Candidate Q&A

James Hastings, DDS
1. Why are you applying for this position?
There has historically been a scarcity of quality, qualified applicants for positions in top leadership. I believe that this problem is of our own making, yet there is no easy solution. I would like to be a part of the solution. I am as ready as I will ever be to assume this responsibility.
Identifying and “training” a new Executive Director will be a major part of this. Today there are many unknowns, and working collaboratively with the new board and the new Executive Director will help to create solutions to some of our immediate and long-range challenges.
This period in our history is interesting because of recent world events which affected our industry and our academy. We are no longer the elephant in the room, too important and too large to ignore. Review of our effort on membership retention and on differentiation from our competitors is more important than ever. I believe that we may have achieved our critical mass, which I define as the membership number that we depend upon for planning purposes. I identify our main competitors as anyone who puts on a dental trade show with an educational venue. We must differentiate the AACD from other organizations, when younger graduates really cannot. These prospective members have to make a choice in paying dues to our organization, or joining a non-dues association, or simply attending webinars.
A second area of emphasis for the new Executive Director and our volunteer membership is rebuilding relationships between the AGD and other important organizations, and to begin a dialogue with the American Dental Association. Our efforts in outreach to other academies are both important and critical to our standing in the professional community. Our relationships with the dental manufacturers need to be re-established as well, as many have gone fallow. Lastly, our relationships with higher education need to be further strengthened; I don’t believe we’re currently doing enough there.
Having been privileged to attend several joint board meetings and strategic planning sessions from 1999 through 2005, then 2009 through 2012, I’m interested to see how some great ideas that have been discarded or forgotten might be brought back to the table.
2a. Leadership skills and Organizational style: The past three plus years as a member of the Board of Directors has been invaluable.  It’s been remarkable to see how each President has handled the interesting mix of personalities. I have learned from each President under whom I have served. My conclusion: No one person who holds the office of the Presidency can please every one of his board members or constituents. It’s more important to actively listen to all points of view, and to ask for advice and counsel. Just as important is to conduct oneself with integrity, respecting the rights and opinions of others. Most often it’s the responsibility of the President to set the agenda, to conduct meetings in accordance with Parliamentary Rule, and then to preside. Since most decisions that come from board meetings are decisions of the board, the President’s job is to guide and preside, and not to attempt to influence.
It’s incumbent on all board members to take responsibility for the duties of their elected position, as they represent the membership. I understand the political organization of the academy and I recognize the need for a board that works together and builds on the strengths of all its members.
2b. Accomplishing things: The board can be a powerful resource, as it brings together collective brain power. Management of different egos is the key to getting the most out of this resource. I prefer to get to know each board member personally and to find what is important to each of them as an individual and as a board member. Use of individual strengths collectively is the key to having a board that gets things done. Asking for help and getting the most out of others is everything. I am well aware that only a fraction of the grand ideas that are presented each year can be acted upon. I would like to see our committee structure be brought back and made into something that is actually useful. This will take a couple of years but it could make all the difference. We were presented with a moving target the past few years, and it’s worthwhile to revisit the reasons the academy is so important to many of its loyal members.
2c. Free of bias: There is no reason to subvert the good of the academy for a minor gain or for ego gratification. It’s a question of confidentiality and integrity. These are foundational principles that should be at the core of leadership.
3. What do I bring that is unique or distinctive?
While the academy is certainly not in a shambles, as noted above, there are significant challenges to be met. I believe that I am in a unique position to help to carry on. I sincerely hope that this Committee does not perceive this statement as egotistical; it’s just the reality of numbers.
4. I will be active in support of some improvement in the strategic plan, especially as it relates to goals 2 and 4. I believe that goal 3b should be revisited, as well as goals 5 and 9.
A one-year goal is to begin to give some teeth to the idea of improvement of the website. The website is one of our major public relations arms and it ought to be better than anything else out there. I hear comments from members and also board members, “everybody hates it.” It needs constant attention and tweaking and perhaps its own budget allocation ought to be considered. I also submit that a volunteer marketing committee ought to be considered for a position as a standing committee, with three year membership and chair rotation. This committee would interface with the Marketing Department and offer professional advice to that paid Director and team. This committee could also offer advice on website improvement. There is an adage that “there is nothing new under the sun”. Many great ideas have already been discussed and either ignored or dropped from consideration. This is a topic for our joint board meeting in June, 2013.
5. Supporting and relating to the membership: This question is perplexing with many answers. There are fifteen board members and about 5,000 members who pay dues but never attend a scientific session. Of those that attend with some regularity, the obvious answer is to connect before, during and after the annual meeting when the buzz is still uppermost in their minds. Even though the relative proportion of numbers is overwhelming, the annual meeting is the best time to identify and to cultivate future leaders. There have been attempts to identify pathways to leadership in the past, but to my knowledge not much is being done on that front today. Our current “Member Linkage Committee” has yet to submit a report to the BOD. Good question, what does the NALDC propose?
6. What else should you know? I consider myself a long-range thinker. My experience with the credentialing board and the Board of Directors has been invaluable training in seeing how decisions made today might have long-term implications in the future. It’s important that the board of directors is able to prioritize issues and to delegate fact-finding to committee while engaging in discussions on matters of importance that affect the future of the academy.