Early in my career, I worked as a technical project manager for a California-based telecom firm, and had a passion for leadership development (still do). After having worked in my organization for about a year, I had a pretty good idea of how things worked in my business unit, and spent a good deal of time navigating through fiefdoms and political landmines in an effort to get my projects completed on time and within budget. Having built a project management office (PMO) that had to find ways to work across teams and with almost every individual contributor in the organization, I was frustrated by the lack of enthusiasm at addressing, much less resolving, some of our process and cultural issues. So I was genuinely excited when my business unit planned a multi-day offsite to help us clarify our mission, structure, roles and responsibilities.
I had participated in a number of team-building exercises prior to this, but never such as extensive, focused effort to identify organizational weaknesses and reinforce shared goals and a unified vision. Long story short, we spent three days in beautiful Monterey, California, breaking out into groups of direct peers and virtual teams, placing sticky notes on whiteboards, sharing personal experiences, and ultimately mapping out what was broken, what was working, ending our week with a roadmap for improving our processes and culture — thereby improving business. After a quick weekend, I went back into the office Monday morning full of energy, ready to make these agreed-upon changes a reality.
And then nothing happened. It was like the offsite never happened. It was business as usual.
The Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto was an incredible time to learn more about Microsoft’s plans for the future, to spend time with my company’s leadership team, to reflect on personal and company goals, and to connect with new and existing partners to add to existing or to build out new business strategies. The biggest mistake I could make is to treat the event as many in my previous company treated that offsite — like a vacation.
To close the loop and get real value out of the experience, you need to make the connection between what you learned and what you need to do to grow your business. If you fail to take action on your ideas and your new leads, you’ll lose out on any strategic value from the event.
Keep your focus.
WPC is an amazing event. It’s an opportunity to drink from the firehose. Focus on what you learned from Microsoft and from other partners and how your company may need to adapt or grow.
Document your next steps.
If you haven’t already done so, go back through your notes and the event program, and document as much as possible – the sessions you attended, the partners you met with, observations of competitors and partners and technologies. Refer back to your notes often, and think about ways to expand on the connections you’ve made.
Follow up on your leads, and be specific about your next steps and theirs. Understand your own — and your partner’s — call to action, and be clear in your communication.
I’m not in sales, but I do admire the mindset many in sales have to follow through with a lead and explore the many different paths a connection at a conference, no matter how brief, can take. You never know where one of these leads could take you — which is one of the fundamentals of IAMCP. Be clear about what you need, make it known to your connections, and let your connections work for you.
I’m a list guy. I generate outlines of daily tasks, monthly tasks, and then of course my broader annual commitments that I am constantly referring back to, to keep my work streams on track. Coming out of WPC, I generated a list of contacts to follow up on by phone and email, companies to investigate, content to write, and ideas to share with my team and bring back to the Seattle IAMCP chapter. About once a week I find myself combing back through my WPC notes, which prompts me to follow up on active and cold leads, and helps me to connect the dots between what I learned and what I am doing today.
I am continuing to see value in my participation in WPC. Are you?