ASA’s Women in Industry division annual event will take place virtually April 20 to 23. Since its inception in 2016, ELEVATE has grown to bring more than 200 women from the PHCP-PVF industry together each year for an event full of inspiring educational sessions, networking and fun. The conference truly is a favorite among attendees. Although the women are eager to see each other again in person for the 2022 event, the content packed into ELEVATE2021 Virtual will not disappoint.
I recently chatted with a few of the speakers from this year’s lineup to see what attendees can expect to learn and take away from the event.
The event will kick off with an animated travel simulation talk from employee engagement and levity expert Tami Evans called “Passport to Excellence: Making the Most of Your Personal and Professional Journey.”
Evans explains one hot-topic she’s been covering recently is how any day now the world will go back to “normal” and professionals need to be prepared to adjust.
“Even though this has been a wild ride of a year, good things have happened; we’ve had the opportunity to learn about ourselves,” she adds. “There are things we’ve learned that we should want to carry with us going forward.”
Evans refers to this concept by asking listeners to think about their “Post Q (quarantine) to-dos.”
“What are the things you need to be doing now to be ready for when the universe knocks on your door and says it’s time to go back to ‘normal’ life?” she questions. “It’s about checking in to decide what new habits you like from quarantine and what habits you don’t like that you’d like to let go of.”
Another area Evans focuses on is intuition; how do we trust and use our intuition as adults to better our professional and personal lives?
“As we get older, we begin to question our intuition, unlike children who just follow gut instincts,” she says. “Women especially tend be really dialed in to our intuition. I try to get people to listen and trust that intuition instead of doubting it.”
With all of the changes we’ve endured over the past year, Evans notes it’s a great time to take a look at things you like and don’t like about both your professional and personal life, and her talk at ELEVATE will help attendees do just that.
“Now is a perfect time to take some risks or approach a supervisor with a new idea,” she says. “No one has ever lived through this before. Everyone is sort of making things up as we go, and showing initiative by sharing new ideas is such a gift to the organization and the individual.”
Laughter and levity are two more things Evans emphasizes, urging listeners to understand how lightness and endorphin release promotes connection between colleagues and can boost productivity.
ELEVATE2021 Virtual attendees will also have the opportunity to learn from Tracie Sponenberg, chief people officer for plumbing and heating wholesale-distributor The Granite Group.
Sponenberg brings a unique and relatable perspective as someone who hasn’t always been a speaker. In fact, she says she never imagined public speaking until about five years ago.
“I was actually pretty quiet and never made waves,” she says. “I always knew I had a little bit more in me than I was offering, so a number of years ago I started to build up muscles around things I thought I wasn’t good at. I became more self-aware and that gave me permission to lean into my capabilities."
Sponenberg’s niche is unique, as an HR professional who often speaks on technology. She says taking the leap into public speaking has expanded her worldview.
“I went from spending my career in my own little bubble to doing all of these really cool things and meeting friends all over the world,” she says. “Now I expand my knowledge and continue to learn every day.”
In her talk, “Leading Virtual Teams,” Sponenberg will discuss a range of topics relevant to adapting to the hybrid virtual/in-person workforce many are likely headed into.
“I think we’ve learned it’s important to focus more on humans and less on performance,” she says. “In this world of working from home it’s important to have trust. We have to trust initially and not be skeptical until there’s a reason to be; you don’t wait to build trust — you give it and you receive it.”
Equally as important as trust, Sponenberg explains connection within a team is key, especially in a virtual setting. “For about the first eight months of COVID-19, my team and I met virtually every day,” she says. “Working from home can be lonely and isolating, so it was important to just check in and see how everyone was doing.”
One of the topics that intrigues me the most comes on the final day of ELEVATE2021 — “Crucial Conversations” with Judith Honesty — an experienced organizational development consultant with Vital Smarts. Honesty is master certified in crucial conversations and accountability, and has worked with companies such as Discover Financial, Johnson & Johnson and Blue Cross Blue Shield — just to name a few.
After more than 20 years as a consultant and trainer, Honesty realized much of her work and success dealt with getting people to have difficult conversations about disagreements within organizations while understanding the passion behind each party.
“It can be hard to get people to talk about the sensitive underlying issues behind a disagreement,” she says. “As a facilitator, I’ll often ask the parties involved to write down what they’re trying to accomplish with the conversation and why it’s important to them.”
Honesty explains success during difficult conversations revolves around being both candid and respectful. “Fear often makes us ineffective in our toughest conversations. We fear something horrible will happen to us if we speak up, so we shut up. Or we fear something horrible will happen if we don’t get our point across so we shout, threaten or do other disrespectful things,” she explains. “Those are two things that contribute to ineffective communication. You have to figure out how to manage fear so you can stay both candid and respectful — candid for yourself and with the other person, as well as respectful of yourself and respectful of the other person.”
Another skill Honesty plans to address at ELEVATE is speaking with power. “I don’t mean using power to dominate the conversation or control others. I’m talking about using your power to speak about your own perspectives, experience, facts, feelings and opinions in a way that reflects the passion that you feel and in a way that doesn’t get hushed or dismissed,” she says.
If an organization has never utilized facilitation services, there may be some misconceptions about the end goal of crucial conversations. “We aren’t trying to make friendship bracelets and sing camp songs,” Honesty notes. “And it’s also not about getting your way. It’s about getting to a solution that’s better for the people and the organization using productive dialogue and collaboration.”
I'm excited to hear from these women, as well as the others slated to speak at the event. It's the perfect time to take advantage of this easy-to-attend virtual conference; the women in your organization will thank you. Registration for ELEVATE2021 Virtual is complimentary for ASA member companies. Find more information here.