By R.V. Baugus
As founder and CEO of Southlake, Texas-based Abiding Strategy, Lisa Harrington excels in getting businesses “un-stuck” and learning to communicate. Is it fair to say that the public assembly venue industry — like so many others — is stuck today as we navigate the change wrought by COVID-19?
“The venue industry will lead the way into our recovery and heal the hearts of the people of this country as we are able to re-engage and begin rebuilding our economy,” Lisa likes to say.
She will share that message and more as the Opening Keynote speaker for VenueConnect 2020. The author of “Taking in Strays: Leadership Lessons from Unusual Places,” Harrington likes to look at the amazing skills that people have and help to bring out their best.
She took a few minutes to visit with us about her session, one that you will want to make sure to have on your calendar and to participate in.
Share with our readers just a little about yourself and the overarching mission of Abiding Strategy.
After 30+ years in the corporate executive ranks, Sapphire Enterprises d/b/a Abiding Strategy was founded after I learned that only about 20% of American businesses have a plan for their companies. Strategy is my expertise and my favorite subject! Building a full strategy is a critical element of success, especially when there are challenging circumstances in the economy or in the organization. Businesses who have a vision, live by their values and stick to their mission are much more likely to weather the storm. Among other things, I created a six-hour workshop to help businesses of all sizes build a strong foundation and plan for their future, with templates for the tactical execution, a visual aid for their crew and more.
Speak some to how your areas of expertise work well within our industry of public assembly venue management.
Having worked in the association industry for 15 years, I fully understand the challenges of the venue and conference business. I held the CAE certification for about 15 years, and have worked with non-profit boards at many levels, both as a volunteer board member and as the coach and trainer to help boards understand their role in the organization.
Noticed on your email sign-off information you identify as a Vistage Chair and Strategy Coach. Help us understand those disciplines a little better.
Vistage is a 60-year-old coaching and peer group organization. Our members are 25,000 strong in over 20 countries around the world. As a contracted Vistage Chair, I have several groups and 30+ members who come together monthly in groups to help each other make better decisions for their companies. The membership includes the group meetings and 1-1 coaching sessions with me, and more.
As a Strategy Coach through my own company, Abiding Strategy, I teach clients how to leave a legacy with their work and lead their crew into the future by focusing on the long game and getting out of the weeds. This includes managing their own expectations, aligning their actions to the vision of the organization, and getting out of their own way.
What will be some highlights of your keynote closing presentation that should make attendees want to attend?
Venue managers will have an enormous impact on the healing of our country from the pandemic. The human spirit needs to be in the presence of other humans, and we have lacked that connection for a long time. Knowing how to lead your organization into the future despite the challenges we’re facing will help your venue, your crew, and your community to come back together. In this way, we can help launch our economy back into the prosperity that we have all worked so hard to achieve. This means we, as leaders, must keep ourselves healthy, so that we can help the organization effectively. This will include learning to pivot our thinking and maybe even our service offerings, adjust to new realities all while managing the stress that will accompany those changes. All change causes stress, even when it’s positive. Since leaders are responsible for everyone in the group, it’s imperative that we stay ahead of these things. Our legacy will then be ensured. We’ll talk about all these things and more.
How about takeaways. What will some of those be?
Reframing the concept that self-care is selfish is one element that will be valuable for the session. How can we recognize the symptoms that will cause us to be pulled off our mission? How well have we planned for this, and can we stick to the roadmap we’ve developed? What should you look for in your crew to be sure they are handling all these things effectively, handling the day to day details while continuing to see the big picture? How can we make good long-term decisions despite the uncertainty of the short-term situation?
I have to ask this, but what have you most discovered about people and/or businesses during this current pandemic?
The range of reactions has been astonishing. At first, many hoped it was so short term that we could treat the isolation and lock downs as vacations. As the issue wore on, there was significant anticipatory grief, and even anger or shock. We’ve seen how isolation can affect our reactions to simple issues. Everything is exaggerated and emotions are high due to the feeling in our ancient brain that we are continually under threat. It’s always been lonely at the top, and right now it’s even worse. The best leaders were able to reach out to peers, and help each other find their way through. It’s one of the advantages of Vistage and other peer groups. I’ve seen very strong personalities realize that they needed more than coaching, and engage therapists. This is the right move, since the ability to think clearly is so much more important when we’re in crisis like this.
Unfortunately, the percentage of leaders who have a coach (or therapist or both) is remarkably small. There’s never been a more important time to get help, even though it can seem like a bad time to spend that money. One bad decision by a leader due to distraction can have a domino effect on the entire organization. The leaders that realize this are managing their reactions, responding thoughtfully, and looking past the temporary so they can maintain their vision of the future.