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Ward and Sandidge: A step back can bring new perspective

Published: Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

We just returned from a weeklong conference in Reno. It was a conference for people who care for people with disabilities. So why Reno? One of the sponsors has a number of group homes there. Honest, it wasn’t about gambling. 

In addition to presenting a couple of conference sessions, we were exhibiting for a publisher of leadership, management and disability books. We also attended a number of sessions and talked with a lot of people in the “business.” We learned a lot about what is going on across the country by meeting face to face with others who do similar work and have similar concerns and challenges. 

One of our sessions was about habits: creating them and changing them. The other was on reframing. These are topics we’ve written about here as they work for every type of organization. It is gratifying for us to see people in the sessions “getting it” and knowing that the information could benefit others for, perhaps, years. 

On the drive home from Reno (carrying many books back over the mountains) we reflected on how valuable the conference was for us and for the 300 or so attendees. People came from all over the country to learn and share and get some challenging new information and ideas. We agreed that there was a huge benefit of this valuable time away from daily work that would pay off for each of the organizations who sent people to Reno.

Having owned and operated several businesses, we both agreed that it is incredibly difficult for people in small businesses to get away and, yet, how important it is to step back and get a perspective on one’s company, goals and strategies. Coming home refreshed with new ideas and new connections can add just the jolt of energy needed to stimulate business at home. New knowledge and industry trends shared with others in the organization can revitalize thinking about opportunities and planning for the future. 

Does it cost money? Usually. Does it take time? What doesn’t? Is it worth it? We say absolutely! We recommend making a habit of at least one conference a year that you attend without fail. It is important to attend at least one every year in order to establish and maintain important connections with others in similar businesses across the country. Here’s where you get to compare notes with those who would be your competitors if they were in your town. Because you’ll meet people with common business concerns, you can now learn from others’ experiences and reciprocate by sharing your own.

Conferences and trade shows are only one way to keep up with what is going on in your industry or field. There are, of course, books, trade papers, e-newsletters, even business and leadership shows on television and YouTube. Those can be good. However, if you are like many of us, you don’t have (or make, or take) the time to read and watch. It is a pretty safe bet that you have folders full of “will read” newsletters and trade letter emails that you, let’s face it, will never actually read. Reduce the info clutter. Subscribe only to what you read. If you find yourself not reading it at least once a week, stop it. Drop it. Just quit it. Clear the visual and mental space so that you can read a bit each day and learn at least one new skill/concept every day. 

We find that if we are not taking time to read a bit every day we’re not doing the best job we could be doing. Reading and learning will enrich you in ways that help you do a better job as a leader in your organization. If you only know today what you knew yesterday, how do you expect today to be an improvement over yesterday? Our bias is that there is not a single thing in any business that can’t be improved in some way.

It’s amazing how often the smallest improvement in one area increases the productivity of the whole system. The secret to doing that on a regular basis is to get smarter by design. Read, teach, share, get away to conferences and make friends around the world with whom you can collaborate. Try it. You, your staff, your family, and your whole community will be the better for it.

• Anne Ward and Bob Sandidge, CreativeCore Media in Algonquin, are marketing, communication, management and training consultants who help small business and non-profits overcome the marketing and motivational myths that are keeping them and their businesses from unbounded success. Email them at AnneBob@CreativeCore.com or go to www.NLPeople.com.

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