By Lacy Compton, M.A.
I entered the association world in late 2017 purely by accident, fate, whatever you like to believe in, when my friend Paulina van Eeden Hill called to ask if I’d be interested in working for the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented.
I said yes, ready to try something new, and suddenly, I found myself thrust into the association industry less than two months before the organization’s biggest event (but no big deal – I’d attended their conference 13 years in a row as one of TAGT’s biggest vendors, it would be easy, right?).
That’s when I learned how complex the association industry is, and coincidentally, as I gleefully attended pre-con meetings, cried over our recap video, and grinned until my cheeks hurt, that’s when I fell in love with associations. That’s why, when I saw the application process open for the 2019 Leadership TSAE Class, I filled out the application … and filled it out … and filled it out (the longest application they ever received, the staff later teased me).
I knew I wanted to be part of Leadership TSAE – to soak in every bit of knowledge available to me, to network, to understand the ins and outs of associations, to become the best association leader I could become by learning exactly what it meant to be an association executive. I had watched friends enjoy the program and watched them walk away knowing so much more than I did about the association world.
I had no idea that decision would make such a difference in my life, in exactly the opposite way I imagined.
Yes, I walk away from this year’s Leadership TSAE program having gained every one of those things: a wealth of knowledge about associations, new connections to others in the industry, a much firmer grasp of how the day-to-day operations of associations work (and the best practices around how to manage them), and a stronger sense of my own leadership skills and communication types (analytical first, driver second). I walked away with an amazing mentor I know I can call on anytime for help at work and to just get a cup of coffee (so many thanks to the amazing Kim Schoppert, CAE!).
But Leadership TSAE is about so much more than just learning how associations work, understanding everything from finances to parliamentary procedure, or finding new networking opportunities. It’s about actually understanding yourself in a way that allows for honest growth. It’s about being real and raw and relating to people around you in a way that means admitting everything you don’t know and everything you feel you might be lacking. It’s about being willing to trust in a mentor and in your peers and to feel strangely and utterly comfortable doing so.
The sessions were phenomenal, I’ll give TSAE so much credit for that, but the real learning … that came because the people around me were willing to be their honest selves with every other person in our program. The 2019 Leadership TSAE Class went through a lot together – a baby, multiple job changes, some heavy conversations – but we walked away with so much more.
Allison, Amy, Brandi, Chance, Katie, Hector, Jen, Jerrica, Megan, Sarah, Shana, because every one of you opened up your hearts in that room, you allowed me to do the same. You lived your truths, you embraced your struggles, you listened to everyone else’s challenges, you compassionately worked with one another to find solutions, and you helped me be my best and most honest self. To be our authentic selves in that room, to be given permission from one another, and to give ourselves permission to truly grow and gain in ways that often cannot happen in the hectic world of work – that’s where we grew as leaders.
Thank you, TSAE, for giving us the place to do just that.
Lacy Compton, M.A., is an account manager with Strategic Association Management, where she primarily oversees education and communications strategies for clients. She was a member of the 2019 class of Leadership TSAE.
To lean more about Leadership TSAE, visit www.tsae.org.