My grandma grew up on a small family farm in Central Iowa. From the time she could walk, she pitched in—doing household chores, taking care of her siblings, and helping in the fields. My grandpa was a country boy, always toeing the line between mischief and delinquency, picking up odd jobs, and catching catfish in the crick to help put dinner on the table. To this day, my grandparents are what I would call old school. The type of people who are made of uncompromising integrity and tenacious hard work. They’re still thankful for the value of a dollar, for the May showers that grow their tomatoes and tulips in the backyard, and the pure sounds of Dean Martin and Doris Day on their turntable. They see personal responsibility, commitment, and mistakes all the same: regardless of circumstance, you own it. Lucky for me, I was pretty much raised by them. So it’s not surprising that I thought of them often while attending the Center for Growing Talent by PMA’s 5th Annual Women’s Fresh Perspectives Conference. The theme of the three-day professional development conference, held April 23-25, was “Own It.” As a first-time attendee, I was pleased to discover that the event fully reflected the industry we love by challenging us to learn, discuss, and grow within principles that apply to us professionally—from field to shelf—and personally—from home to office. Here are just a few highlights that I pledged to own as I wrapped up 72 hours of professional networking and development. Thoughtfulness has been lost. What does this cost? Our industry, arguably more than any other, relies on speed to market for quality and freshness assurance. This means we not only move fast, but we also never stop! Juliet Funt, founder of Whitespace at Work, reminded us why it is so critical to our businesses and our bottom lines to create whitespace in our workspaces—it allows for pause amidst chaos. This pause, she said, reduces busywork, refocuses on strategy rather than simply activity, and ultimately drives value for thoughtfulness over exertion within our companies. She challenged the audience to ask, “What happens to your business when talented people don’t have time to think?” She also shared examples of the quantifiable gain a company receives when they commit to transitioning from a thing factory into a thought factory. Whitespace allows companies to remember who they are, gives time to reflect on what they’ve done, and creates thoughtfulness around where they’re going, ultimately allowing them to more effectively own their opportunities and outcomes. It takes vision to see results. Whether planting seeds for next year’s harvest or implementing strategies to support next quarter’s sales goals, little can be accomplished without a clear vision. Mary Shapiro, a professor of practice from the Simmons School of Management, led a conversation around what it takes to build, communicate, and lead a vision. “The difference between being viewed as a significant contributor and a leader,” she said, “is a vision.” There are three key skills in leading a successful vision:
- Know it. You must prove your competency and knowledge in order for someone to follow.
- Explain it. To create credibility and support for your vision, you must convince your audience of the strategic reason for it, and the organizational outcome it will drive.
- Report it. To prove value and ensure continued support, you must make sure that people have visibility to the impactful results your vision has led to.
- Moments of still: an inspiring and quantifiable reminder of the impact our businesses will feel when we take more time to pause—think, strategize, and problem solve—in the whitespace.
- Moments of skill: the impact our vision can have when we influence through competency, credibility, and visibility.
- Moments of will: the transformative will that one 5-second countdown can provide.