I have to come out and say it…

I really miss conferences.

I miss everything about the experience:

Darting from one side of the convention hall to the other to (politely) beat out other attendees for prime seating in breakout sessions

Pump-up keynotes with booming music and awe-inspiring speakers

Browsing the tradeshow floor, stopping by booths, and forming new connections with strangers from all over the world

The inevitable team bonding that takes place over nightly dinners and new city exploration  

Finding the perfect notebook to jot down copious notes as I soak up every nugget

Post-conference team debriefs to determine how to apply said nuggets to our strategies

And, yes, even the dungeon-like, window-less icebox in which far too many conferences take place.

Between the sugary conference treats, business card exchange frenzy, and VIP parties, something really magical happens; our brains are creatively stimulated in ways perhaps we didn’t realize we needed. Ideas once again flow on how to up-level our departments and organizations. The person we sit next to in a session becomes our next client, partner or employee. We begin challenging old assumptions and stretching our thoughts on what’s possible. Sometimes, we feel especially bold and start debating whether we should blow everything up and start anew.

Perhaps most importantly, when the jet lag fades, the sugar high subsides and all the LinkedIn connection requests to our new friends have been sent, we realize—in that perfect moment of serenity—that our cup has once again been filled.

Related Reading: Diversity of Thought and Perspective: Essential to Grow

These days, we are battling extraordinary obstacles in both our business and personal worlds. On the professional side, our industries have been disrupted overnight. The products and services we believed would carry us through 2020 may be landing flat. Our well-calculated GTM strategies may require swift recalibration. Our teams are distracted—rightfully so—with ever-mounting health, economic, family, and personal crises. The ways we used to inject creativity and inspiration back into our world—conferences, team happy hours, peer associations, networking events—seem wildly out of reach.

We are running on fumes. Craving inspiration and stimulation. And, oftentimes, we are attempting to drink out of an empty cup.

So what can we do? How can we ensure that our teams and ourselves are actively stimulating our brains, sharpening our skill sets, and expanding our perspectives? How do we refuel our tanks?

The first step is to recognize that our brains crave novelty. Research has long found that our brains are hardwired to be lit up—both chemically and neurologically—by novelty and new experiences (here’s a great article on that). Therefore, as leaders it’s essential that we intentionally create space for our teams to experience novelty and to remain vigilant of the danger that comes from too much time spent on auto-pilot.

Here are a few ideas to better support your team’s appetite for novelty:

  • Ask each member of your team to pick one virtual training to attend each week. Those few hours spent learning a new skill and hearing from a new person can be just enough to rev your team’s creative engines.
  • Start a team book club! Find a relevant leadership/business book for the month of August and schedule regular get-togethers to discuss and figure out how to apply lessons learned to your company.
  • Encourage your team to make one new professional contact a month. As we expand and diversify our network, we do the same with our thoughts and perspectives. (More tips on that in this quick video!)
  • Start your next all-hands meeting with a brain teaser. A little sudoku or boggle can go a long way in switching our brains into a new gear 😊
  • Play consultant with your business. Ask each team member to review some facet of their work with total objectivity and identify three ways that element could be strengthened.

… and countless other examples like these!

Whether we are brave enough to admit it, one of the biggest challenges actually facing our business—beyond client acquisition, product launches, team morale, etc.—is the real danger that comes from our brains slipping out of the growth zone. And if we aren’t careful, that muscle in our brain that needs constant stretching and conditioning will start to atrophy.

You May Also Like: What’s Scarier than the Unknown? The Unknown Unknown.

So… what’s one thing you can do today for you and your team to start filling up your cups? Think about it, jot it down and take action immediately.

Until then, I will be dreaming about freezing cold, intellectually thrilling, sugar-rich, and swag-filled conference experiences….

Trilix’s Executive Academy—a unique blend of executive mentoring, professional development, and organizational advancement offerings—is designed to help you bring creative stimulation and a culture of learning to your organization. Ready to fill up your cup? Learn more about our trainings here.

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