I think we all have or will reach a point in our lives when we feel as though we have this “thing” all figured out. Whatever this “thing” in our lives may be – friendship, marriage, parenting, careers – it’s as though all of our hard work and the hard times are finally paying off and we can just press cruise from here on out. Hopefully a good dose of reality shakes things up every now and then and shows us that while cruising through life may feel satisfying, it can also cause us to lose focus, miss opportunity, and weaken what we worked so hard for in the first place.
I was recently operating in major cruise control mode! I’ve been a very active volunteer for NCMA, which has taken a significant amount of my time and dedication over the past five years. Lately, I’ve been more hands off than usual, feeling as though I should be able to ride out the fruits of my labor so to speak. This past weekend, I attended a Leadership Conference with NCMA to “give back” to other local area leaders by teaching and mentoring. Surely, I didn’t have anything to learn at the conference since I had been to 4 of these before, right? Boy was I wrong! I took away several valuable lessons in life, leadership, and laughter that helped to reenergize my spirit and take the cruise out of my attitude.
Although these take-aways are the result of an NCMA conference, they can also be applied to all of the other “things” we think we have figured out.
Effective Communication Goes a Long Way – At the conference this weekend, NCMA took an approach to communication that I had not experienced before. The organization was being very open, transparent, and forthright. They were listening to concerns and suggestions, and they made everyone feel as though they were a valuable part of the organization’s future. It felt magical! It wasn’t really magic – it was just good communication. While this take away may seem relatively underwhelming, it’s a practical lesson that everyone can apply in life and leadership. Let’s face it. Communication can be challenging, especially if what needs to be communicated involves a sensitive issue, difficult subject matter, or (sometimes) even accolades. But, just think about all of the problems that could have been avoided if there had been good communication. I certainly am going to take action and practice more effective communication within the organization in my local area, my team at work, and my husband (who has already voiced concerns about my communication skills…) How can you put this into action?
Do What’s Right When No One is Looking – Ethical behavior is something that everyone subscribes to. Certainly, we know that we should be doing the right thing and promoting this behavior among others. However, during the Leadership Conference, a speaker challenged this thought by asking us to share what we are doing to promote ethical behavior. She wanted concrete examples. You couldn’t have imagined, but the room was totally silent! Could it be that we have superficially adopted the theory of ethical behavior but not actually promoted its practice? Eventually, a few people offered up some examples, but I was astonished by the fact we weren’t listening to countless examples. I think I was even more shocked by the fact I couldn’t think of a single example of how I had promoted ethical behavior within the organization in my local area. Major wakeup call! Was I really this passive? I am a huge proponent of ethical behavior in the workplace, but how could I leave this charge out of my volunteer activities and personal life altogether? Ethical behavior isn’t just confined to the workplace, it’s a framework for our entire lives. Do you do what’s right when no one is looking, and do you demand that of the other people? Not just at work, but in your personal life too? I challenge you to chew on that for a minute. This question really opened my eyes and challenged me to think about how I can promote ethical behavior in my local NCMA organization as well as my personal life. I hope it does this same for you.
Plan to Accomplish Your Goals – Do you know where you want to be when everything is said and done? Having a vision and an end goal in mind is a great thing. Many people don’t even get that far. But, how are you going to get there if you don’t have a plan? Several speakers at the Leadership Conference discussed the importance of laying out a plan for accomplishing your goals. Using guidelines from the organization, they encouraged us to lay out tactical plans to make reaching our end goals more feasible. I’m a big proponent of planning; actually, you could call it an addiction. So, I was extremely happy to hear the organization stress this point. Too often people look at the big picture and forget about what it takes to actually get there. Eventually, they find themselves looking back wondering why they never did what they set out to do. We all start off with good intentions, but things just get in the way and can easily steer us off track. Without tactical plans acting as a metric for tracking progress towards the end goal, we risk never getting back on track. Think about the goals you’ve set this year. Now… how do you actually plan to reach them?
Don’t Take Things So Seriously – Someone once said, “If you laugh, you change; and when you change, the world changes.” I certainly was reminded of this at the Leadership Conference. You can imagine sitting through an all-day conference could become quite stale, but this conference was so much fun! I think I laughed the whole way through! It reminds me that while the subject matter may be important, there is no reason to present it so seriously. Sometimes I think we confuse the serious nature of a topic with being very “serious” about the way we approach it. You can be fun and lighthearted about a serious topic and still be “serious” about the topic! This take away speaks to my heart! I am a famous take-everything-too-seriously person at work and with NCMA. This way of thinking certainly leads to unnecessary stress and worry. I’m all wound up most of the time! I have a feeling many other women know what I’m talking about. Even in my personal life, I tend to have an overactive “Superego” as Freud would say, which is the reason for my overly strict conscious and inability to just let loose. Leadership Conference to the rescue, yet again, because I had an incredible amount of fun after hours with my colleagues going to dinner and shows and just laughing up a storm! Changed my outlook on several things. Try it. I bet it will change yours too!
While I went into this conference thinking I had it all figured out, I walked away with several new lessons learned and a refreshed attitude to boot. Are you operating on cruise? I challenge you to be open to shaking things up!
Did you attend the leadership conference? If so, what lessons did you learn?
For more information on NCMA and the Leadership Conference, visit www.ncmahq.org!