Starstruck – #ASHHRA16 Recap

starstruckWell, it has certainly been quite the experience as it is every year at the #ASHHRA16 conference in Grapevine, Texas. What a beautiful destination it was for our conference!

Every year, I’m asked by attendees, asked in an interview and asked when I go back to the office, “Why do you keep going back to the ASHHRA conference every year?” My answer is simple: the people. The learning sessions are great but I think the most authentic and meaningful learning comes from talking with real people about their experiences, lessons learned, advice and stories.

I had the great opportunity to reunite with some of my favorite people in the world and connect with some new peers. However, this year is even more memorable for me because I have been overwhelmed with some very special connections that I was able to make at the conference. They’re not Hollywood celebrities but to me, they are even better than that!

The first “star” is actually a man I’ve known for years now but I got to hear him speak again and I got the same goosebumps I get every single time. Chip Madera talked about culture-critical components of a highly engaged workforce. With humor, as his true style represents, Chip walked us through the importance of coaching people in three directions: up, over or out. He encouraged leaders to carefully evaluate and understand each team member and what type of coaching would be appropriate. The main takeaway? Culture eats strategy for breakfast! Check out his site at and follow him on Twitter at @leadershiplion.

I also had the privilege of meeting the wonderful Cy Wakeman, famous keynote speaker on reality-based accountability. She spoke to us about changing our mindsets so that we become personally accountable. In one of her reality-check spiels, she discusses the importance of commitment which is the willingness to do whatever it takes to get results, resilience which is the ability to stay the course in the face of obstacles and setbacks, ownership which is the acceptance of consequences for our actions and continuous learning which is the ability to see success and failure as learning experiences to fuel success in the future. What was the key takeaway? If we want to change our culture, we need to hard-wire accountability in our organizations but most importantly in ourselves. Check out Cy’s site at and follow her on Twitter at @cywakeman.

My next star-struck moment is meeting the legendary #HealthcareHR leader and #social media great, Jay Kuhns. I’ve been trying to get him involved in ASHHRA for some time now so as you can imagine, it was quite the honorary surprise when I found out he would be at the conference. I got to personally hang out with Jay for a couple hours and geek out on everything leadership, healthcare, social media, HR, talent, pet peeves and well, life. I learned more in those couple hours than I could ever learn sitting in a session. Again, the sessions were great but nothing beats real conversations with real people (I don’t mean real as in that they exist but real as in authentic).

Everything we talked about led back to one thing: stop making excuses. If we can do this as professionals and as leaders, we won’t just find more success, but we’ll find our passion and a way to live out that passion. So my greatest takeaway? There isn’t one. There were many! I already talked about not making excuses but another takeaway was to be intentional and thoughtful about every decision and move we make. This advice really helped me make an important decision I’ve been struggling with making recently. Oh, and, just get things done! Just go for it! This was hands down the best part of the conference for me. Check out Jay’s blog, No Excuses HR at and follow him on Twitter at @jrkuhns.

Lastly, my conference ended with a fantastic closing ceremony motivational speech by Kevin Carroll, author of the Rules of the Red Rubber Ball. I LOVE this book! I have his first version on my desk as a way to give my team members or coworkers a motivational pick-me-up when they need it. It’s helped all three people I’ve provided it to so far. It’s an interactive, short read and it makes the reader want to stop making excuses (hey, look, it’s a theme!) and go BE their dreams.

Kevin talked about the importance of incorporating play into our daily lives and into our organizations. For those of you who have read my blog, you may remember my post, Work life balance is so last year! where I talk about transitioning our mindset from an endless search for work-life balance to a concept of work-life integration. Kevin’s concept of play and work is similar: integrate play with work and work with life. It makes us more whole and allows us to live one full life, rather than two separate lives. He encouraged us to have grit and don’t let anything or anyone stop us.

So here’s why I’m so star-struck. I didn’t get a chance to have my book signed (I will; we talked; yay!) at Kevin’s book signing but I was sitting in the hotel lobby talking to a friend when I saw Kevin walking by out of the corner of my eye. I naturally live his philosophy everyday so without so much as a thought or hesitation, I scared my friend and probably everyone in the lobby by screaming out, “KEVIN!!!” He came over, we laughed and we chatted for a good chunk of time. He told his story about getting denied from publishing companies and then publishing his book himself which has been a catalyst for his success. What’s the main takeaway? Stop talking about hopes and dreams and start living them! Check out Kevin’s site at and follow him on Twitter at @kckatalyst.

Don’t worry, I didn’t jump any of these people and start flashing my camera a hundred times at them! I was certainly star-struck but not your normal star-struck. Immediately upon identifying an opportunity to connect with them, I lived out their words and took the opportunity. I use the word “connect” intentionally because for me, it’s not about meeting people. It’s about really connecting with them and building a genuine relationship that will last the test of time. We’ll call it star-struck Lotus-style!

So why am I so enamored with making these connections? These are four people that I relate to for many reasons. They are all no-nonsense, no-excuses leaders who live a life they love simply because they choose to do so. Their personal accountability has led them to successful careers but they genuinely enjoy what they do. As Chip would say, “I’m going to work, if that’s what you want to call it.”

They are true to themselves and they don’t let fears, people or circumstances stop them from reaching their greatest potential and from living their passion. They continuously change workplaces for the better, they take risks and they never stop improving themselves or others. They are the best possible examples I can think of on how to impact meaningful change and live a truly extraordinary life.


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One thought on “Starstruck – #ASHHRA16 Recap

  1. Pingback: Lead to Win: Lessons from a Chicago Cubs’ World Series Champ | OD Advocate

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