Vision, courage, integrity, humility, strategic, focused, cooperative: these are just some of the qualities you may associate with good leadership.  I’ve learned, through observing some of my mentors striving toward good leadership, that transparency can also be a powerful vehicle to obtain buy-in and cooperation of those you lead.   Over the past two years, the HABA Executive Board has done a lot of self-analysis with respect to these qualities and this blog is meant to serve as a transparent communication with its members.

They say that the first step to fixing a problem is recognizing that there’s a problem. You have to be willing to face hard truths to do that.  Once you’ve taken that first step, you eventually have to take a leap of the edge of the cliff to change.  Change can be scary, and that cliff you jump off of can lead to a cavernous pit of unknowns.  Climbing your way out will most certainly not be easy, but you know if you don’t at least try, you’ll end up as dinner to a flock of vultures, or worse.  Maybe that’s too morose of a parallel here, but regardless, if you do nothing, you undoubtedly remain stuck.  The truth is, the Hoosier Association for Behavior Analysis (HABA) is a little stuck.  But, we are standing on the edge of that proverbial cliff, and we’re about to take the plunge, together, because that’s what Behavior Analysts do.  We’re fixers; we seek to evolve and in that process, create meaningful change in our own behavior and the behavior of others.  We don’t shy away from the hard truths, and that is why the change we are about to go through is scary, yes, because it’s big, but not insurmountable.

HABA started off as a bit of a grassroots movement with a go big or go home attitude.  The possibilities of what we could do as an organization were vast and shaped our vision, which was equally vast.  This is where I start to share some hard truths we’ve had to face, as a board, so bear with me.  Since that first year, we’ve been a bit like a toddler walking around in our parent’s oversized shoes.  The truth is, we are still growing and growing pains come along with that process.  The truth is, we’re going to have to eat some gross vegetables and may need some glasses to sharpen our vision to become big and wise enough to fill those shoes we’ve been playing dress up in. We’re also going to need some help.  All of the work done on HABA’s behalf has, and continues to be, performed by volunteers.  The executive board consists of six members; all who have full time jobs, families and responsibilities.   The work that we will need to do is going to require some humility and cooperation with others.  We can’t do everything by ourselves, and that’s ok.

Last year, we recognized that we were going to have to make some changes if we wanted to remain a viable organization that was effective in meeting its purpose, long term.  We researched what had been done by other associations, like ONTABA, that are blossoming, and set out to use our imitative repertoires to do some of the same.   In November 2017, we engaged the firm of Jessica White Associates, Inc. to assess and make recommendations on improving our governance structure and capacity to meet the needs of our members.  Jessica is essentially the new prescription in our glasses that will allow us to sharpen our vision and see some of the things that we need to change.  With that sharpened vision, we can move forward with a comprehensive strategic plan that will hopefully have us soaring off that cliff rather than taking a nose dive into the cavernous pit and remaining stagnant or stuck.

The coming months will require a courageous and focused analysis of what steps we need to take as an organization.  Jessica has made several recommendations that will help mold our strategy.  Following through with some of those recommendations is likely going to feel like being a 3-year-old facing a full plate of Brussel sprouts.  We may not be able to eat the full serving, but even just a little will give us some much needed nutrients to grow.  Some of the recommendations and related tasks at hand will be:

  • Expanding the board with individuals who have complementary skills that are not in our wheelhouse, such as expertise in non-profit legal matters and finances.   Behavior Analysts tend to think they can do just about anything and that’s true, to a certain extent.  But we are typically not afforded education on such matters in our required coursework and so we must seek that education out through others who have been.
  • Adding a paid position whose primary role would be to manage the daily operations of HABA, leaving the board with time for long-range planning and making strategic decisions.  When you try to take on too much, you end up doing a lot of things, but not necessarily doing any of them very well.  I would speculate that most Behavior Analysts strive for perfection.  We’re a ‘type A’ group of people, and acknowledging our limits can be a hard pill to swallow.  But, not doing so can put us in a place that compromises our integrity, which I think we’d all agree, is priceless.
  • Making adjustments to our board terms and onboarding processes to allow for more continuity and enhanced communication.
  • Creating a more comprehensive board manual with clear and concise job descriptions and critical pieces of information that board members need to know.
  • Developing an annual operating budget.  We are sitting well financially, we think, which is great, but we are also a non-profit and should have a more strategic plan on how we are going to spend our money in pursuit of fulfilling our mission, on annual basis.  To date, we know what funds we have and have some funds set aside for particular endeavors, such as licensure.  We also have a general prediction of annual operating costs, including an estimated cost of our annual conference.  Other expenditures are typically decided on via a board or member vote, and we do not have clear protocols in place that designate how, when and by whom, other available funds will be spent.
  • Developing a comprehensive membership incentive program.  We have fantastic continuing education events, including our annual conference, but we can do more, and ensure that those events are easily accessible to ALL members, and potential members, across the state via available technology.

The HABA board is simultaneously excited for, and admittedly a little daunted by, the tasks before us.  We appreciate the support of our members as we go through this process, and look forward to creating systems and structure that will allow us to provide you all with something that you find invaluable, and are proud to be a part of.