What if there were merit badges for component relations professionals (CRPs)—what skills would they recognize? During the Association Component Exchange (CEX), we asked our resident association chatter, KiKi L’Italien, to talk with attendees about the component relations skills and traits they rely upon to succeed at their job.
You might know KiKi from her role as host of Association Chat or consultant at Tecker International, but did you know she was once a CRP too? She felt at home in the room full of CRPs at CEX, the one-day conference for CRPs we co-host with Peggy Hoffman and Peter Houstle of Mariner Management. We recorded KiKi’s conversations and captured the highlights in this five-part series of posts.
- What people think CRPs do and what CRPs really do
- What CRPs love about their work
- Challenges faced and impact made by CRPs
- The CRP secret sauce: necessary skills and traits
- Advice for future CRPs and the future CRP role
NECESSARY COMPONENT RELATIONS SKILLS & TRAITS—THE CRP SECRET SAUCE
CRPs are the true Renaissance men and women of the association world. The portfolio of skills they need to succeed is astounding. No wonder so many CRPs end up in the C-suite. Although, given how much they love their work, it’s not surprising that many of them are CRPs for life. KiKi asked them about the skills and traits they need to do their job.
NIMBLE JUGGLERS AND CHAMELEONS WHO WEAR MANY HATS
I dare you to put that on your resume!
Emily Jennings, Manager of Chapter Support & Development at the Community Associations Institute (CAI) said, “I look at myself as a chameleon… I have to adapt to whatever situation I’m going into. I may have to put on my authoritative hat, brainstormer hat, or strategist hat. I fit into whatever scenario the chapters need.”
David Bond, Associate Executive Director at the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA), talked about having to balance the needs of different stakeholders. For example, if a member (teacher) calls with a problem, “Sometimes we have to work with school district leaders to help that teacher resolve the issue or address the concern.”
This common scenario requires a good relationship with district leaders, but, David said, “Our allegiance is to our members, the teachers, and that’s where sometimes the worlds collide. We have to be clear about whom we’re advocating for and why. But we also have to foster relationships with school district leaders so we can help them solve problems and help our members solve problems.”
KiKi recalled working with different personalities in situations where a CRP has to be “part diplomat, part educator, part representative, where you have to wear all of these hats and dance a very delicate dance.”
She said CRPs must “understand internal politics, external politics, communication, how to interact with different people, power dynamics and hierarchies—that’s a lot for someone to understand and apply. With all these different aspects of being a CRP at play, it can be frustrating to feel like that role is undervalued or underappreciated.”
David said the most successful CRPs organize their time well but are people people too. “Sometimes the highly organized people aren’t the people people and vice versa. But we want people who can make a quick connection with others and understand their needs. They must be able to compare what they’re hearing against the services we provide and connect those dots pretty quickly.”
Amanda Scharff, Manager of Chapters and Partner Relations at the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE), said team-building is a valuable trait. “You have to figure out who has the best skill set in the room. So, if my skill set is bringing everyone together, is someone better at analytics? Is someone better at membership? Whom do I need to talk to if I want to get everyone together and on the same page?”