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December 9, 2008

Made Her Move


On the third day in her new job, we caught up with Electronic Retailing Association’s new CEO Julie Coons for lunch at King Street Blues at the Arlington Court House. We asked her for tips on communicating with a search committee, departing an old job and making a good impression in a new position. She was filled with enthusiasm as she told us about her new opportunity over a “pig salad” (barbeque chicken on mixed greens). She’s particularly excited because she’s back to her fundamental passion: working in international. ERA, which has a $6 M annual budget, has members in 40 countries.


Prior to ERA, Julie led the $4 M annual budget Maryland Tech Council for four years, where she enjoyed building teams and mentoring staff. In discussing how she made the move, she told us she used communication techniques she learned from executive coach Marshall Brown to prepare for her interviews. One was her “elevator speech,” a quick explanation of what makes her unique. Another was matching her passions with past successes in order to give the search committee real examples. Julie says the clarity with which you articulate past successes lets the search committee “see you in action in the interview.”


Julie says the best way to leave a job is with “grace and graciousness,” and to do all you can to leave the organization in a better position than when you arrived. She says at first she gave her Board 90 days notice, and both agreed that was too long. She left after 30 days and says, “Even that’s a long time,” because it’s hard on staff unless there’s a CEO and succession plan in place. Otherwise, she thinks it’s best for an interim CEO to take over quickly. Before she left, Julie gave her Board Chair a two-page professional assessment of steps the Council could take, which are “purely at their discretion.”


Julie says she does not subscribe to the belief that you have to “do something” right away at your new job. Instead, she says you have to listen and learn. “It could be a completely different culture,” she says. On her first week, Julie scheduled many internal meetings, made observations (not directives) for people to think about and, most important, showed her staff the utmost respect for their work and institutional memory. She’s also keeping office traditions, like the annual Holiday Lunch. On the home front, Julie is excited about the recent remodeling of her DC home with a contemporary Asian look including Shoji Doors. And this holiday she’ll be in Palm Springs with her parents soaking up rays.

The “A” in ALA stands for Angels!

The Association of Legal Administrators was the single largest participant in this year’s Salvation Army Angel Tree gift program. The Angel Tree is decorated with numbered angel tags with the first name, age and gender of a child who will receive the gift. Contributors purchase appropriate gifts for the child described on the tags. Executive Director Paula Serratore said “the sidewalk on the side of the Fairmont Hotel was filled with gifts” last Wednesday when member firms and vendors brought bikes and other presents before ALA’s annual holiday luncheon. In all, 82 member firms and 16 vendors donated gifts that benefited the Salvation Army and N Street Village’s “Gifts for Moms” program. King & Spalding had the most Angels, 156. Paula said Salvation Army trucks spent 10 days picking up gifts from law firms that had more than 40 Angels each.

Is your Association doing something special for the Holidays? Association Editor Abraham Mahshie wants to know; email him at: Abraham@bisnow.com.

Arent Fox
Stout and Teague
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