When I started working within the association space, I couldn’t help but notice a recurring comment with many professionals I spoke with: “There’s an association for EVERYTHING.” And they were right! In almost every industry I could think of, I found an interesting association working to support its industry.
Finding these associations has been one of the most entertaining aspects of my association experience. So, in order to highlight some of the interesting organizations I have come across, I want to share some of my favorite responses from various interviews with association professionals.
Today, I’m sharing an interview with Keith Hall, the president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed. In it he shares his thoughts on productivity, the importance of surrounding yourself with peers who encourage positive growth, and the best piece of advice he’s ever received.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What motivates you to work hard?
I like to consider myself a man of faith, and I feel like we all have a calling to do the things we do each day. That’s what motivates me. I was put here for this particular purpose. Knowing that I was put here for a reason: to help small business owners, to help my staff … that’s what we’re meant to do and it keeps me going.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Over the last 7-10 years the board of directors here have laid out a strategy. We’ve been very fiscally responsible, we built a new membership, and I believe that what we have done is built an association that will answer questions everyday for small business owners, and this organization will last longer than me, it will last longer than anyone that works here. This association will last longer than any member that we have today.
Have you ever had to “unlearn” something in your professional life?
I started my career and probably spent way too many years with the saying “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” That turns into this anal control thing that just doesn’t work. The fact is, you just have to trust people. You have to attach yourself to people who are smarter than you, people who have different skills than you, and say these are the things we need to do together. I spent a big part of my career thinking I needed to do everything and if that’s a habit, you’ve got to let go of it.
Do you have any mentors in your professional life?
Probably the biggest mentor, the most consistent mentor throughout my career, has been my wife. One of my first bosses at Peat Marwick was my wife. She wasn’t my wife at the time. She has always been a leader, she has always been direct.
What is your most used productivity hack?
The best productivity hack is to try never to touch the same piece of paper twice. What I try to do is if I get mail or something I’m supposed to sign, or review or approve, when it touches my hand I have to do it.
What is something you find challenging about your work?
The most challenging thing for me is managing priorities. I feel like I only have one priority level, everything is top priority, and I think I should be better at that. Especially these days you can’t get everything done that needs to be done every single day. At some point you have to say “these are my priorities.” Which means there are some things that get left out, and that hurts my heart. I don’t want anything or anyone to get left out.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?
Just do what you said you’re going to do. If you can convince yourself that if you commit to this then you can do it, and if that’s too much then don’t commit to it. Don’t commit to more than you can do, and don’t commit to less than you can do.
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