executive Director of a membership-based nonprofit for nearly a decade and is a national speaker on topics related to member engagement and organizational growth. Joy, we're so glad that you're here with us today. Thank you.

Joy:                01:16 Well thank you for the invitation. It's a pleasure to be here.

Amalie:             01:20 Awesome. So today we're going to talk about how to lead and get buy in from groups or people that aren't your direct reports, but you need to lead them, get buy in from them and really get them to get things done. Right. So do you want to kind of tell us how you work with associations and then that'll give some context around what we're going to talk about?

Joy:                01:47 Oh, sure. So my clients tend to run associations, trade groups, kind of industry coalitions. And a lot of times they have a, a small staff, but they have big work that has to get done. So they'll set up committees and boards and things like that to help them tackle, you know, organizational priorities and those people don't report to them. So one of the things that I do in my role supporting the association is help them figure out how to, how to approach the work, how to organize the people, how to make sure that the committees are actually moving forward and getting work done. Because we've all been part of groups where, you know, the conversations just go in circles and you know, just feels like you're working on the same stuff forever and ever and ever and not actually accomplishing anything. And that's not what we want.

Amalie:             02:46 Right. So one of the things that we had talked about before was working laterally in an organization or as a CEO, being a member on a board and how to lead that group. You know, if you're all sort of, you know, there's, might not be an organizational chart or you know, some sort of leadership, but they do need someone to lead them, in order for the board to accomplish something. So what are the, you know, what are the skills required? What are some of the tactics or strategies you use when you're in a situation like that?

Joy:                03:30 Well, I think that to some extent the skills are the same when you are dealing with people who report to you and people who don't, I think that, there are leadership skills that translate to both of those situations. You have to be able to motivate people, you have to be able to communicate effectively. You have to understand, you know, what's the totality of work that needs to be done and, you know, how can you break it up to, you know, help people make progress. So those skills are exactly the same, but there's a big difference between you leading people who, you know, report to you because you're their boss or you oversee their contract versus people who, you know, report to someone else in the organization or you know, they're volunteers to be part of a community project or something like that. So, I think if you're in a situation where you're managing people like that, you don't, you don't have the same leverage. You can't terminate these people or end their contract. So I feel like the skills that you bring to that situation have to be more deliberately executed. I think you have to recognize that it's a unique situation and it's almost an amplified version of what you need to be if you were working with someone who has to do what you say because you're the boss. Does that make sense?

Amalie:             05:05 Yeah, for sure. And I think that you need a… I mean, I, I believe that you need buy in always, right. You know, from the bottom to the top. But I feel like, I think that it's almost imperative to have the buy-in when you're in a situation like that. Right. Because there, they don't report to you directly, but nothing's, but things won't get done if you don't have their complete buy in to whatever the committee is trying to, to accomplish. Janine, what do you think about, I mean we've probably in military situations worked with, I know I've worked with other people that, you know, other branches of military that weren't direct reports to my, to who I reported to, but we still had to work together and lead the pack. Sort of. Do you have thoughts?

Janine:             05:58 Yeah, absolutely. That, you know, when you have two units working together or you have a team from one unit with a certain specialty assigned to another, that happens because they report to a different chain of command. We had, within my clinic, we had the nurses reported to one, had one chain of command and the doctors' to another and that made for a very strange working environment. Sometimes it was less effective than it could be, but, yeah, Joy that the things you do exactly when people don't necessarily have the accountability, you're really relying on their, their integrity and their motivation and everything else. So yes, when you're...

Amalie:             06:37 Self-motivated, right?

Janine:             06:39 Yes, I imagine. Yes, very self-motivated, very.

Joy:                06:44 This is also where I think that kind of creating a rallying cry for the group's work is really powerful. So if you can find that, that common interest that all of the group members have, that's super powerful. When we initially launch the nonprofit that I'd led for about 10 years at our very first planning retreat, we had about 75 stakeholders in the room and they represented, organizations from across, across 20 counties and you know, different types of organizations. And these people were all there kind of representing their employers. And one of the things that we did when everybody introduced themselves, instead of, you know, them saying their, you know, their name and their job and who they're with, we actually had each person tell a personal story about the problem that we were trying to solve. We wanted them to, just bring something personal to the table. And we spent probably almost an hour of that meeting with everybody just telling their story. But it was such a powerful exercise. I mean, years later, people who were involved in that nonprofit pointed back to that experience at that very first planning meeting as being a thing that like solidified their involvement.

Amalie:             08:17 Yeah.

Joy:                08:18 So yeah, that rallying cry, that thing that everybody can relate to I think is essential. And even if you don't have something like that, you know, maybe you think you have kind of a, you know, just a very ordinary feeling project and it's not, you know, something super inspirational. You can still make it inspirational.You know, maybe you have to put together some sort of report that requires committee work. I like to create, you know, the cover for that report upfront, even before the work is done, just because that visual gives the group something to kind of latch onto. And then they can imagine filling that report with all of the information that they're going to bring together and just gives them something to rally around. So if you can create that with the group, it makes big difference.

Amalie:             09:09 Yeah. And I definitely think the personal story, I think that that makes a difference. I mean, just in sales, you know, people connect with that. And so if they can hear and relate to someone else's story, they're gonna buy in and, and want to be motivated to accomplish whatever you know, is meant to be accomplished by the nonprofit or you know, the organization. So that's great. Okay. So let's say you were just starting out today with a brand new committee and you had to get them to some result, whatever that might be. What's the first thing you would do with them?

Joy:                09:41 Okay, well first thing that I like to point out is that committee work is like water. It's going to expand to fill whatever sort of container you have for it. So as much time as you're willing to give a project, that's how much time a group is going to take. So you have to create a smaller container and sometimes that means dividing the workup to create that...

Amalie:             10:08 Boundaries!

Joy:                10:09 Yes. So that's the first thing you want to know when you're starting a a new group. So, the second thing we've already talked about is that rallying cry and you know, creating that purpose for the group. I would want to pay attention to that as well. And then, you know, the third piece is understanding what the work is that that group actually has to get done. Now when I'm doing committee work, I like to have a result that is achievable within no more than three months. Cause let's say a lot of these committees and with my clients, they're working or you know, they're coming together every couple of weeks, maybe once a month. I like to give them something that's achievable within a, you know, limited block of time and three months feels about right to me. When people are coming together, you know, monthly or a couple of times a month. So, you know, we, we, we set what that end state is and figure out, okay, what are all of the tasks that need to happen in there? That's what most groups do. And they stop there and, okay, this is the work we have to done this, our plan, this is what's going to happen. Week one, week two, I like to take it another layer deeper and actually estimate the exact amount of time each task should take. So this isn't just, okay, we're going to make focus group calls in week three to set up the appointments. I like to say, okay, making those focus group calls, setting up those appointments, that's a task, it's going to take two hours because you know, we've all been in that situation where, you know, we have things on our to do list and it sits there because it feels like it's much bigger than it is. And that sort of thing happens with committees too. You know, they have this little thing that ought to take no more than two hours, but they come back month after month to the check in meetings and they haven't gotten to it yet and haven't gotten to it yet. It's like, “well, if you just sit down and do two hours or you know, 30 minutes or whatever the task would be done.” So....

Amalie:             12:18 I would even go far as far to say that that sort of breakdown needs to happen when you're planning any kind of project because, and then I would even say that you need to apply what needs to happen on those calls, right? Those specifics so that way they know exactly what needs to happen, plan the call, know exactly what needs to be discussed, take note of it. Right. And yeah, for committees, that's what we're discussing now. But those, that kind of detail needs to be done for any project because just because you have a plan, right, listing out some tasks doesn't mean there's action going to be taken on it. Right. You need to take it to that next step and those minute details need to be added for sure. Sorry keep going.

Joy:                12:57 No, no, I completely agree. The other thing that doing that will help you see is whether in a particular week you, you know, realistically have too many tasks packed in there because you know, we're talking about people who don't report to you. They have other jobs, they have other responsibilities and you have to make sure that the totality of tasks that, you know, you're imagining to happen in week three can actually happen in week three and you may have to spread it out. All of a sudden you look at it and go, oh, we have 10 hours worth of work, but your committee's not going to give you 10 hours worth of work in a single week. So yeah, by taking it to that level, it really allows you to start, you know, putting the pieces together, how this work is going to get done within, you know, the 12 week period or you know, whatever you've set for the, you know, total project.

Amalie:             13:54 Yeah.

Joy:                13:55 But then, you know, you can see every week if you're making progress and, it'll give the committee some momentum. So, I mean those are the things I think are really important. You know, when you have a brand new group, and really are important for any group. But especially a brand new one when you're walking in and trying to figure out, okay, how are we going to approach this?

Amalie:             14:15 Yeah. And I think it's really important about how you said that you put a timeframe on it. Because again, for any project that you're planning, I think you need to have an end goal. You know, a date in mind, right. It needs to be on the calendar. It might move and that's fine. That's what I tell, you know, my clients too, when they're planning something, put a date on it. And if it has to move, it has to move, but you have to put it there so that your, you can work backwards to figure out everything else in between that needs to happen. But if you don't put a date, then those things on the to do list just get pushed back and pushed back and pushed back because there's no end date to say, well this is when it's happening. You know? And then you need, like you said, it's like water right. You have to give it a boundary so it can fill that space. But if it doesn't have anywhere to stop it, it's just going to keep going. And then, you know, you're just on this never-ending...

Janine:             15:05 Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. That, that concept is actually called Parkinson's law. I mean, we've all heard it, right. The work expands to fit the available time, but the real genius in what you're doing, Joy is not just doing that for the whole project. Right. But for all the discreet parts and so it can only fill that time for each task, which is awesome. I did have a question. Yeah, yeah. They need that. They need that. But, also what you were speaking to, to new groups, I was wondering, how much you think just the unfamiliarity or just fear of how to proceed, proceed. Just the unknown keeps them in that state of hesitation and coming back with not getting things done.

Joy:                15:48 Well, I definitely think that, you know, the more specific you can be around know, this is the work that needs to be done and you know, what the scope of that work is. I do think it makes it easier for people to, jump in and feel a sense of accomplishment around it. I think where it gets murky and where, you know, committees and groups start losing momentum is when, nobody really feels a direction to the work. You know, group members are just unclear how to move it forward or when they start feeling the work that they're being asked to do is really coming together to the meetings to talk about things and I actually hear this, you know, a lot from my clients because you know, they're executive directors or you know, managers in these associations. And a lot of times when they're running committees, they feel they're the ones who walk away with all of the to-do lists. The committee doesn't actually do much work outside of coming together, you know, to talk about, doing

Amalie:             16:54 That is so frustrating. But that can happen in teams too, in a business, you know, I mean it's the same thing, but probably more so in a committee sense because it's, everyone just comes and talks about it and you know, I love the statement, this is something when someone says, okay, we need to do this. That is one of my biggest pet peeves. Who needs to do it? Don't 'we', me. Okay.

Janine:             17:20 Right, I'm walking around saying,

Amalie:             17:22 I need them to say, Amalie, you need to do this. You know, Joy, you need to do this, Janine, you need to do this. If we say 'we', everyone's walking away and not one person is saying, I'm doing this. That is the biggest problem, and I feel that does happen with teams so much, and committees too, you know, situations like that. Oh yeah, we need to do this. We need everyone talks in this. We, we, we, okay, fine. Say we the first time, but then it needs to be delegated to a specific person and they have to own it. Otherwise no one's going to own it.

Janine:             17:51 Right?

Amalie:             17:52 So, okay,

Janine:             17:53 With 'they' or 'we'.

Amalie:             17:56 I can't, I don't live in that sort of place. I need to know exactly what's going on. Okay. So flipping that question around a bit, what if you had a group that had gone stagnant and seem stuck, they've been working together for a while, they've been stuck on the same conversation without making much progress. What would you do in that situation?

Joy:                18:19 So ultimately you want to get to the same place. You want to be able to get them to a place where they're all working toward, you know, an outcome that, you know, they jointly, are engaged in and committed to. So ultimately you want to get to that same place where everybody knows what they need to do and it's all containerized and that sort of thing. But when you are working with an existing group, you know, you really have to, and this is especially important if you are the new person coming into lead an existing group, but you have to get a sense of, to the group members feel like there's a problem. Do the group members feel like there's lack of progress? Do they, you know, share your sense of that? If they do, your job is going to be a little easier because you can, you know, you can be more comfortable doing a bit more of a shakeup as a leader. So, in that situation, you know, if people are acknowledging that there's a problem here, you can do, I call it kind of a state of the project. Meeting where everybody comes together. You talk about, you know, what's been done, what's currently being done, what needs to be done. You put it all on the table and you have kind of their buy in to create that, you know, that container and you know the actions that are going to need to happen. So, you know,

Amalie:             19:50 But if they don't have that then there might be, might be a tough swim up river.

Joy:                19:57 Right? So if you kind of putting out your feelers and you're sensing this company thinks everything is a okay, but you know, you need to get results and you're not going to get it unless these people start moving forward, then what I would do is break off a piece of it and use the same process that we've been talking about on that piece and then show results with that piece and then expand it as people start seeing that that approach is moving that piece forward quickly.

Amalie:             20:33 What do you use to measure, or to show progress? What would you use or, and how do you kind of report that?

Joy:                20:45 So I prefer to keep very simple because, my clients don't have a lot of time for fluffy stuff. So you know, we create, you know, a very simple report that shows the result that we want the work that's supposed to happen each week. And it's like checking off the boxes is it, is it happening? And, if you find that it's not happening for not able, check those boxes off week after week, then you know, that you need to revisit. But there are all sorts of, you know, project management tools, you know, you can use. But I really find, keep it as simple as you can, especially when you're working with groups that don't report to you because these are people who, even if you have tools for your business, your organization, they may be completely unfamiliar with those tools and you add a whole other layer of complexity when you try to get external people to use your tools. I tend to say just get them to do the work and track it in whatever way you need but get them to do the work

Amalie:             21:57 If it’s too hard they are less likely to do it right? If it's too hard or if it's going to take up too much of their time because it's already the committee's already taking some of their time. They probably have you know, other jobs, other things that they, other commitments. So if you make it too hard, they probably won't do it. What do you do about people or someone that isn't getting something done or is resistant, you know, maybe the rest of the group's buying in, but you have a couple of individuals that are resistant to the change as you come in or, resistant to just the overall project. You know, maybe you just couldn't get their buy in.

Joy:                22:34 Well, first of all, I think that is going to become a very obvious, when you have the actions that need to be done in place and people can see other people in the group can see that progress is not happening. And it's very quickly going to become clear that those individuals are outliers. And I would leverage the pressure of the group to get things done. So it's not you forcing the people to get done but use the group, okay, it's clear that this, this task has been sitting here for the last three weeks and it's not getting done. Who else from this group can we pair you up with to help move this forward? So I think that's, that's the approach I would take in that situation Amalie.

Amalie:             23:26 Okay. Yeah. And how do you recognize people that are going above and beyond?

Joy:                23:33 Well, I think that, you know, there are group, leadership opportunities. You can celebrate people both informally and formally. So, not that I want to say that a great work begets more work, but it's in the case of committees, a lot of times that's what, that's what happens. You know you can put them in charge of more stuff. You can give them some sort of perk, like a gift card. You can, acknowledge them at an organizational banquet, you can give them a higher level of title in the committee. So there are definitely some, you know, things that you can do, to make it clear that they've gone above and beyond.

Amalie:             24:25 Okay. And I just want to kind of change the subject really quick. So you are working in some committees, and you work with nonprofits. Do you find that they have, systems and processes set up, in their business? Do you think that there's improvement there? And could you maybe discuss that a little bit?

Joy:                24:46 I think it kind of depends on the size of the organization, which is probably what, you and, you both find when you're working with your clients. Sometimes the larger organizations have more, structure and processes in place because when you have more people, you just naturally have to have those sorts of things. You know, definitely for those organizations that are a little more mature, you know, they have, more structure

Amalie:             25:20 Maybe they felt the pain, the growing pains!

Joy:                25:23 Right! But if you're talking about, you know, small associations, small trade groups, small nonprofits, you know, they may be run by, you know, a solo executive director and a couple of team members and they just, you know, haven't had the need to get fancy schmancy tools in place. So you got to work with, you have to work with what you have.

Amalie:             25:49 Do you think that they could benefit from some if they, if they had them, you know, benefit from them?

Joy:                25:54 Oh sure.

Amalie:             25:54 yeah.

Joy:                25:56 Oh yeah, absolutely. I think anytime that you can document what you, document the processes that your organization needs and you can, create processes that are repeatable, that's going to be to your advantage. It's gonna, it's gonna save you time. It's going to make it clearer what people need to do to, you know, achieve outcomes. So...

Amalie:             26:19 Yeah.

Joy:                26:20 Absolutely.

Amalie:             26:20 They grow and bring people on. It'll be easier to delegate those things because they'll have it all documented.

Joy:                26:28 Absolutely.

Amalie:             26:29 Janine, did you have, any other questions or anything?

Janine:             26:32 Oh, no, I just think it's fascinating that you're able to do that in those kinds of circumstances. It's incredible.

Joy:                26:40 I think it's fun work. I think, you know, organizing groups in the community is one of my favorite things to do and I've been blessed in my career that I've always worked in roles where I had to accomplish. I had to accomplish major projects, but I rarely had organizational authority over people to make those projects happen. So, I think that it's just been something that, it feels very natural to me and, you know, it's, it's, it's inspiring. It's, it's fun work to do.

Janine:             27:15 I actually, I do have a question. How did you get into doing this?

Joy:                27:22 Well, I have been running my own consulting practice since 2005. I had been, doing projects in state government.  Fresh out of school I became assistant to the chief of staff for a state agency. So I ended up working on a lot of the priority projects for that agency. And then in a period where state government was reorganizing, there was a new administration that came into place. They offered a pension buyout and I decided that that was the time to leave state government and figure out if I could make it on my own. So I just took all of those skills that I had in a state agency and transferred them over to the private sector. And the very first client who hired me when I hadn't even identified my, my niche yet happened to be a gentleman who was starting an association. And so I worked with him on that startup and as sometimes goes in business, one referral leads to another. And one day I looked around and my entire client base was pretty much associations and trade groups. So I kind of owe my entire business model to that very first client who hired me, who continues to be a client today, which is fascinating.

Janine:             28:43 That's super cool cause that's a big leap. Sorry, I was just going to say that is a big leap to take. Yeah.

Amalie:             28:51 Awesome. So tell us what you have going on today. What's, what's the business like today? What kinds of things you're doing? I don't want to put you on the spot, but I know you've got some things going on. So do you want to tell us a little bit about what you have going on in your business right now?

Joy:                29:09 I do so, I, I kind of break down what I do in my business into, I'm a couple of different buckets. On the one hand I do a lot of operational support for associations and trade groups. So I have, I have a team that is experienced in running associations, not executive leadership, but doing out all the operational stuff, you know, how to set up membership platforms, how to do communication out to members, member invoicing, all, you know, everything it takes behind the scenes to run a group like that. So we have that whole arm. And then I personally spend most of my time doing consulting around, member experience design, how to grow organizations, how to problem solve pieces of the organization that aren't working. So I do that through one-on-one consulting, through running workshops and, doing online education programs.

Amalie:             30:16 All right. Well, I don't have any other questions. Do you Janine?

Janine:             30:21 I have one with all that amazing work that you do. How can our audience find you?

Amalie:             30:27 Oh, thank you. Thank you. I know I was forgetting something.

Joy:                30:31 You can find me at ajoyofmembership.c

om. So my business is A Joy of Membership and I would love to connect with you there. If you are someone who is running an association or nonprofit or perhaps you know, you yourself are engaged with that sort of organization, I do have a free help hub, so I have all sorts of tools and trainings and things like that. So if you go to my website:, they can access all of those free tools.

Amalie:             31:03 And we'll put it in the show notes. So we'll put the link in the show notes of your websites.

Joy:                31:07 Great, thanks for sharing.

Amalie:             31:09 Thank you so much for being here with us today. We really appreciate it and, yeah, it's been great. Thanks so much.

Janine:             31:16 Yeah thank you, Joy.

Amalie:             31:22 We hope you enjoyed this episode of the podcast. You can find out more about Janine and Systematic Excellence at and you can find out more about me, Amalie, at

Janine:             31:37 If you did enjoy this episode. Please subscribe, leave a review and share with people you think may find it helpful. This goes a long way in helping us reach and serve as many people as possible. Thanks so much for listening. We'll see on the next episode.