I must admit, I have had those questioning moments over the course of the last five years prior to becoming Chair. I have imagined…What would it be like? What would I do? Who would be on the team? What would I learn? What would I love about it? What would I change? What would I dislike about it? The list went on. But, one thing was clear to me, I would want it more than anything. I already had thoughts of what I would do. Did I really know what was ahead? Did I know for sure what to expect, what would come my way?
Eighteen months ago, when I was offered the position by Tom Jackson, vice president elect, for a moment, I was, speechless (yes, hard to imagine me, speechless). I was thrilled, shocked, scared, and really not sure I could do it. I had a million thoughts running through my head, including those I had thought about over and over again for so many years. Would I be able to live up to the president's expectations, challenges, and crazy ideas? He and I have known each other since the late 80’s, and served on many ACPA things before—so of course I could work with him. Let me correct that, he would be working for me. So as reality set in, I paused, sighed, laughed, and smiled, and the word “Yes” came out of my mouth. Followed by the words, “Yes, yes and yes!”
As I reflect on my journey as the Boston 2010 Convention Chair, I must tell you that this experience has been more than what I could ever have visualized, anticipated, predicted or expected—in such an amazing way!
Some thoughts from my experience I want to share as new members come on board and contribute to ACPA:
- Be a coach. While I never have formally coached a sports team, in the spirit of teaching skills, strategies, and techniques associated with a sports team, one thing I did know is that I needed to guide, challenge, support and motivate the team and then needed to get off the field and let the players “play” the game. Coaches keep playing until they get it right.
- Learn to be comfortable being in the middle. I had no idea that I would learn as much as I have or work with as many colleagues as I have. As Chair you work very closely with all leadership. From wanting to grant wishes and listening to ideas, to receiving feedback, and to attending to agendas and needs. I learned to manage the details and the big picture. I needed to listen, reflect, evaluate, respond and sometimes put on my tap dancing shoes and “dance.” I did my best to be a strategic thinker (my #1 in StrengthQuest) and weigh all sides before deciding. Trying to create win-wins was always my first choice, even though at times, it was not possible.
- Be on the lookout for possibilities and opportunities. I am not one to accept the word, “can’t.” If I was told “We can’t,” I would ask “Why not? Can’t we knock the ‘t’ off can’t?" Change, or as I like to call it possibilities and opportunities, is what makes life fun and exciting. Problems or concerns are opportunities waiting to happen. A setback is an opportunity to begin anew more intelligently. Never pull down the shade. As long as you’re going to think about anything, think big. As my mother would say to me, “Robin, you may fall seven times, so stand up eight. Your perseverance and tenacity will serve you right; open the shade and let the sun shine in. Never pull down the shade.”
- Make it a habit to tell people thank you. As I think about the convention team, leadership and our members who continuously give of their time, talent and expertise, I am amazed. It is important to find moments to express appreciation and gratitude to volunteers who sincerely do this and without the expectation of anything in return. They are the foundation of our success. I can only hope that I have expressed enough my deepest gratitude. As one great author said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and never giving it.” Give it!
- Learn how to say no. I can say no without actually saying the word “no.” Need I say more? (No!).
- Gain strength, courage and confidence with each experience. I have grown in so many ways. My heart and soul have been strengthened and my ambition inspired. I have taken more risks than I might have in the past. I have learned the difference between good and great is just a little, ok, sometimes a lot of extra effort.
- Be spontaneous and flexible. You have heard the saying, “Just another ordinary day.” Wrong. The past five months, 85% of my day, not including nights and weekends has been devoted to ACPA. I have learned to be flexible, to prioritize the important things, to stay fit, and see the humor in things. For anyone thinking about being Chair, there really are no ordinary days! Choose what “gets” to you. Switch your mind to a new station. Laugh. Be real and honest with yourself. Take a break and tune out…just for a moment or two.
See you in Boston!
My heartfelt thanks,
Chair, Boston 2010 Convention