Conference Review

Conference attendees get valuable lessons on leadership in changing times.

From dynamic and informative speakers to record attendance and fundraising, the NACAS 2015 Annual Conference lived up to its promise Nov. 1-4 in San Antonio.

The NACAS Education Foundation’s 15th Annual Silent Auction and Raffle was a huge success. Every year, more than 60 NACAS members and business partners donate their time and money to help with this event. All proceeds went to the NACAS Education Foundation.

The silent auction raised a record $11,935, up from $9,400 in 2014. The raffle raised a record $5,000, up from $4,500. And the sold-out golf tournament, which was held Saturday prior to the start of the conference, raised $13,000.

Over the course of the conference, approximately $30,000 was raised for the NACAS Education Foundation.

NACAS conference attendees further exhibited their charitable side by participating in a service project to benefit school children in San Antonio. Attendees were asked to drop off a backpack at the hospitality desk filled with school supplies. NACAS partnered with the San Antonio Independent School District to provide school supplies for children in the district. The supplies were donated to three area elementary schools, and included cash donations and gift cards for those who didn’t purchase school supplies before arriving in San Antonio.

The Business Solutions Center featured 210 exhibitors representing 159 companies.
Keynote speakers Tim Sanders and Alison Levine entertained while educating with speeches designed to help conference attendees successfully move forward in the “Brave New World” of auxiliary services.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Kicking Off With Love

Sanders, an Internet pioneer and best-selling author, captivated a crowded ballroom with an inspirational and motivational talk Sunday afternoon in the Opening General Session of the NACAS 2015 Annual Conference.

With a background in psychology, economics and debate, Sanders managed to weave stories of life, leadership and making connections, in an effort to help conference attendees prepare to move into “A Brave New World.”

Sanders said true, genuine leadership is built out of love.

“It is my theory that the heart and soul of great leadership is love,” Sanders said. “The greatest force of leadership is empathy and compassion.”

A native of Lubbock, Texas, Sanders worked in food service and in the school bookstore in college. “Work study was so important to me, first at Odessa Community College and then at Loyola- Marymount University,” he said.

Sanders told the audience he has a deep appreciation for what they do.

“I believe auxiliary services are the backbone, the $40 billion backbone, of colleges and universities throughout North America,” Sanders said. “I have a deep respect for the work that you do, and deep empathy for the challenges you face in this brave new world.”

Sanders said some of the major issues facing the auxiliary services community going forward are new technology, new generational attitudes and behaviors, a new regulatory climate, and a completely new landscape to conduct business.

“And in all of these situations, it comes down to effective leadership practices,” Sanders said.

Sanders told the audience as leaders they need to build powerful connections to move people forward, quoting Napoleon Bonaparte who said “The leader’s role is to define reality and then give hope.”

Sanders told the audience that in general terms relationships are “give and give”, adding that “you build powerful relationships by sharing what you have, noticing what should be noticed, then repeating the process.”

In a time when often only two percent of what’s being said gets into our psyche, Sanders said one of the greatest challenges leaders face is getting through those filters of their team members. Again, that’s where love and connections come in, he said.

“The shortest distance between two people is a warm connection,” Sanders said.

Sanders said in times of great change, good leaders must help their people make the leap from shock to exploration and replace fear with curiosity. He reminded the audience that every great invention is the result of teamwork.

Sanders challenged conference attendees to read a book cover-to-cover every eight weeks on a subject that deals with a pressing issue. “If you read about things, you have something to share,” Sanders said.

Sanders said leaders should learn how to give trust, not just expect trust, reminding that trust is a two-way street.

He said networking is vitally important, but only when done correctly. There is a difference between networking and knowledge-sharing, he said. He said if you intelligently share your network you will see it grow over the course of time.

“Paying it forward makes the world go around,” Sanders told the audience. “Paying it back does nothing.”

Sanders closed his hour-long talk with some poignant words from the late Dale Carnegie, a writer, lecturer, and self-improvement speaker.

“I believe Dale Carnegie was correct when he first told his students in the 1920’s ‘you will accomplish more developing a sincere interest in others than you will accomplish getting others interested in you’,” Sanders said.

Leading Fearlessly

As a history-making explorer and mountaineer, the team captain of the first American women’s Mount Everest expedition team, and having climbed the highest peak on every continent, Alison Levine knows a thing or two about leadership and overcoming obstacles. Levine has survived sub-zero temperatures and hurricane force winds on her multiple climbing expeditions.

Her success in extreme conditions is even more impressive when you consider she’s survived three heart surgeries and suffers from a neurological condition that causes the arteries that feed her fingers and toes to collapse in cold weather, leaving her at extreme risk for frostbite. As the keynote speaker for the Closing General Session at the NACAS 2015 Annual Conference, Levine combined humor and an easy conversational style to provide the audience with an enlightened approach to creating cohesive teams, taking responsible risks, and developing no-nonsense leaders that can succeed in times of uncertainty.

“So many of the great lessons I learned climbing mountains can be used in business,” Levine said.

Levine offered several keys for effective leadership in times of uncertainty:

Build Relationships
Put the time and effort into networking, Levine said, because you never know when it’s going to pay off. Levine said she always took time to make friends with other climbers during an expedition because people are much more likely to take a personal risk if they have a relationship with you.

Always stay engaged as a leader: “When you’re in a leadership position, even when you feel like hell you have to do your job,” Levine said. “…As a leader, you should never expect the people on your team to endure anything that you would not endure.”

Deal With Change
Often times there will be things you have zero control over, but storms are always temporary, Levine said. “You have to be able to take action based on the situation at the time,” Levine said. “Forget about being hell-bent on sticking to a plan. Focus on executing based on what is going on at the time.”

Have Sound Judgment
Levine said there is nothing wrong with walking away from something if the conditions aren’t right, another lesson she’s learned from climbing.

“If the conditions aren’t right, you turn around, cut your losses and walk away,” Levine said. “We all know of instances where one person’s bad decision has brought down an entire organization.”

Added Levine: “You cannot control the environment, all you can do is control the way you react to it.”

Don’t Fear Failure
Levine said we’re not a failure-tolerant society, which can hamper success in leadership.

“A lack of failure-tolerance really stifles progress and innovation, and prevents people from taking risks,” Levine said.

Levine said it’s a mistake to assume that people with seemingly perfect records will make the best leaders.

“Sometimes people with perfect track records are just people who never pushed themselves all that hard,” Levine said. “Often it’s the people who have stumbled, who have fallen, and who have been bruised and bloodied along the way are the ones who are out there really pushing their limits so that others can succeed down the road.”

Keep Climbing
Levine said highly-effective leaders realize you must always keep going, no matter the obstacles or setbacks.

“Sometimes things are going to go your way, sometimes they are not,” Levine said. “But you have to keep climbing. You’ve got to be able to weather the storm…You have to be absolutely relentless about putting one foot in front of the other.”

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