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Leadership Conference inspires current and future industry leaders

by Connie Lannan and Brock Huffstutler

Attendees from Region Five who attended the ARA Leadership Conference

Leadership Conference attendees from Region Five

The American Rental Association’s (ARA) Leadership Conference, hosted by the ARA Board of Directors, took place Nov. 17-19 at the Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel in Rosemont, Ill. The annual invite-only conference delivered educational and networking opportunities tailored to equip attendees as industry leaders.

Nearly 75 attendees representing 38 states and three Canadian provinces traveled to the conference; many currently serve on their ARA state chapter board of directors. Also present were current and incoming members of the ARA Board of Directors who lent their insights on association leadership.

The event opened Thursday, Nov. 17, with the welcoming presentation “It’s Hard to Lead the Change if You Look Funny on a Horse!” by Bruce Christopher. Christopher, a licensed psychologist who has spoken on some of the largest stages in the world, kicked off the conference with a message on the art of leadership and how to get on the horse, lead the charge and bring others along with you.

First-time Leadership Conference attendee Gina Glas, CERP, managing partner, A Classic Party Rental, Indianapolis, who serves as ARA of Indiana treasurer, says she really enjoyed his presentation that was “all about outlook, perspective and attitude, which I think are important. Attitude is contagious. His message was great to start the conference with. It changed our attitudes right away to be open and share with each other.”

Dean Miller, CERP, left, and Robert Copley, CERP

Dean Miller, CERP, left, and Robert Copley, CERP

Thursday evening also included recognition of the 2021 ARA Leadership Impact Award recipients. Robert Copley, CERP,  sales manager, Event Essentials, Windsor, Wis., who serves as ARA of Wisconsin president and is the incoming ARA Region Five director, received the honor for his service in ARA Region Five.

“I was surprised, honored and humbled to be recognized in this way,” he says. “Volunteering is something that has been in my blood for a very long time and something that has always been important to me. Echoing the statements of many people who have said it before: ‘You always get more from serving ARA than what you put into it.’ It just goes to show that when you do volunteer and decide to step up and serve an association like ARA, everyone appreciates what you do for the association and how great an impact you can make for others, from being a support system to networking and all the things that go along in serving ARA.”

The Leadership Conference continued Friday with its central theme, “Shift Happens,” a series of sessions presented by guest speaker Lee Ann Piano, a John Maxwell-certified speaker, trainer, coach and empowerment expert.

Throughout the day, Piano shared insight and guidance that can help conference attendees stay ahead of the curve and become nimble and adaptable leaders in today’s rapidly changing world. Her sessions were split into three distinct segments: “Leadershift,” focusing on adaptability; “The Focus Shift,” highlighting how to help others shine; and “The Personal Growth Shift,” centered on becoming growth-oriented.

“I thought her session was very good,” says first-time conference attendee Michele Saxman, owner, Rapid Rentals and Sales, Brookfield, Ill., who serves as ARA of Illinois secretary. “She brought up some things I hadn’t thought of, including better ways to communicate, handle negotiations and other situations.”

“My biggest takeaway from her presentation was the ‘multiple perspective advantage,’” Glas says. “I think that in any situation you could start to go negative. If you pause and think, ‘What is my multiple perspective advantage here?’ you can open your mind and see how you can look at this differently and find the advantage or benefit to the situation. I liked how she tied that in with the first speaker about how you can have a positive attitude about this. I also found her tips valuable on team builders vs. team busters and the discussion about six human needs — connection, growth, contribution, certainty, significance and variety — that can help in understanding how people make decisions. It goes back to playing to people’s strengths, which is really important to me as a leader.”

Copley agrees. “I thought she did a really nice job of being able to coach us on how to be a better leader. One of the things that I walked away from her presentation with was to work on the ‘not to do list’ as a leader — things not to do to become a better leader. I found it to be very interesting and think what is really cool is that it makes you think more about yourself as a leader and ways you can improve to be better going forward. It is important to take the time to work on yourself,” he says.

Attendees from Region FiveUpdates on the latest ARA programs and initiatives also were provided by ARA staff members on Friday following Piano’s sessions.

On Friday evening, all were invited to enjoy the comedic talents of performers from Second City, Chicago’s renowned troupe of improv, standup and sketch comedians.

“I loved it and found it so entertaining,” Glas says.

The conference concluded Saturday, Nov. 19, with a final leadership session, “The Mind Shift,” from Ashley Cuttino of Ogletree Deakins — the legal firm with a human resources focus that partners with ARA on the association’s HR Assistance Program. Cuttino discussed how our internalization of past experiences helps to form one’s opinions, attitudes and assumptions on any given topic. Those opinions impact the decisions people make on a daily basis, both personally and professionally. A leader who acknowledges and assesses their assumptions is capable of leading their business into new markets.

“This conference offers the opportunity to get so many leaders and/or future leaders together in a room through the seminars, networking and just talking with each other to learn what has worked and what hasn’t for their state chapter meetings or in business as well. It is a great opportunity to get so many people together and network,” Copley says.

The conference was “invaluable in terms of the networking and being able to sit with a small group of people from your industry and talk about anything,” Glas adds. “That is what I loved about it. It was wonderful to talk and share about business and the boards on which we serve.”

Saxman had the same sentiments. “It helped me take a new look at things. You are used to doing things the same way. Gaining new ideas on how to look at things will help with my business and board service,” she says.