The room was crowded with 250 of my closest friends. And that's not meant to be a joke, because I do feel like I know everyone at the NSCA Business and Leadership Conference really well, whether we're meeting for the first time or if we first started chatting at the very first event in Tampa, Florida in 1998. I've attended all 15 conferences in the years since that launch, and I'll tell you, I've watched people grow and change with their businesses as a result of what they learned in hotel ballrooms around the country. What's more, I know that the people who are attracted to and consistently attend this event are the best of the best in the industry.
Even when I sit down at a table for lunch at the BLC, I know that I will shortly find myself in the middle of a great conversation about where individuals' businesses are changing in tandem, and how companies can help each other learn more about how to handle the curves in the road ahead. There are no lost opportunities for introspection and discourse at the conference. Even late-night fireside chats with scotch and cigars can lead to new understanding of what qualities make a business strong enough to withstand an ever-shifting landscape of challenges (between the occasional core-competency-leveraging laugh that may sneak in between important fiscal discussions).
That's how it came to be that a lot of us were standing on a patio, sipping coffee at a little after 10 in the morning on Saturday, and wiping tears from our eyes. That morning's wake-up session was with John O'Leary, who shook us to the core of what motivates us in business and life every day. We do it all for love, for who and what we protect in the world. That's a pretty serious connection between a lot of different types of people who convene in one room. Which is why we were able to drink our coffee together instead of hiding in corners and recuperating after what was a very serious catharsis for many of us.
O'Leary and the previous day's most dynamic speaker (in my humble opinion), Peter Sheahan, were unafraid to rattle their audience with reminders of how change has to happen in business and life. You have to be uncomfortable. You have to be shaken up a bit in order to break through to new terrain.
Sure, I sound like a motivational speaker myself, but in truth, I think this particular BLC was the best ever combination of pertinent business information and profound reminders of the personal talents and motivations that make people able to build better businesses. From the practical side, with presentations by the likes of economist Lee McPheters and Dr. Gerry Faust, through to the wildly emotional talks given by O'Leary and Sheahan (looks like the Irish genes lead to some heartfelt speakers, eh?), it was a great event. I really can't wait to see how NSCA and the BLC planning committee outdo themselves once again next year.
It's not often that we talk about emotional topics in business discourse, and yet you can always see the light in people's eyes when they start to talk about their passions. Whether it's kids and family or a hobby that drives us to distraction, that's what really keeps you going every day in life. Those are the topics you might want to engage in with your employees. What motivates them, what makes them happy when they're not working? If you can connect some of those interests with their "day job," you might find that what used to seem like idle office chit-chat is actually providing the motivation for a better work day.