July 2023 From the President’s Keyboard: Leadership Summit Was a Success!

We’re making that yearly transition into summer. It’s July, and Chapter Annual Reports have been submitted (right?). The ASPE fiscal year ended June 30, so annual Treasurer Reports are due by July 15. I’m sure everyone is on target with that (right??).

We also are entering the slow summer period for most ASPE Chapters. With that in mind, I will keep this month’s report short.

We just concluded our first-ever Chapter Leadership Summit in Chicago, and I’d like to offer a rundown of that event. It was well attended—not quite a complete sellout, but close. The initial feedback from those in attendance was that they benefitted greatly from it. The schedule for the Summit was full, with a lot to fit into just 1.5 days. We tried to keep it fast paced; one reason was to make sure we fit everything in, but also to keep everyone from falling asleep.

I know people were napping when I delivered my State of ASPE report on Saturday morning. The good news is that Executive Director/CEO Billy Smith, FASPE, countered it with an inspiring and energizing talk. He urged attendees to disclose their expectations, raised the question “Why are you here?”, and recounted the value of ASPE to our members. Billy’s passion for ASPE was apparent and left me feeling proud to be a member and with a renewed dedication to our Society. To quote Billy, we can all make a difference.

Yes, and…

Saturday’s keynote speaker was Avish Parashar, who has a background in improv comedy. That seems to be an unusual fit for a motivational speaker, but it sure worked. He lit up the crowd, keeping everyone laughing with a quick delivery, audience participation, and a pointed message. The takeaway from Avish is for Chapter leaders to learn to say “yes, and…” rather than “yes, but…”. You have to take a minute to think about that concept. A leader, officer, or employer who counters a question or suggestion with “yes, but…” comes across as dismissive or not open to a suggestion. It’s basically a polite way of saying “no.” Developing a “yes, and…” attitude is more inclusive and open minded. People respond better when they feel included. It’s more likely to lead to better conversation and better results. His ideas stuck with me, and I will be working on that.

Saturday afternoon was set up for individual Region breakout sessions. Each Region had about two hours to discuss their particular hot topics in more detail and raise questions to bring back to the entire Summit assembly. I made my way around all five of the Region breakouts and chimed in where I could offer some advice. The Regions will be forwarding their highlights so they can be compiled and reviewed at the Society level. Our intent is to provide answers and suggestions to any issues raised.

Following the breakout meetings, we reconvened in the Westin amphitheater for a “Great Ideas” discussion. A number of Chapters had sent their ideas in advance of the Summit, and Billy and I highlighted them during that session. Additionally, some of the breakout meeting ideas were brought up. The idea of having all Regions exchange their great ideas globally seemed to help quite a few Chapter representatives.

The conclusion to Saturday’s events was the Leadership Reception that evening. The group boarded buses and went to Stage Events in Elmhurst, Illinois. It was a closed event for ASPE Chapter leaders, with food, drinks, and camaraderie. That was the intangible aspect of the Leadership Summit: the camaraderie. The evening afforded attendees the opportunity to kick back, mingle, and get to know leaders from Chapters across the U.S. and Canada.

How to Be a Good Volunteer

The Summit resumed Sunday morning, and following breakfast we heard from Steve Keener, President and CEO of Little League Baseball. That organization is a volunteer organization also. Steve has been with Little League since 1980 and became president in 1994. During his tenure, he has helped expand Little League to more than 20 countries and to reach more than three million kids. Those years of experience have made him an expert in recruiting and working with volunteers, which was the focus of his keynote speech to ASPE’s leaders. He discussed what it means to be a volunteer, how to avoid burnout, and how to manage volunteers. Steve’s parting message was to understand commitment as a volunteer and to honor that commitment.

Billy resumed his role as Master of Ceremonies and walked attendees through the segment called “Did You Know?” It offered a behind-the-scenes look at ASPE’s website, the members’ page, and the staff who support all of us. With the visual aid of a slideshow, Billy and each of the staff touched on some frequently asked questions and added pointers to optimize the member experience. In addition to the information provided, it enabled the attendees to associate faces with the names of the people who keep ASPE functioning.

The Summit wrapped up with a question-and-answer session with ASPE’s Board of Directors. There were many questions for the Board—some fairly mundane and others pretty provocative. We hope the answers provided satisfied the individuals who raised the questions or at least provoked some thoughts in others. It was an opportunity for direct dialogue from the Chapter level to the Society level.

To summarize, we feel that we accomplished what we set out to do in conducting the Leadership Summit. It may be repeated sometime in the future, but that is a decision to be made down the road. Attendees appeared to appreciate the combined event and came away with new perspectives, new insights, and a renewed leadership focus. Next year, we’ll resume with each Region holding their own meeting in June.

Not One to Shy Away from a Shameless Plug…

Remember that our next event will be the 2023 ASPE Tech Symposium in Bellevue, Washington in late September. Please make plans to attend. I hope to see each of you there.

As always, I appreciate you taking time to read this. Have a relaxing and safe summer. I will sign off now until my August ASPE Pipeline column.

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