Last night, I shared three keys for success and fulfillment in the communication field, and how IABC/Chicago can benefit its members.

In coming days, I’ll expand on each of the three keys: Prepare, Participate and Pass It On. To better set the stage, here are the brief remarks that I delivered upon accepting the 2014 Karen Utterback Volunteer Award from IABC/Chicago.


Fellow IABC-Chicago members, award winners and honored guests:

What a privilege to be selected as the 2014 recipient of the Karen Utterback Volunteer Award.

Whoever came up with this award had a great idea…just to be clear, that wasn’t me. I’m not patting myself on the back.

It’s a great idea because it honors someone who epitomized the concept of a servant leader. Karen gave tirelessly of her time and energy, and was a terrific IABC volunteer and leader.

This is also a great award because it puts focus on volunteerism—which is the lifeblood of a not-for-profit organization like IABC.

As I accept this award, I want to briefly share three keys to continued growth and value for IABC-Chicago and its members.

  1. Prepare. Anyone in the communication field who wishes to be successful and fulfilled needs to develop communication and leadership skills.IABC/Chicago supports that preparation through its professional development and networking events, and through opportunities to serve on the IABC/Chicago Board of Directors.
  2. Participate. Whenever I hear someone say that they are quitting some pursuit or organization because they “aren’t getting anything out of it,” I usually wonder, “What did you put into it?” Much of the value of your IABC/Chicago membership comes when you participate in the group’s events, and volunteer to be part of group activities.I began to participate on the IABC/Chicago Board of Directors the year that Karen Utterback died. Because that was Karen’s second consecutive term as president, we didn’t have an immediate past-president, and no one had yet stepped up to be president-elect.That’s when long-time IABC members like Mary Hills, Peg Wander, Julie Bjorkman, Joanne Kitsos and Julie Baron stepped up to reestablish order and restore leadership. They participated big-time!

    Their example made it easier for me to accept the president-elect role later that year, and to serve as chapter president the following year.

  3. Pass It On. Healthy organizations have a seamless transition from one leadership team to the next. One of my primary objectives as chapter president was to work with chapter board members to ensure that our finances, technology, processes and volunteers would be ready to turn over to our successors.I felt that the biggest gift I could give Ken Groh, as he succeeded me as chapter president, was a seamless transition—followed by a gracious exit to the shadows. While I stayed active on the board as director of sponsorships, I knew that I needed to pass the leadership gavel to Ken—and not to try to grab it back. That is the tricky balancing act for a leader—being available to offer support and advice, while not sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.

Prepare. Participate. Pass it on.

As I prepare to pass the microphone back, I’d like each of us to raise a glass to the memory of Karen Utterback, chapter president, chapter advocate, friend to many here.