LAS VEGAS—From the biggest electric cooperatives to the smallest, NRECA President Phil Carson says their focus should come down to the one very important person: the member.

"Our obligation, our duty, our calling is to see that our cooperative is operated for their collective good," Carson told participants at the 2018 NRECA Directors Conference.

Being member-focused was the first of three primary themes that Carson discussed with fellow directors. Carson, a director at Tri-County Electric Cooperative in Mount Vernon, Illinois, told colleagues it's crucial to know your members and listen to them.

"Make sure the cooperative is meeting their current needs and, to the best of our ability, prepare for the needs that are going to be coming in the future," he said.

The second focus should be on "boardroom dynamics."

"There is a dynamic going on in every cooperative boardroom across America," he said. Noting the different leadership personalities and points of view, Carson called it "vital that we understand and take note of that" in making good decisions.

Some on the board are stewards whose "primary tendencies are to protect and to defend, and to secure the cooperative," he said. Others are visionaries, always thinking ahead with a "strong belief that the co-op must evolve and that the status quo is not enough."

"Both skill sets are needed," Carson said, asking directors to do a self-assessment followed by "an honest assessment of the folks you sit in the boardroom with."

Finally, Carson urged a focus on governance—"how we conduct ourselves as cooperatives, how we conduct ourselves as boards."

Many eyes are on your co-op, from media to government to members, he said. "But even if no one was watching us," Carson added, "it's still the right thing to do."