… the Queen Bee,
So you best take heed.
Shall I proceed?
Yes in deed!
– Lil’ Kim
This past weekend, was the Annual Southern Nevada Math and Science Conference. Since late August, I’ve been preparing for my first time as conference co-chair. Let me start by saying, it all went better than I could have ever imagined. However, prior to leading my first conference planning committee meeting, I was feeling like a nervous wreck. This was not a position I had jockeyed for, but more or less accepted by default. You see, the previous science co-chair decided to step down while pursuing his PhD, and he left some rather large shoes to fill. I attempted to pass the buck to other teachers and leaders in the community, but no one was having it. Therefore, since I am the president of the Southern Nevada Science Teachers Association, and we co-sponsor the conference, I felt it was only right for me to take on the newly un-manned responsibilities.
Who knew I would have an opportunity to grow leaps-and-bounds in the period of four months? Four short months! That really isn’t much time at all, considering I have also been working my full-time job, going to the gym several times a week, traveling here and there, and maintaining multiple friendships. Planning the conference provided me with an opportunity to apply the lessons I’ve been learning along life’s merry way. Allow me to share four of the most important things I’ve gained…
1. When you’re in the spotlight, get out of your own way.
If my grandma and grandpa B were still alive, they would tell you a cute story about how from a very early age, I would tell everyone, “I can do it. I can do it all by myself!” And for decades I have been doing the heavy lifting all by myself. Co-chairing the conference allowed me to finally put that mantra to rest. I knew from the onset, there was absolutely no way I could pull this off by myself. I didn’t even have a road map to outline the steps that were necessary. I was leading blind and walking on faith. The only words of wisdom I received from my predecessor were to set the first meeting as soon as possible — that I did, and the rest is history. I, for once, got out of the way and allowed other people to handle their responsibilities. I trusted that everyone would do their jobs and do them well, as they had done in the past, before I ever arrived at the helm. And guess what? They did! Like a well-oiled machine, they were up and running. All I had to do was turn the key and steer from time to time.
2. Listening is more important than anything you think you need to say.
I teased members of the planning committee that next year I plan to wear a fire marshall’s hat, because I’m so good at putting out fires. They all chuckled in agreement. My success in this arena can be chalked up to being a good listener. Whenever anyone would approach me during the conference with a complaint, crisis, or criticism, I would first take a deep breath to center myself, then look at them intently and listen to exactly what they were saying. Items that could be handled instantly were quickly solved. Issues that required the assistance of others were swiftly delegated. However, the most miraculous solution arrived by simply taking the time to write down a vendor’s chief complaint. You see, D was upset that the sign hanging above his booth had two words that were run together: SCIENCEEDUCATION. Of course I knew upon hearing this, there was probably not much that could be done to remedy the situation, but I didn’t tell D that. Instead, I accompanied him to his booth where I looked at the sign. I then took out my binder and turned to the list of vendors. I grabbed a pen, and wrote down next to his listing: Unhappy about signage. Should have space between the words Science and Education. I then turned to D read what I had written down. I asked him, “Does this capture the essence of the issue?” He replied in a much calmer tone, “Yes.” I told him I would see what could be done to resolve the problem and went on about my business. D did not approach me, nor complain anymore about his signage. I have a feeling he just wanted to air his frustration so that he could go on about his business. Sometimes, the best solution is the gift of listening.
3. When my cup overflows with goodness un-ending, I can serve from my saucer to all I’m befriending.
Last week you may recall, I spent the night at the Trump International indulging in a mini-staycation. Filling my tank first was the best thing I did to ensure a smooth performance during the two-day conference. Of course I could have used those two days to work on additional conference preparations. I could have stressed if all my ducks were going to line up, but instead I chose to take time to re-charge my batteries and practice the sweetness of doing nothing. That way, when my feet hit the ground at 5:30 a.m. last Tuesday morning, I was prepped to race to the finish line. My engine was stoked with good memories to last throughout the week, and I was able to toil late into the night without feeling fatigued. I worked from a space of fullness, instead of depletion, even when I was dining with our featured-speaker at 9:30 p.m. on Friday night. Always make sure you are operating on a full tank, especially when tending to the needs of others.
4. Despite all you’ve been told, FUN is the shortest road to productivity.
I know it seems counter-intuitive, but focusing on fun has truly been the key to my success! In the past, when taking on big projects I tend to have periods of anxiety which causes my productivity to tank. But by interspersing periods of fun — dance breaks, celebrations, fun conference ribbons (Queen Bee, Big Cheese, Plays Well with Others, Diva, Slacker, My Ribbon is Better Than Yours) — I was able to stay in charge without taking myself too seriously. I just constantly asked myself, how can I keep things fun while getting my work done? One night it boiled down to setting the timer on my cell phone in 15 minute increments. While that, in and of itself, doesn’t sound like lots of fun, changing the numbers to appear in hot pink sure was!
So, as Lil’ Kim said, shall I proceed? Yes indeed! I will proceed from here with all the lessons I’ve learned, employed, and shared. And oddly enough, I can hardly wait to do it again!