Your Top 10 Takeaways from ISA’s 2018 Annual Business Retreat

It’s only been a few months since we left the desert skies of Tucson and the ISA community at the 2018 Annual Business Retreat, but if you’re like most of us, that respite from the whirlwind seems like it was an eternity ago.

As we know, learning doesn’t last without a reinforcement, especially when you already have a very full plate. So hopefully, you’re keeping connected with your ISA colleagues — directly as well as through avenues like the LinkedIn group and the upcoming C-Level Forum — because they’re your trusted source of ongoing inspiration, advice and ideas.

But we also wanted to give you the opportunity to take a quick mental trip back to Tucson to refresh your perspective and rekindle some of the learnings the group took away from this year’s retreat. In each day’s evaluation form, we asked you, “What one thing do you plan to do with what you learned today?” Below, we’ve compiled some of the top themes that came up again and again on the evaluations. If you weren’t able to join us this year, this will also give you a taste of what you missed (okay, minus the afternoon tequila toast). Reach out to your fellow members to dig deeper and keep the conversation going!

  1. Rethink the old systems. Margaret Heffernan’s provocative keynote challenged us all to reimagine some of the “tried and true” mechanisms in business, from KPIs, metrics, competition and forced rankings to financial incentives and performance management. A number of members say they’re now rethinking systems that, as Margaret put it, “overrate metrics and underrate human beings.” A mantra to keep in mind: Trust that people want to do well — because they do.
  2. “It doesn’t matter where you start; just start and don’t stop!” Margaret talked about some pretty lofty challenges, but she encouraged people to stop worrying about the “big idea” and focus instead on where you can make an impact now. The lens she offers: Look at the intersection of where you have resources, a need and passion. One ISAer plans to “look at the part of the system that I can influence,” while another says the discussion has inspired them to “improve one thing in my company, then the next thing…”
  3. Rethink talent management objectives and tactics. Beverly Kaye’s thought leadership presentation left many ISAers thinking about how they’re going to implement “stay interviews” to find out what they can do to keep great people, rather than waiting for the exit interview when it’s too late. Others say they’re planning to have more career conversations with peers and direct reports about what they want to continue to learn and in what directions they want to grow.
  4. View limitations as opportunities. Bonnie St. James not only inspired people with her personal story, she energized them with her recipe for resilience, not to mention a “first aid kit for your attitude.” ISAers plan to invest more attention into fueling themselves by implementing her micro-resilience strategies and establishing daily techniques of resilience in business, with the team and in life in general.
  5. Define and align behind our purpose: Bonnie also highlighted the fact that tapping into a sense of purpose gives you more energy and drive. It was a good reminder to many ISAers to reconnect with their purpose and make sure everyone in the company feels connected to the organization’s broader purpose.
  6. It’s okay to get a little uncomfortable. Whether you’re reimagining your business, thinking about external investments or just trying to figure out which marketing tactics make the most sense for your business, there’s no doubt that something you heard is forcing you to go a little outside your comfort zone. And that’s a good thing. As one person said about why Margaret Heffernan’s keynote was a favorite, “It was uncomfortable in the best way possible.”
  7. Reflect on how the work I do intersects with the keynote concepts shared. We know we’re a unique crowd as ISAers. Many of the concepts presenters talk about are relevant not only to the business of our businesses but also to the actual work we do. Several members commented about how they will be incorporating some of the ideas into their client work. And others were inspired by the nuts and bolt of the sessions and the books – thinking ahead to their next keynote presentations and book projects.
  8. Spend more time with like-size companies. One of the most-repeated comments (besides that perennial training evaluation comment that the rooms were too cold) was that people just couldn’t get enough of that like-size time! The sessions yielded great practical advice and ideas, and ISAers are hungry for more. Think about how you might keep those conversations going in the “off season,” and get in touch with ISA if you have suggestions on how to extend the value of these breakouts.
  9. Share insights with my team. Another common refrain was the intention to go back and meet with the team to identify what to do and how to execute on some of the great things learned in Tucson. Now’s a good time to look back at what you said when all these insights were still fresh and track how you’re progressing against those plans.
  10. Get to know as many ISAers as possible! We had a tremendous turnout of new members and first-time attendees at this year’s ABR, which may be why this was such a recurring theme, but the advice applies to all: Follow up with the people you met to get into more detail, leverage the connections you made and help where you can. The collective intelligence of ISA members is your unbeatable and highly valuable source of advice and expertise all year long.

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