“I’m engaged!!” I can still remember my (now) wife uttering that phrase over and over the night that I proposed to her more than 15 years ago. It was a wonderful feeling: listening to the excitement in her voice as she spoke to what seemed to be everyone she knew—and maybe even a few people she didn’t—to share the happy news. I, too, was caught up in the euphoria of the moment, recounting the story and reflecting on our joyous new relationship status and the promise of wonderful things to come. It’s an experience and a feeling that I will never forget.
As I reflect back on my year as NACE President, I’m once again finding myself in awe of the power of engagement, and the bright future that it is securing for our association. NACE Board service provides a unique purview into many aspects of the organization: the strategic planning, the tireless work of the NACE staff, and the focus on innovation, to name a few. But above all, it gave me a new appreciation for the variety of opportunities available to our members to make a real, tangible impact on our organization and the profession; the chance to be truly engaged. One of my fellow past presidents and colleagues, Andy Ceperley, describes engagement as “feeling the commitment, believing that our contributions are important, and caring deeply about advancing a cause or a body of work.” I think that’s the perfect definition, and gets to the heart of what I experienced and observed: the most engaged members were those who found ways to make their involvement personal. For some, that means serving in leadership roles on the Board, committees, or task forces. But for many others, it means contributing in ways that may seem less “official” on the surface, but are every bit as critical to the success of the association. Countless members advance our mission by hosting events, imparting valuable leading practices, delivering content, or sharing their NACE experience.
Other members reached out to me, personally, to provide input in the form of innovative suggestions, real time feedback on NACE offerings, and offers to assist with new initiatives. The creation of the new NACE Ambassador program at the end of my term provided the opportunity for members to truly customize their involvement while assisting with member outreach and inclusion. Together, these opportunities provide a powerful platform for engagement. And, it’s taught me to appreciate the fact that when individual members feel empowered to contribute in a variety of ways, the membership as a whole truly reaps the benefits.
Before I close, let me draw one last parallel. NACE engagement, like any serious personal commitment, requires a conscious and deliberate effort on behalf of the individual. I would encourage each of you to actively seek out ways to make a contribution in a way that is meaningful to you. I can tell you from experience that there are countless ways to get involved and that the rewards—much like those I’ve enjoyed ever since I said “I Do”—are immeasurable.