Tuesday, May 12, 2020

How Did I Get Here?

After 18 years in hospitality and events; as a supplier, planner, consultant, and speaker, I am embarking on a new journey... actually, let's call it a divergence.  

Four years ago, I reached out to someone who had recently followed me on twitter. I noticed he was posting good content about events, he lived in Denver, and I was about to take a trip to Denver. This is how twitter used to work (ten years ago, before marketers ruined it) but I was determined to keep building relationships with people online. We had a great meeting while I was in Denver and we became friends.

Two years later, I was on a formal advisory board for this friend's event technology startup. He introduced me to Chrystal Huskey. After hearing her story and what she was building, I couldn't wait to help her! I gave her the names of all of the people I thought she should know. I didn't realize at the time I was helping her build my company, I was just trying to help someone who was solving a problem in a unique way.

A year ago, I was helping that same friend build his event technology company full-time, and at this point had become an informal advisor to Chrystal. I was doing all of this without pay in a good labor market. I believe in helping others and being as generous with my time as I can be. Others have helped me and I try to pay it forward. When I take these risks, it always pays off with knowledge, although, these experiences are hard to convey on a resume. 

It is worth pointing out that I haven't always been in a position to work for free. I'm still not, if I'm being honest about my long term financial security. Not everyone can or should take these kinds of risks. Entrepreneurship is often glorified and the struggles minimized. The only way to achieve the American Dream is to win the lottery (of privilege or startup success)...

As I was in the middle of that American Dream sentence, Seth Meyer's interview of C Pam Zhang came on my TV and she spoke about the myth of the American Dream. 

We idolize "self-made" success stories. We think we'll be happier working for ourselves. Really, we crave things like autonomy and purpose which could be derived from working for someone else if we had better leadership and workplace culture. The reality is that unless you already have the privilege of a network with money, you aren't likely to achieve that business success you hope for. 

Even with that unhappy dose of reality, I am re-launching Event Integrity, which I purchased from Chrystal about a month ago. She is moving onto bigger and better things and I am passionate about what the Event Integrity brand can do to create an industry of more intentional events. 

The other piece to this story is the sabbatical I took the second half of 2019. Several existential crises led me to where I am today. I now see the ecosystem of our industry clearly. I see the ways in which we support inequality and climate change. I can see how the propaganda after the last recession led to some of the devastation the events industry is facing now. I see who funded those messages. 

Rep. Ayanna Pressley was quoting Roosevelt when she said, "judge me by my enemies," on another episode of Late Night with Seth Meyers. Here's the first part of that interview for your viewing pleasure. I share the same lofty goals and I hope you'll join me. We're stronger than we think. The work we do can solve problems or create more. It is up to us. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Has the Future of Work Changed?

In January, I told you I'd been looking into my crystal ball and thought successful companies look like this in the future:


Here's how my survey respondents scored the likeliness of these visions (before COVID-19):

  1. Leaders who understand the BUSINESS value of diversity are willing to spend resources figuring out how to create more inclusive cultures. (20)


  1. Employees who have a personal brand add value to a company's authenticity when organizations support them with autonomy. (20)
  2. Companies that project a human image by being vulnerable (contrary to PR rules) will attract loyalty that is all but impossible to get in this era. (11)
  3. Everything from the business model to how leaders manage their teams will be up for discussion. Instead of waiting for change to happen TO them, they are PROACTIVE. (9)
Some ideas on how to translate these to our current situation:

Are you more likely now to open up to a new future vs. banking on a return to what was - before COVID-19? Now that change has happened TO us, how will we shape the future? Late last year, I had used a human-centered design framework to answer the following questions:

  • What does "Keep Calm and Carry On" look like? (following the existing path)
  • What if your thing disappears?
  • What would you do if money and what people think didn't matter?

This crisis is the perfect opportunity for you to practice vulnerability, as an employee, as a leader, as an organization. No one has the answers and it is okay to admit it.

If you hear of any organizations that have the values listed above, I’d love to connect to them. If you are interested in discussing any of these concepts, let me know. Sign up for my newsletter here.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Emotions in Times of Crisis

I've always been an early adopter, but this is bizarre. It seems like many of my friends are about to (if they are not already) go through a crisis phase. I hit rock bottom a year ago and was lucky enough to be able to take a time out. Many of you don't have that luxury but are being forced out of a job or work, so you may be getting an involuntary time out. I've been thinking about what I have learned and hope it helps you.

My confidence level is typically pretty high but I found myself doubting everything. I couldn't imagine any job or business plan working for me. Previous managers had told me that my strengths were liabilities. Even though my colleagues and friends told me I was brilliant, I couldn't get this truth to travel from my head to my heart.

A friend told me about a meetup group called Topics in Psychology and the next session was about showing up as your authentic self. I had taken myself offline and this was another manner in which I wasn't acting like myself. I really wanted to be telling this story as it was happening. I wanted to be more authentic and share my grief, which I eventually did in bits and pieces. Many of my friends were supportive and listened to me talk through what was going on. I am deeply grateful for you.

The meetup group turned out to be a lifeline. I should have been in 1:1 therapy as well, but this form of group therapy was a good start. I thought I was pretty self aware and emotionally intelligent. However, I've only had therapy a handful of times. I wasn't that tuned into my emotions. As it turns out, that is just how I operate and I hadn't learned those skills (most people haven't). All I knew was that I wasn't acting like myself.

Our facilitator, Dr. Sharon Eve, introduced us to the Enneagram. I've enjoyed learning about my strengths using many other tools that have crossed my path so I was interested. The Enneagram showed me that my strengths were indeed strengths and it showed me how to be a healthier version of myself. I ended up purchasing a book called The Wisdom of the Enneagram. There, in black and white, it explained all of the things I had been doing and thinking as examples of how my type acts in a crisis. I wished I had this wisdom earlier so that I could have seen the warning signs or red flags. Maybe everything happens when it happens for a reason and this found me at the perfect time.

We also talked about grief in the meetup and I purchased Dr. Eve's book: Journey of Love: A Guide for the Grieving. I hadn't been aware of how my grief had affected me at work. I learned that when you experience a loss, you are incapable of BS (my superpower is cutting through BS to get to the heart of what really matters) and I had been more blunt than usual. I also learned that as you approach the anniversary of a loss, you may experience that same feeling of raw emotions and act the same way. It may help you to think about what you are going through as a loss. Don't minimize your feelings. We grieve many different types of losses.

Grief, fear, anger, and other emotions impact you physically. A book I just finished reading, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, explains the brain science behind how the body memorizes emotions. It concludes with a guided meditation on how to replace these emotions with a future you imagine for yourself instead. Many of us need a way to retain or regain hope for the future.

Last but not least, if you haven't found the brilliance of Brené Brown yet, now is the time. I came across this article on midlife and have referenced it several times since. She also just started a new podcast and the first episode acknowledges what we are going through, which is what we seem to be missing from organizations and people that claim to be leading us.

We tend to be inclined to wait until we figure it out or fix the problem before we talk about it online.
I'm not sure I have it figured out, but I have figured out that I'll never be "fixed". Working on yourself is something that is an ongoing project, if you are willing to tackle it. What I can do is share a few tips and resources that worked for me and hope you find them useful. I'll share more but this felt like a good time to start.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

An Industry Divided

The events industry is divided. I am seeing many strongly held opinions over whether or not events should be canceled due to the coronavirus. Those of us who were working in the events industry during the last recession are having déjà vu. We thought another recession might be coming but instead, we are faced with a virus that is creating a similar environment. It feels different this time, though. This is the perspective of a systems thinker and not yet another opinion on whether or not events should be canceled.

Some companies and associations have made the decision to cancel or postpone their events because they feel that it is the safer option for their employees, their members, and the people connected to their stakeholders. They feel we should remove the opportunity for the virus to spread via a large gathering of people or travel. The consequence is they are canceling contracts with their venues, hotels, and other suppliers that should leave them with a large financial liability. The déjà vu is kicking in. In the last recession, companies and associations canceled many meetings and in some cases were able to negotiate out of paying damages to their suppliers. Whether we’re in a “buyers market” or a “sellers market”, the hospitality industry and other event suppliers feel that relationships matter in our industry and they are compelled to “work with” their clients. The question is whether or not they will do the same this time.

This is where it starts to feel a bit different from last time. Now, the hospitality industry is much more organized and has found a unified voice. The largest of the 100+ associations serving the events industry are joining in the chorus because hospitality companies pay their bills. They are concerned that the media has exaggerated the threat of the virus and feel that events should not be canceled. They have shared that people should simply be sensible and wash their hands. They celebrate events that have chosen to proceed. They remind us that it is important to meet face-to-face because that is the value proposition of the entire industry. They also remind us of the economic value this industry provides. This was the talking point that came from the rubble of the last recession and it was thought that it would prevent the damage of groups canceling meetings during the next recession.

Each side cites sources that support their position. In this post-truth era, there isn’t one authoritative source of information that everyone trusts. Instead, we have individuals and organizations shouting their positions hoping to persuade anyone who will listen. In the same way our country (and our world) is divided over many issues, it is happening here because we have lost the ability to listen and change our minds. Have we ever had a mechanism that brings us together to help us understand our impact on others or the system as a whole?

This conversation is only going to intensify and there may not be a right or wrong answer. One conference that decided to cancel acknowledged the fact that the small businesses who attend their trade show rely on making connections with clients at the show. I saw one such client make herself available on LinkedIn so that they could still have some of those conversations. Isn’t that brilliant? It shows the depth and complexity of the situation but also offers hope for creative human-centered solutions. I welcome comments and questions that bring both points of view into the conversation.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

One question survey on the future of work

I’ve been looking into my crystal ball the past few months (yes, there’s some intuition involved, but really, a lot of curiosity about diverse topics that I’m able to synthesize) and here’s what I think successful companies look like in the future:
  • The future of work is going to look vastly different from what we are used to. I am seeking organizations who agree and are willing to re-evaluate the status quo. Everything from the business model to how leaders manage their teams should be up for discussion. Instead of waiting for change to happen to them, they are proactive.
  • Leaders who understand the business value of diversity are willing to spend resources figuring out how to create more inclusive cultures. CX (customer experience) and EX (employee experience) managed together create a sustainable competitive advantage.
  • We are craving more authenticity. Companies that project a human image by being vulnerable (contrary to traditional rules of PR) will attract loyalty that is all but impossible to get in this era. Employees who have a personal brand add value to that authenticity when organizations support them.
What do you think? Will you take an anonymous one-question survey so I can gauge how soon you think we’ll get there (if at all)? 
I’m looking for work that suits my strengths and skills: 
Chief Experience Officer
These are the industries where I have the most knowledge and/or interest: A.I., beverage, education, events, hospitality, social impact orgs that work to move us beyond traditional gender stereotypes, startups, and travel
My sabbatical has led me to this massive transformative purpose: 
I want to create companies humans want to work for and buy from. 
If you hear of any organizations that have the values listed above or people doing the jobs listed above, I’d love to connect to them. If you are interested in discussing any of these concepts, let me know. I'll also be sharing more online. Subscribe/notify on YouTube or LinkedIn. If you have any feedback for me based on what I’ve shared so far, please reply at your convenience. How can I help you in this new year and decade? Schedule time on my calendar here: egcxgroup.com