How to transition the office of president



Today was the monthly meeting for Homoto, the motorcycle club I ride with on a regular basis (when I’m not traveling :-)). It was the first meeting for me as a member of the peanut gallery again. My two-year stint as president has wound down!

After the meeting, I took a fun ride down the freeway to San Jose to get my helmet fixed and had an outstanding ride to the mountains on the way home. Having been president of Homoto as well as my fraternity in college, this document came back to mind as I was winding through the mountains.

Since we’ve gone through a number of technology solutions as a club, I wanted to make sure this one was preserved on my blog.

In any organization when ambiguity sets in its easy to jump to the bylaws to bring structure to the situation.  Transitioning an office to a new person is one of those areas that need structure and context.  The challenge is the bylaws aren’t designed to solve every problem an organization has. They’re designed to give context for the organization to work through their challenges.

Remember, the bylaws are somewhat silent (on purpose)

The president has one of the least defined but most critical roles in any club. As of September 2013 the bylaws of my motorcycle club define the president’s job as:

“The President shall preside at all meetings of the Club and of the Board, and shall have the duties and powers normally associated with the office of the President in addition to those particularly specified in these Bylaws.”

In essence, you run a meeting once a month, as handle resignations and terminations, and have the ability to call a special meeting of the board.

The truth of the matter is depending on who you talk to the role is fairly controversial in how involved the president is with the day-to-day for affairs of the club.

So, why do you want to be president?

I would spend a fair amount of time thinking about why you want to be president before stepping into this role. One of the biggest things the president brings to the club is conviction. Your conviction is the difference between where the club is now and where you should think it should be by the end of your term. Your conviction is what helps to guide the club throughout your time in office, so that you can leave our club a better organization than you found it. Not everyone will agree with you along the way, but being open about your conviction leading up to election and gaining the confidence of the membership will do you well throughout your term.

What is the first thing I actually do?

In January 2013 Homoto had its first board retreat. I’m pleased to say it was very successful. What is board retreat? It’s a weekend away with the board to build one shared vision for the club as well as get to know one another. The main outcome of that meeting is to have a plan for the year that both you and the board are bought into. You will get good feedback from the new board about your conviction. Listen to them. Use that weekend to build relationships with each board member and facilitate relationships between board members.

If you spend too much time working the relationships won’t organically happen. If you don’t work enough then you will have a plan to work off of during the year. I would target about 50% of the time “working” and the rest of the time just having fun. I would then schedule a potluck or some sort of event to get a large turnout for membership at the February meeting. Doing so will hold the board accountable to have a plan and give membership a reason to turn out for the business meeting.

I wanted to be president! Why am I a project manager?

As president, the buck stops with you. You preside over the board and the general membership during meetings. It’s your privilege to work with the board in the membership to guide the club in the right direction. Much like a coach, you don’t actually do most of the work. You create the environment for your board and the membership to be successful.

Effective leadership sometimes means stepping in. Sometimes it means stepping back so a board member for a club member can learn something the hard way. It always means congratulating success and coaching people through failure. The president sets the cadence for the club. You are the one to set context and direction for all the things that need to happen for us to be successful. People forget, stuff comes up, and things fall through the cracks. You’re the one watching over us to ensure we are healthy both individually and corporately.

So what does the vice president exactly do?

The good news is the vice president’s job is even less defined than yours is. You won’t get everything right being president. You also can’t do everything on your own. The vice president is the person to bounce ideas off of, to share the workload, and helps you come to the club with a better direction than you would have alone. You both are very different people. Realize your strengths and weaknesses and balance the needs of the club to each of your different strengths.

Being the president is work

You will work hard as president. The club members will see you differently during your time in the role. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but don’t let it catch you off guard. You will make some friends. You’ll lose some friends. This is the single reason why having a conviction is so important. You need something to sustain you throughout your term. Personally at times I have felt Homoto slide from the social side of my life to the work side of my life. Expect that from time to time and realize it’s only temporary.

Take time off the clock

You will need time to rest and recover. You don’t need to do everything. Realize you have a board, set context for them, and enjoy the world of motorcycling. Don’t lead every ride, don’t go to every event, but always be a cheerleader and supporter for the club. If you work too hard in the beginning of your term you will burn out and lose the passion that came from your conviction. If you don’t work hard enough the club will suffer as it needs some direction from you.

Create a succession plan

The president is the only office on the board with a two-year term. The club felt it was important that the president have a longer term so that he can set context for the second board of his term. The problem though is at some point even your term will end. Focus on making strategic investments in people so that the incoming board is excited to take office. Also, the line of people running for president isn’t a long line. Part of your commitment to the club is ensuring that someone with a conviction as deep as yours will step up, take the reins, and give you the rest you deserve.

Technology is also your friend. We can see all of the work that happened last year and can more effectively plan for the next year. Documents like these help ground the club in our values, help set context for others, and prevent us from reinventing the wheel. The more effectively we work, the more fun we have as a club.

In closing…

We’re fundamentally a club about riding. All that you do should make riding more enjoyable. If bureaucracy gets in the way of people having fun on motorcycles make it your mission to remove the bureaucracy. If we stray from what you think is right, work with the board to help get us back on track.

In the end this is your rodeo. Just remember it’s never about you.


Related Posts

Subscribe to the Dashed Yellow Line!


Leave a Reply