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Taking Notes


Over the course of the past 23 years I’ve attended many annual association meetings, and I’ve usually come away from them having felt like I was either a smarter or better person. You can usually pick me out of the crowd of attendees. I’m the one taking notes, along with the few others there of my professional ilk.

Surprisingly, at least to me, not many others have pen in hand feverishly trying to capture the words of wisdom being pitched from the podium. I guess most are simply trying to soak in the words striking a harmonious or discordant chord. And I guess that’s why editors are there. We take the notes for you, later reminding you of the salient points.

I have fond memories of some of the better speakers I’ve heard. Once an Assn. of Industrial Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators (AIMCAL) meeting featured keynote speaker Captain Jim Lovell, who retold his Apollo 13 experience. The audience was mesmerized by his daunting tale, and I couldn’t help thinking upon his conclusion, “Boy, this would make a great movie!” (Ron Howard agreed.) Quite unpredictably, the one question the audience asked Capt. Lovell after he revealed his climactic experience was, “So how do you use the washroom up there in space?”

Then in 2000 I heard Dr. Beck Weathers, a Mt. Everest co-survivor with John Krakauer (who wrote the best-selling novel Into Thin Air). He retold his version of his near-fatal adventure. His wake-up call came when he performed the act of literally opening his eyes after being left for dead at the peak of Mt. Everest. Dr. Weathers communicated that finding balance is a survival skill that will take a person through this adventure we call life.

Another memorable speaker at a Flexible Packaging Assn. (FPA) meeting in the mid ’90s was known not to be very friendly to members of the press—even the trade press. His name was “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap. I remember being caught on an elevator with him at the meeting and admitting my editorial association. I was very thankful to have the company of several FPA members to “protect” me.

This March I was privileged to hear General Hugh Shelton at the AIMCAL winter meeting in Phoenix, AZ, at the Wild Horse Path Resort. Honored with the Congressional Gold Medal—the highest honor the US Congress can bestow—he served as the 14th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as President Bush’s senior military advisor, plus he has many more medals too numerous to mention here. What struck me most about this reserved, sincere, but also very humorous character was his simple and humble approach to leadership and its meaning. A few of his leadership observations, served in palatable sound-bite fashion, are worth noting here:

Most of the time we operate as leaders performing the way we always have led our teams. How many times have we taken new ideas and used them? … [In reference to ethical leadership] The higher up you go, the more of your butt that shows. … If you have high turnover, then you have leadership problems. … Employees want us to tell them what the metrics are but then get out of the way and not look over their shoulders. … Employees expect loyalty from leaders. … Personalize your leadership by treating people the way you’d like to be treated. … Individuals play games, teams win championships. … As leaders we set the organizational climate. We must have value-based leadership, then we’ll be able to create a championship team.
Do you have memorable notes to share that changed your leadership style?

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