Who creates that slate of candidates that we see every year? How does the nomination process work? May I nominate myself? What are the criteria used to decide who should run? This article is an attempt to shed light on a process that is unknown to much of the ATA membership. We also want to describe here some changes made recently and some new changes for this year.
The committee we are talking about used to simply be called the Nominating Committee. A bylaws amendment in 2011 changed the name to the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee. As the expanded name implies, the change expanded the committee's charge to help produce a pipeline of future leaders.
The Nominating and Leadership Development Committee always consists of five people, per ATA bylaws (Article VII, Section 2d). These five people are appointed at the Board meeting held in the winter to serve during the following year. The committee members for 2015 are Dorothee Racette (Chair), Tony Guerra, Susanne van Eyl, Connie Prener, and Karen Tkaczyk.
There is a continuing process of identifying people and helping them find the right volunteer spot within the Association, keeping an eye on the quality of the work they are doing in their current role, and finding out whether they are interested in running the following year.
Why is ATA interested in leadership development for its Board and potential future candidates? While historically there has been a wealth of talent on the Board from the membership that has sustained and cultivated the vibrant organization that it is today, ATA recognizes that its continued effectiveness and future relevance depends on the strength and clear vision of its leadership. Plans, therefore, call for expanding the committee's activities in the area of training.
Leadership training for individuals would assist with assimilating new Board members, succession planning, developing high potentials, navigating organizational culture, as well as removing "blind spots."
Leadership training for the Board would work on cultivating team alignment and encourage the integration of and adaptation to changing cultures. It would also work on building trust and awareness among the Board to facilitate consensus, collaboration, and accountability.
A leadership development program should improve leadership competencies, such as improved engagement and more focused and increased Board productivity.
In summary, leadership training is designed to help leaders discover more effective and productive ways to achieve personal and professional goals, create alignment with ATA's organizational culture, and promote strategic objectives. ATA board members would have an opportunity to enhance their existing skills and resources, and to develop creative and innovative solutions to effectively address the challenges of representing the interests of the ATA and its membership.
We will take a first step in this direction by holding an invitation-only Leadership Development training session at the 2015 Annual Conference in Miami.
The Nominating and Leadership Development Committee is active throughout the year. Our activities for the new election cycle begin right at the annual conference. After the election, the committee holds a follow-up meeting to discuss the candidates' presentations, as well as what we learned from them that we can pass on to future candidates.
Also during the conference, committee members approach people we have previously contacted as potential future nominees to see if they have any questions or concerns about the process.
The committee gets together early in the year to discuss the slate for the upcoming elections. In preparation for the meeting we contact committee chairs, division administrators, chapter and affiliated group presidents, Board members, and others to solicit nominations and recommendations.
We maintain a database of people who have been recommended, along with associated information. That includes their profession (e.g., interpreter, translator, educator, company owner or employee), language pairs, and contributions to ATA and the translating/interpreting profession.
We discuss the individuals who are brought to our attention. We also examine the information provided by those who nominate candidates. The committee has developed a list of criteria an ideal candidate should meet. For instance, to cite just a few of them, we are looking for people who demonstrate leadership, of whom others speak highly, who are articulate, and who are team-oriented.
Then we ask questions like the following: How was this person active within ATA in the past? What talents and preferences were evident during that activity? What personal attributes would make her/him a good candidate and, of course, a good director or officer?
In order to present a balanced slate to the membership, we aim to include candidates from all the various areas of our profession. We make an effort to ensure that each is represented in a way that reflects reality. To cite an example, if the term of a director who is an interpreter is about to expire, we will try to put a candidate who is also an interpreter on the slate for that year.
Another consideration is gender. Since a majority of ATA members are female, if four women were leaving the board in a given year, it would be odd to have a slate composed entirely of men. Other less crucial factors include language pair and geography. We are not terribly worried about French translators or residents of New England taking over the ATA, but we would consider the information to see if a proposed slate would be adding to diversity.
Once we have created a list of potential nominees, we begin our deliberations. Typical of the questions we raise about each of the candidates are the following. What would this person wish to accomplish if elected? Is this person sufficiently known to have a chance of being elected? How would this person fit into the existing Board?
Once the committee feels that the slate is complete, the nominees are contacted and informed that we support their candidacy.
Once the finalized slate is reported to the Board, the committee is available to the candidates for fact-checking written statements and draft speeches. We also have guidelines available to prepare for the actual candidate presentations at the annual conference, but it is up to the candidates to devise a way to present themselves in the best light possible.
One of the things that the committee has noticed is that the questions on the long-standing nominating form were not always very helpful. In the existing form, some questions were appropriate only for nominating other people, and others were only appropriate for people who were nominating themselves.
As well as splitting the form into one appropriate for self-nominations and one for people being nominated by others, we also felt that there was a place for a tailored set of questions for those nominating or being nominated for Officer positions. With this in mind, from 2015 the nominating form will consist of four separate forms, each with a matching job description that people may refer to.
Another minor change will be a technology update. The forms can now be completed and submitted online. Here are examples of questions in the new forms:
We hope that you agree that substantial progress has been made in recent years. Perhaps you even feel that the quality of the slates at elections has become stronger. We are excited to see how the changes we are making in the nomination forms will affect the quality of information we have at our disposal when we review all the nominations in spring 2015. The Leadership Development session to be held in Miami should also be a strong step forward.
The nomination period for 2015 is now open. You can find nomination forms at this link on the ATA elections web page. The deadline for submitting nominations is March 1, 2015. If you are not one of the people who are routinely contacted to ask for names of potential future candidates for ATA leadership, but you have an idea you wish to pass on, please contact any member of the committee. We hope that the process is now clear and look forward to receiving many great nominations this year.