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Leadership, safety: Just a few of the topics at this year’s education sessions

By Erin Jorgensen

February 19, 2024

On Sunday, Feb. 18, the American Rental Association (ARA) offered those attending The ARA Show™ 2024 in New Orleans 16 unique learning opportunities on a wide variety of business and operational topics in education sessions presented by experts and industry peers. The day of education was sponsored by Ditch Witch.

Education sessions were broken up into four tracks — “Learn and Lead,” “Connect and Collaborate,” “Empower and Engage” and “Plan and Strategize.”

Speaker Paul Long wore a neon-colored shirt and matching bow tie during the high-energy “Learn and Lead” session “The FUNdamentals of Meaningful Leadership.” He shared insights into “Fundamism,” which offers a deliberate approach to help maximize fulfillment, change perspective and manifest more of “What’s GOOD!” He also provided tactical behaviors that will improve the ability to create meaningful interactions, listen with intent, embrace awkward moments and lead with kindness.

Gilberta Thompson, The Party Plug, Nassau, Bahamas, said one thing really stuck out to her from the FUNdamentals session. “He said that ‘unexplained expectations lead to preplanned resentment.’ That was so good. I find that so many times we expect people to know what we want them to do and to hear him really break it down like that really stuck out to me. It’s like you’re planting seeds for resentment if you choose not to communicate properly,” she says.

During her session, “Smart Strategies to Keep Your Top Talent from Becoming Someone Else’s,” speaker Lisa Ryan, CSP, said that in the Great Resignation that has followed the pandemic, employers should employ five points to retain top-performing employees: “No. 1 — Be Accessible; No. 2 — Ask for Feedback, with a ‘thank you for sharing’ attitude; No. 3 — Share Your Mission, helping employees to feel a part of something bigger than themselves; No. 4 — Invest in Training; and No. 5 — Acknowledge Excellence.” Each of these, Ryan said, add up to what she calls “GRATEGY — a combination of gratitude and strategy.”

“She talked about letting your employees give you feedback. You need the feedback just as much as your employees need that feedback. It’s important to keep creating that safe space for them,” says first-time attendee Tiffany Ash, Powder River Party Rentals, Sheridan, Wyo.

“A lot of employees don’t know where they land in their organization. This seminar put it together that when we’re coming out of this pandemic, you need to appreciate your employees. It’s about giving them meaning. When we do get an employee, we have to encourage them,” says Robert Garrett, Colorado’s Rental Team, Granby, Colo.

At the “Plan and Strategize” session “Believe in Safety,” speaker Brandon Schroeder shared his life-changing story and concrete example of why it’s so important to be a safety advocate for your company. Schroeder eventually became the safety director of his company and stressed the importance of creating a safety culture.

“I said to myself, it’s okay to make a mistake once but it’s my job that we, as a company, will learn from each and every one of these mistakes, and nothing like this can happen again moving forward. Not just my accident, but all accidents are avoidable. The first step of achieving that goal is to believe that it’s possible. You can have all the meetings, all the training that you want to have, but things are going to go wrong from time to time. Safety is no different than any other goal that you set for yourself. If you don’t believe that you can achieve that goal, you won’t,” Schroeder says.

“I just saw a seminar on safety and it was an inspirational story. It was very moving and it made you really think about safety,” says Reuben Ayoub, CERP, TLC Rents, Doraville, Ga.

Attendees came away with several takeaways to implement in their businesses.

“I’ve learned about leadership styles and how to deal with different personalities, different employees, and gained a general understanding of what each person’s need is. And then, how you can bring all that together to make a good, strong team,” says Stephen Williams, Massive Equipment, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.