It’s been a while since our last association CEO interview so this week we continue with the series as Jeff interviews Rich Phaneuf, CEO and Executive Director of the Association Executives of North Carolina (AENC). Even though Rich has only been with AENC for less than six months, his passion and innovation are already making a big impact with their members.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Jeff and Rich discuss his perspective on leadership, the evolving role of associations in education and lifelong learning, and what AENC is doing to support this.
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[00:20] – Thank you to Castle, the sponsor of the Leading Learning podcast for the second quarter of 2017. Castle is an accomplished full-service certification and licensure testing company that also offers its clients a variety of learning solutions capabilities. With an expert team of testing and instructional design professionals and a thirty year history of excellence in it’s field, Castle understands what it takes to develop and deliver quality learning and certification programs.
[01:19] – The recordings from our recent Learning • Technology • Design™ (LTD) virtual conference (held March 1–3, 2017), are available through the end of May, and you can purchase access through May 15. We created LTD specifically for professionals in the business of continuing education and professional development and you can get access to all of the great content delivered at the live online event. Find out more at ltd.leadinglearning.com.
[01:42] – Highlighted Resource of the Week – Socrative – a quizzing tool that enables you to rapidly create relatively sophisticated assessments to track how learners perform. There is a free version as well as a pro version available for $49.95/year. It is also noted that this was highlighted at the Cool Tech Tools to Turbo Charge Your Learning Business session at Learning • Technology • Design™ (LTD). (See Socrative and other tools from that session here.)
[04:04] – Introduction to Rich and some background information about AENC and his role there.
[06:05] – You are pretty new to AENC and you were what they refer to as an “affiliate member” prior to becoming CEO – that is, not someone at an association, but someone at a company that provides services to associations. How has that background informed how you approach the leadership role at AENC? Rich explains that it created a great opportunity to first become passionate about the organization. As an affiliate member, it helped him to truly understand what AENC and association members were trying to accomplish and by working to be a part of a solution to solve their problems, he got a chance to see how everything worked in the association world. Having the opportunity to experience all of this actually made his transition very simple.
[08:05] – What do you see as the most critical roles that associations play for society? Rich says that associations often play a behind-the-scenes but very critical role in ways that a lot of people don’t even fully understand. Essentially, associations are a platform provided to unite people of similar trades or professions. Associations have to play a role in educating their memberships, creating networking opportunities so peer-to-peer people can learn from one another, and they also need to provide legislative advocacy. Associations help the professionals in our community who serve us everyday to help them do their jobs better and grow as professionals.
[10:21] – It seems that associations play this critical – but almost unrecognized role – as the heads of a third sector of education. Do you feel associations are fully recognized for this role in education and, more broadly, in lifelong learning? And how might they be better recognized and appreciated for what they’re doing? Rich suggests that the members of associations do recognize that and appreciate the educational content provided by them. He adds that lifelong learning is not a luxury but rather a requirement associations must commit to supporting to in order to stay relevant. It needs to be something that’s a strategic part of association success. Rich explains that associations need to continue providing content and educational opportunities in ways that people can’t get elsewhere. As an association executive, he says you have to learn or you’re going to become irrelevant over time. Innovation in the marketplace is moving at a staggering pace – learning is the only way to keep up.
[14:20] – What are some of the approaches AENC has taken to spark/support lifelong learning? What are you actively doing with your membership (and beyond) to help people meet that challenge? Rich shares they have embraced the concept of innovation to make sure what they’re doing tomorrow is as relevant as what they did yesterday. They have been working on different modes of delivery including an AENC mobile app (available this summer) with live streaming content. One of their challenges, although not unique to them, is they have members ranging 50 years of age – this means they have to think about how to best deliver content to meet individual needs. What’s working for them is they are listening to their members and engaging them. They have divorced themselves from the concept of “that’s the way it’s always been done” by making sure they are creating the future by not being stuck in the past.
[19:03] – What do you feel is the biggest innovation that AENC has on it’s horizon? In addition to the AENC mobile app coming out this summer, they are looking at how to do their conferences differently in the future. The conferences are going to be more geared toward intense amounts of relevant educational content (fewer number of events but more focused) with opportunities for more peer-to-peer networking. He says the two things they are excited about coming down the road are:
- As an association for associations, AENC is going to push to be an incubator for new ideas
- They want to play an increasingly important role of being great connectors – connecting members with education in a way that’s meaningful but also with other people.
[22:21] – As a leader, who are some of the other leaders or organizations you been inspired by and why? Rich shares that his heartfelt inspiration has come from Robin Kelleher, the CEO and President, of Hope for the Warriors (a non-profit that provides support for wounded service men and women and their families) because it’s an example of something created out of passion. He has also been inspired by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon because he demonstrates that if you take care of your customer, you can have really good success. He adds that he has also always looked up to Vince Lombardi because he developed talent into leadership and into greatness.
[27:17] – What’s the main piece of advice you’d want to give to a young, inspiring leader coming up in the world? Rich says if he could consolidate all of the good advice he’s received over the years into a synopsis it would be that great leaders are people that surround themselves with great people – people that are hungry, intelligent, who want to learn, and who have a lot of heart and passion. Once you get that right team together, teach them, train them, coach them and then get out of their way. You need to be supportive, not only when you win but also when you fail so you can move forward as a team. He shares one of the negative aspects of leadership he’s observed is that too often leaders are telling their people they want them to be passionate and work hard but they don’t have that same passion themselves. Apathy or lack of passion is probably the downfall of a lot of people who don’t have long-term success.
[30:38] – What are some of your own lifelong learning habits and practices? Rich reveals one of the practices fundamental to his learning over the years has been that he’s a voracious learner and reader of everything and anything. He says being hyper-committed to learning and finding out the mechanisms of how you learn best is key. His desire to continue to learn and grow has continued to be a fire that grows inside of him which helps him push forward and be better for his team and members.
[33:40] – How to connect with Rich and AENC:
Phone number to call Rich directly: 910-271-3576
[34:19] – Wrap Up
Thanks again to Castle, a full service certification and licensure testing company that also offers its clients a variety of learning solutions capabilities, for sponsoring this episode of the Leading Learning podcast.
A reminder that recordings from Learning • Technology • Design™ (LTD), our virtual conference we held specifically for professionals in the business of continuing education and professional development, are now available. You can get all the details and register for access to those recordings at ltd.leadinglearning.com.
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[36:14] – Sign off