Are conferences rewarding?

I recall visiting the International Home + Housewares Show in 2006, when I worked for a large corporation. This was just prior to the Great Recession. Houses were being built nationwide and selling like mad, which drove earnings of housewares and appliance businesses.

At this summit, expense accounts were flush. The wine (and vodka) flowed. Presumably company was done, though it was a bit hazy.

I broke up a fistfight between two of my friends in one of the nicest bars in Chicago. 1 friend was a Tupperware salesman and another sold air conditioners. That night they wanted to hurt each other.

I awakened the next morning from the Tupperware salesman’s room, with very little recollection of the previous evening. My other friend slept in a linen cupboard in another resort. All of us reconvened in the conference. Apologies were made. No hard feelings existed and we participated in the series.

When I founded FringeSport in 2010, I was so skeptical about the value of conventions. This was based on experiences like that in Chicago in 2006. Recently, however, I have been reconsidering conventions and seminars — both for personal and business growth. I have been surprised how closely company and personal development, for me, are intertwined.

A recent conference

I recently attended a conference in Austin, Texas called EO Xcentric. It was put on by Entrepreneurs’ Organization, which I have written about, and only accessible to members, their key workers, and spouses.

The lineup of speakers has been packaged. Two highlights were Rand Stagen and Brené Brown.

Stagen is managing director of Stagen Leadership Academy, an executive leadership consulting company. Brené Brown is a research professor in the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She’s famous for a Ted Chat on shame and vulnerability.

Stagen’s best point was”Leaders get the business they deserve.” That stunned me at the moment. And it has really stuck with me. I love FringeSport. I never want it to become a company that its owner hates. I have seen it happen to friends: They begin a company and wind up feeling trapped inside.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Stagen’s monitoring. I’m now transforming Fringe to the company I know I deserve.

Brené Brown’s speech was incredible, particularly her assertion that”Our capacity for achievement won’t ever be surpassed by our capacity for hard conversations.” We’re hardwired to avoid difficult conversations — from the social convention to”be nice” or by sheer cowardice. We would like to kick the can down the street on tough issues, hoping they’ll go away, or at least we won’t need to instantly deal with them.

But leaders have those hard discussions. And Brown’s speech reminded me that our capacity for these difficult conversations determines our success. I have since adopted this approach with my leadership team, together with my workers, and despite my wife, children, and loved ones.

Brown had another nugget which has remained with me:”Your mind wants a narrative.” Your brain, and the mind of those around you, wants a narrative to describe things that happen. Often, this story doesn’t match reality. Moreover, two individuals involved in a situation often build wildly differing stories.

I have kept this in mind when someone responds differently to an event than I’d expect. I try to understand a few of the stories in their mind. I’ve been astounded at what people sometimes think versus what I think. And I am not claiming to be “right.” It’s just that all of us perceive occurrences wildly differently.

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Brown had one final point that greatly influenced me. She said,”Show me a company with a high blame culture and I will show you a company with a very low accountability culture.” Coincidentally, I had wondered why some of my workers were quick to blame other people for not finishing tasks, or for mistakes. I’ve pondered why workers who blame others don’t often complete their own tasks.

Now it is clear: it is a symptom of attribute. The antidote is accountability. I am now emphasizing accountability generally. When I hear a worker issue attribute, I move fast to add accountability.

Are conferences rewarding?

So, are conferences rewarding? I think yes, conferences can be valuable. But it is dependent upon the mindset, commitment, goals, and follow through of the individual that attends.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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