What Have I Learned?

Your life is made of two dates and a dash. Make the most of your dash.

Those 16 words are a distillation of a poem written by Linda Ellis in 1996. As I pondered my last QuickLook message, I realized that SMPS has been a big part of how I live my dash. I found Linda’s explanation of the origin of The Dash particularly relevant to our industry. She was working in a very large, successful corporation with a tense working environment. We don’t know any place like that, do we?

Linda noticed how priorities had become misaligned. People were worrying more about making a living than about making a life. She had also been touched by a colleague’s wife, who, aware that she was dying, advised, “We’re all going to die. Stop worrying and start loving and living.”

Most of us didn’t plan to become marketers, communicators, and business developers in the architecture, engineering, and construction industries. But it seems once we get here, we stay. There’s something about living under stress for 60 hours a week that we just can’t get enough of.

So whether we are new to the industry with a desire to learn more, or like Linda Ellis, we are looking for a saner path to how we live our work days, SMPS becomes the source we turn to.

Here, we get the knowledge to improve ourselves and help our firms achieve their goals for growth, market share, visibility, thought leadership … even becoming a better place to work.

We learn how to do our jobs better. We recognize that we aren’t the only ones facing similar challenges. We discover that networking is fun and colleagues are willing to share best practices. We gain perspective and wisdom. Even better, our friendships lead to teaming arrangements that lead to work for our firms. We become better leaders. We bring value!

It’s been nearly a year since I accepted the gavel from Past-President Craig Galati, and in a few weeks, I will pass it on to President-Elect Chris Rickman. Here is some of what I’ve learned over the past year:

  • Leading a diverse organization with a wide variety of constituencies requires a balanced approach. Listening with an open mind to many viewpoints, deciding when to weigh in, and encouraging collaborative approaches are essential to transformative leadership.
  • Managing my time is critical so I can address the most pressing issues at work, for SMPS, and in my personal life. It’s easy to fill our days with details; maintaining a higher view to expand personal leadership takes discipline.
  • SMPS volunteers are passionate about making SMPS the best it can be. Ideas abound from the Society and Foundation boards to chapter management teams to committee and taskforce members. Our bold strategic plan (to be presented at Build Business) will lead us into the future.
  • SMPS members are committed to learning and sharing what they know. Your intense curiosity, focused attention on connecting the dots, and desire to help others succeed make each one of you leaders in your own right.

It has been a pleasure. Thank you for helping me grow as a leader.

SMPS President Nancy Usrey, FSMPS, CPSM, is associate vice president of HNTB in Plano, TX. She can be reached at nusrey@HNTB.com.

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