How do you teach an old dog new tricks?

While this may seem like a rhetorical question … it’s actually spot on when I think about the Emerging Leaders track at this year’s 2013 Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) held in July.
Although the conference included a variety of tracks, sessions and initiatives entirely new to WPC, I had a very personal stake in the Emerging Leaders track and was determined to bring it to this year’s conference. Powered by a desire to give back to the Microsoft Community – the same community that helped to build my career – this track gave a holistic view of business and was designed to aid the transition from Representative to Executive.
Our goal was clear: help Partners learn new concepts that they can apply to everyday use.
Watching a project come to life can be intimidating, but when it came to creating the Emerging Leaders track, I was confident. The result? It proved to be even more popular than I could have ever hoped for through heavily attended sessions, overflowing rooms and highly positive partner feedback.
This success reinforced the value of an idea I am passionate about, an “event within an event,” with 100-level sessions focused on skill-set building for high-potential employees and leaders at companies within the Microsoft partner ecosystem. Sessions were high-energy, dynamic and interactive. Some the themes covered were:
  • Storytelling with Victoria Labalme – a coach to several Microsoft executives, she demonstrated how to perform a speech versus delivering one.

  • Marketing: David Meerman Scott talked about why marketing is too important to be left just to marketers, letting Partners know how key it is for your entire company to be involved.

  • Public Relations & Personal Branding: Dux Raymond Sy shared his secrets on how to build a personal brand, while Ray Rasmussen talked about general PR theory.

  • Leadership: Peter Bauer spoke about how he built Mimecast and de-bunked several myths, including “don’t hire your friends” and “VARs are useless in the cloud world.”

  • Leading in a Changing World: Susan Hauser shared her story on how she became a manager of 9.000 sales people. She described her career non-negotiables, such as never missed her kid’s games. What did this tell us? Microsoft CVPs are humans, too.
These sessions allowed emerging and established leaders alike to walk away feeling empowered, more connected and possessing a broader knowledge of foundational concepts for future leadership roles.
The response we received from the Emerging Leaders track was inspiring, to say the least. Partners are already planning on bringing their emerging leaders to WPC 2014. Emerging leaders attending next year’s conference in Washington, D.C. in July can expect even more from this track. We plan to incorporate 200-level sessions into the lineup and will place even more of an emphasis on “hands-on, workshop-type” presentations.
Of course, having invested so much in this track, I’m thrilled to have it be so well-received by Partners, but what I am most looking forward to as we move into FY14 is seeing Partners apply the concepts they adopted from the tracks to real-life business situations and relationships – a pretty incredible reward in itself.
Thanks for all who attended.  I look forward to seeing even more of you in Emerging Leaders sessions at WPC 2014!