Friday, October 31, 2014

Connecting and Volcanos – My Two AHA! Moments This Week

Another great week with a class of incredibly talented AV geeks getting their CTS credentials.  This was another unique class because it was for a manufacturer, so the depth of knowledge in projection and image quality was unparalleled.  I learned a lot from this team of professionals.  Along the way I learned some things I didn't expect to learn.

In a couple of late night conversations with a very high executive in the company I was training, I was asked some very pointed questions and statements.  These conversations ended up hitting me in the core of who I am and what I am doing.  In this few days’ worth of time, I ended up learning more about myself than years of therapy.  The highlight of what I learned has to do with Connecting and the Volcano.

Connecting – One of our late night conversations was more of a question and answer session.  The executive I was talking with wanted to learn more about me and the company he was working with.  So he asked me a lot of questions. The question that hit me the hardest and made me realize I was on the right track with grAVITation TECHnologies was when he asked “what is it that you are trying to do, are you trying to make these people understand and learn the CTS topics and pass the test or are you trying to help them learn more about the industry and best practices?”  I thought for a second and answered. “Neither. I am trying to connect with them.”  As those words came out of my mouth I realized why I do what I do.  Yes, I love to learn and I love to share my knowledge.  Yes, I love to teach and see people improve. But, above those things, I love to connect with people.  My satisfaction comes from people coming up to me years after a class and telling me how I changed their life or their approach to something and how something I said stuck with them.  I love the idea that when I spend time with people in any environment (classroom, office or on the road) that I get to connect and we SHARE information and grow TOGETHER.  By answering that seemingly simple question, I learned (or reminded myself) more than I had realized in a long while.

The Volcano – As our discussions went on, the executive I was talking to referred to me as a Volcano.  I took this as a compliment because I see volcanos as powerful.  I also liked this statement because the result of volcanos erupting can be beautiful; tropical islands and luscious and fruitful lands.  It wasn't until I got home and pondered what he was trying to tell me.  I now think that I learned a small bit of what he was trying to say (and I am sure there is much more to this).  I ended up contemplating on this a lot more and even doing some research.  I realized that this new friend was telling me that I have a balance of many talents and traits (like the volcano has all the elements: earth, wind, fire, water and air).  The challenge someone like me faces is that I can be forceful and dominant in letting go of these elements at times.  The result is not the island paradise I was hoping, but a wasteland and destruction.  The beautiful paradise takes a long time of rebuilding.  However, If I hold back and allow the forces to remain in balance and only release in small doses when the time is right and only when I need to show appropriate passion about key things, then people will get from me what they need and I will get what I need - connections.  If we continue to consider the actual volcano as the metaphor here, there are many beautiful cities that exist near active (although dormant) volcanos.  I believe this is because the inhabitants gain much more than they perceive the risk to be.  I learned that I may have the force of a volcano I must learn to control that force and remain dormant (and control the eruptions) so that I can provide a luscious and fruitful area around me. Otherwise, the volcano can destroy the environment. 

Who knows?  I could be completely off on what my new friend was trying to relay to me, but the good thing is, it doesn't really matter.  I took what I could from it and learned something and hopefully I will grow a little more because of the week I spent contemplating connections and volcanos.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Incredible Week with the Industry’s Best and Brightest - USAV APEX

What did you do last week?  Did you take on a big and challenging project or find a new million dollar customer?  I still think I can top that.  I spent my week with some of the industry’s top integration firms’ and manufacturers’ best and brightest operating executives and next generation leaders.  Was there a secret InfoComm or NSCA meeting?  No.  I was at the USAV APEX Integrator’s Summit.  We spent the week in awesome seminars, group discussions, panel briefings, technology showcases and social events.  In this blog you will find some of the highlights from this great week.

THE PEOPLE:  First I want to share a little about the people I spent the week with.  I would like to do this from a different angle than usual.  So, here goes: I spent my week with some amazing people.  I spent dinner with an awesome proud father of a downs syndrome son.  This father was one of the most driven project/program managers I know and to learn that his home life is so challenged taught me more about how driven and caring this man is than I ever knew.  I sat at lunch with an inventor that holds 3 patents.  This same man was so intent on listening to what others had to say and so willing to learn from others you would have never known that he himself was one of the best instructors our industry has to offer.  I sat in a session and learned about new ways of thinking from the fashion industry (really, the fashion industry?) and I learned an awful lot from this session and this instructor was awesome (and as an instructor myself, you know I don’t say that very often).  At yet another dinner, I sat with someone who built their own video walls 15 years before ANY manufacturer ever build one.  I spent time with a couple of AV/IT firms that are well down the road of converging their AV and IT departments.  These companies confirmed for me that the investment in people and showing loyalty matters.  They care for their people and care how their people progress in life.  This investment pays off in dividends with returned loyalty and unmatched service to their customers.  I also spent time with a few family owned businesses and learned more and more about the passion that goes behind starting, owning and running a business of passion instead of profit.  From this group of people, I learned more about the passion in this industry than any big trade show or big stage keynote speaker could have ever taught me.  I was blessed to be with some of the industry’s most passionate people who were willing to share their knowledge and insights.

THE PROGRAMS:  During these meetings and training sessions we discussed the major programs and support that the USAV Group offers its members and how the members support each other.  This was another huge lesson for me.  The way this group leverages the collective knowledge and experience amazes me.  USAV as a whole is of one character.  The executives from the group have clearly gone through a painstaking process in selecting their group members, in that, every member is of a very similar character.  With this, the group as a whole emotes one collective message – we care and we share.  I learned from this group that there is such a thing as healthy competition.  By the nature of the business these businesses are competitive, but these particular companies have found a common ground where they can share information, methods and best practices for the betterment of each other and the industry.  With this collective mindset, they are able to share resources across the country and throughout North America.  The big lesson I learned here is that as a group these integrators are much stronger, smarter and more effective than if they were working separately.  I am proud that they allowed me to be part of their meeting and their group.

What a week.  My only complaint about the whole week was that although I did take third place in the bowling contest, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a prize for overall bowling high score or fastest ball.  But, in all seriousness, I love learning and I love being in great company, so this was the perfect week.  Was this week better than completing a huge project or finding a million dollar customer?  You bet it was!!!