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Associations Leading Ladies – Christine Pope

For this second part in our ‘Associations Leading Ladies’ series, I had the opportunity to ask Christine Pope a few questions and pick her brain on the topics of leadership, association management and her early inspirations.

Christine Pope

Non-Executive Director and Treasurer, Australian Traditional Medicine Society

Christine is an experienced natural medicine professional who is both a Board director and runs a clinical practice where her focus is on preventative health. Her many academic achievements include holding a Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Health Science and an Adv. Dip. Of Homeopathy and Nutrition. Christine’s unusual combination of skills come from twenty years in Risk Management in Investment Banking before beginning her career as a natural medicine practitioner.

Q&A with Christine

Susanna: In your option, what is the biggest challenge facing associations today?

Christine: Communications in a world of cluttered inboxes.

As an example; last year we ran three significant lobbying campaigns to remind members of some changes that were coming up. The campaigns involved emails, social media and even physical letters being sent out to members to ensure we covered all the bases. Regardless of this, after the campaigns were introduced we still had a flood of members reaching out to the front-line staff to ask why nothing had been done!

Susanna: So, what is the best strategy to push past that clutter and really grab your members attention?

Christine: My advice would be to keep messages short and to the point. Make sure you are using the platform that will best reach your members and put key information either in the subject line or starting paragraph. Work off the assumption that those highlighted points at the beginning could be best chance you have to get the message across, so make sure they are delivered clearly and with impact.

Susanna: What is one mistake you witness associations making more frequently than others?

Christine: Failing to adapt strategies to a continually changing world.

Susanna: What is something ATMS does to ensure they stay on top of this?

Christine: One great thing we’ve implemented is that every 3 years we produce a detailed member survey to get their thoughts on what is going well and what they think can be improved. We also made it so that members who complete the survey could qualify for CPD points, which nearly doubled the amount of responses received and ended in us receiving input from almost 1000 members.

We also adapted the survey so members could give open responses instead of just following prompts. This gave them the opportunity to really speak their mind, resulting in us receiving some very informative responses. The only downside was the time it took to collate individual responses of over 1000 members!

This incentive has been essential to help highlight the key outcomes and gives us the opportunity to adjust our strategy based off the ever-changing needs of the members.

Susanna: What advice would you give someone going into an association leadership position for the first time?

Christine: Research the organisation and how it functions, make sure it’s a good cultural fit for you.

Susanna: What is one of the biggest challenges you personally faced when adjusting to your position with ATMS?  

Christine: I like big picture work, getting involved in the association and its strategy and direction is something I love and get very passionate about. This can come at the detriment of my personal work however, as I can tend to put too much focus on that big picture and ignore the needs of my practice.

Another challenge I faced was learning to not second-guess myself and my decisions. When you are dealing with a diverse Board of people from various backgrounds who hold different views, making clear decisions and sticking by them is key to progressing at a fast pace.

Susanna: How important is it to be immersed in the field you’re representing?

Christine: It’s both an asset and a liability. The downside of it being that you can get too immersed in detail and forget the big picture.

Susanna: What can you do to take advantage that asset while safeguarding against the potential liability?

Christine: It can be easy to get wrapped up in your personal view and your industry, so it’s important to get outside perspectives. Boards made up of individuals from different fields that work well together as a collective are key to keeping the associations eye on the big picture. 

Susanna: Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?

Christine: Helen Brown!

Susanna: Why and how did this person impact where you are today?

Christine: Helen recruited me at 25 and I worked with her for a few years before moving into property. She was confident, grounded and knowledgeable and effectively modelled for me how to operate in a male dominated environment.

One time I was in a meeting where the client became very intimidating and threatening. I ended up having to leave the meeting as it was getting quite bad and went straight to Helen for advice. She was very experienced and someone I trusted to give me the advice and understanding I needed in those situations.

There were a few crucial points in my career during which I went to Helen for help and advice. One of those times her advice was that I had to step it up and rise to a challenge I was facing, which I now look back on as being a pivotal point of my career.

Susanna: Do you find yourself still struggling with it being a male dominated world? Or do you feel progress has been made?

Christine: I think there has been a lot of progress made, but we have a long way to go!

Just recently my daughter told me a story about training she was involved in where one of the men on the team would talk over her whenever she tried to speak.  It got to the point where her female team members had to jump in to support her and call for the man to let her talk. Without that support though, it can be hard to make your opinion heard in some situations.

I also came across similar situations in my career where I would have an idea that would be discarded until one of the men repeated it and presented it as his own.

Susanna: How did you deal with that? It must have been quite frustrating.

Christine: I’ve always been someone who cares more about the outcome then the credit. If you let it get to you, it gives you an excuse not to continue.

I once had a boss tell me in our initial interview that he doesn’t usually employ women but would make an exception for someone like me. I wasn’t sure whether to be insulted or complimented! We ended up having a good working relationship though, and I would joke with him saying that ‘If I complained about the glass ceiling, you’d just hand me Windex and expect me to clean it’.

Susanna: What advice would give potential leaders who are still early on in their careers?

Christine: This generation wants it all and I think it’s possible just not all at once. Over the course of 40 or 50 work years taking breaks to spend time with children or your partner won’t be the end of your career – in fact it may recharge the batteries and give you perspective.

Make sure to outsource your work when possible to help yourself survive. Having the support of colleagues around you to whom you can outsource unnecessary tasks is a big help. Then let them do it!

There is always that one person at a conference that will pipe up and say they don’t trust the cleaner. This distrustful attitude makes it difficult for a leader to progress. A good leader needs to trust their team and have the confidence to delegate to them when support is needed.

The most successful teams are not about one person being a superstar – real leaders know that each individual has something to contribute and aims to bring those skills together in a way that benefits the work as a whole.

Susanna: Thank you Christine! It’s been a genuine pleasure talking to you.

Susanna Truasheim, Marketing Manager