Last week I attended the Global Leadership Summit hosted by the Willow Creek Association, which is by far my favorite leadership conference of the year. I always look forward to attending the GLS because I know that I will walk away with a ton of great ideas and insights about leadership. However, therein lies the problem. Attending a great conference and getting some powerful ideas is meaningless if I proceed to do nothing with the information.
If you’re like me, after attending a conference that challenges, inspires, and motivates, you are ready to charge a hill, to cast a new vision, to tackle a monumental task, to take decisive action on some big project, or to work on areas that you’ve been neglecting for a long time. And then the next week comes and reality sets in. You get back in the rat race of life and the whirlwind of work. Basically, you forget about everything that you just learned.
So how do we overcome this trap of post-conference lethargy? How do we make sure that our time spent learning was not in vain?
I think it comes down to what one of the speakers at this conference said about execution. When talking about goals and ideas, Chris McChesney said, “There will always be more good ideas than the capacity to execute them.” I think this is exactly what happens after a conference. We’re filled with so many good ideas that we end up becoming overwhelmed to the point that we don’t take any action.
LESS IS MORE
What if instead we just focused on the top two or three takeaways and identified specific action items for each of them? That’s what I plan to do this week. I’m going to review all of my notes from the conference, identify my top three takeaways, and then determine what specific actions I will take as a result of this new knowledge and insight. Then, I’m going to write these down and review them everyday to monitor my progress. In addition, I will share these action items with at least two other people who will hold me accountable.
The point is this — don’t attend a conference, seminar, or workshop just to say you did so. Go with the intent of learning something specific that you can use to become a better leader and team member. And then after you learn, make sure that you have some sort of process in place for ensuring that you actually apply this new learning to your life. The key is in focusing on just a few action items–resist the temptation to have a long to-do list. In the end, you will be glad that you executed a few key items instead of having a long list of ideas that you never acted upon at all.