This year’s ABMA Summer Meeting theme was Leadership + Innovation, and although the event was a little different than others I’ve attended, I walked away with tools I can immediately apply to improve myself both at work and at home. What’s more, I have a renewed enthusiasm and true sense of excitement for the boiler industry and what the future holds.
A PARADIGM SHIFT
Jerrod Murr’s talk on Leading Your Companies Growth & Development was part interactive presentation and part workshop. Murr gave excellent tips for how to be a better leader and improve both your personal and professional life.
I learned that many times the obstacles for growth are created by yourself, and that to grow, you must start by embracing the spirit of excellence within you. This creates a domino effect as you become inspiring to those around you–and then they, in turn, inspire others around them.
Murr also offered valuable insights on how to change the way you do things to involve and engage others. Establishing a clear direction for your team is important, and then making sure that any barriers or bottlenecks that impede this direction are removed so everyone can aspire to excellence.
Whether it’s recruiting employees for your workplace or volunteers at your church, Murr stressed how important it is to recruit the right people. Building momentum was also critical for success, including proper motivation and empowering people so that they can feel a true sense of contribution and accomplishment, which inspires people to perform at their very best.
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE
Noted author and speaker Arthur Brooks treated attendees to his presentation called "Love Your Enemies - How Decent People Can Save America from The Culture of Contempt." I think most would agree that one of the biggest problems in the US right now is political divisiveness. Statistics show that 1 out of 5 people have a family member they refuse to talk to because of their political opinions.
When Brooks asked the audience to raise their hand if they had a family member they did not agree with politically, everyone’s hand shot up. Then he asked us to raise our hand if that family member was still someone we loved, and everybody raised their hands again. Therein lies the problem with politics. We have become a society that cannot tolerate others opinions.
Brooks said that treating others that held dissenting political views with civility and compassion was THE answer to ending our country’s divisiveness. In other words, love thy neighbor and be civil with all people regardless of their personal or political views. Brooks, a self-confessed conservative, said this approach will be invaluable to him as he heads to teach at the liberally-minded Harvard college. He feels that approaching his fellow faculty and students with a loving spirit will establish an environment in which everyone can share their viewpoints in a civil way that allows people to actually learn from each other. He concluded his talk by saying that the days of yelling and shouting expletives at one another as a way of solving our world’s problems, are over.
THE STRENGTH OF TEAMWORK
One of the more provocative experiences broke us up into groups for team-building exercises. It was interesting to see high-level executives, CEOs and VPs interacting with one another to solve problems. This exercise made everyone push the boundaries of their comfort zones and work in a team environment where everyone’s voice held equal weight.
I’ll admit I was not totally comfortable myself at the start, but as the exercise went on, it really opened my eyes to better ways of working together, and it gave me solid ideas on how to improve things where I work. In fact, it may have been one of the most talked about activities of the event, and in a very positive way. More Importantly, the lessons learned can be applied both at work and at home to create core values that carry over to your professional and personal life.
EASY ON THE EYES
A little gem Brooks shared was to put the kibosh on giving anybody “the eye roll,” even when what they have to say may be the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard. I was surprised to learn how such a subtle act can convey such high a degree of contempt, so much so that it can totally shut down communication.
When you feel an eye roll coming on, Brooks suggested that you remember what your parents used to tell you about counting to ten until “the feeling” passes, and make a genuine effort to hear people out and then reflect on what was said before responding–and then respond in a way that, if the roles were reversed, you would find helpful and respectful. These and other tools are something I will be using in my everyday life from here on out.
My schedule did not allow me to attend Kiran Thirumaran’s talk covering recent developments at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL), but others told me it was very informative. Thirumaran supports DOE’s Better Buildings, Better Plants program and the Federal Energy Management Program by providing industrial sites with technical assistance activities, energy assessments and training, and energy management guidance. He is also leading DOE’s effort to modernize their energy-system software tool suite and associated training resources.
ROCKIN' AROUND THE BILTMORE
Our group got a VIP tour of the Biltmore estate, which is over 175,000 square feet of incredible architecture and woodwork. It is such a grand estate that it was not surprising to learn that when first constructed, the town of Asheville built a metal forging plant and a lumber mill devoted exclusively to the construction of the Biltmore, which included an amazing garden which still thrives today. My wife and I also managed to score 2nd place in the 1950’s “Sock Hop” themed dinner dance. ABMA always has something to give us a change of pace so that it is not all business.
ABMA–A LOOK AHEAD
This is an exciting time to be a member of the ABMA as they are going through a strategic plan change to add even more benefits to being an ABMA member. This includes being involved in code writing, meeting with government officials and setting policies for future equipment design – there will be a big announcement in January that will elaborate on these plans and the direction ABMA is going.
For me personally, ABMA is first and foremost about connecting with the top business leaders in the boiler industry. So, should I ever hit a snag with any boiler-related issue, I have their contact info at my fingertips. Secondly, ABMA offers a wealth of valuable information about innovations, the latest news from the EPA, government regulations and other information vital to running our business.