Connections Conference is a 2 day leadership seminar hosted at Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City by the Leadership Institute at Central Michigan University. Though it is an LAS protocol requirement, it is also open to all members of the university. This year we bussed 200 Central Michigan students and staff to participate in leadership development.Because this conference was meant as professional development, we were required to dress up. This was particularly fun for me because I love dressing up and you don’t have many excuses to in college! I would also like to thank the catering staff for the amazing food. My friends told me it was going to warm ham sandwiches all weekend and I was delightfully pleased with the 3 course meals.
Right off the bat, we were all randomly assigned into Institutes that would act as home base for the conference. This group and leaders focused on the asset/goals plan for us as leaders in our organizations on campus. They showed us how to set goals for our RSO at CMU, how to determine the assets we have to take advantage of, and the factors that have hindered our progress. This process is meant to create goals that we could take back to campus and implement and teach others.
The first educational session I attended was “It’s Not Me, It’s You” in which the topic was how to deal with difficult individuals in leadership, jobs, and life. I personally found this beneficial because there is never a time where you get to choose who you work with. Often times you have to bite your tongue and just survive. One of the things I took from this session was the process of addressing a conflict. My presenter stated, If something bothers you for more that 24 hours, you have 24 hours to then address it. If this time elapses, you must let it go. I never thought of frustration or annoyance as having an expiration date, but it completely makes sense. As leaders, we have to be able to continue to have meaningful and beneficial relationships with the people we work with so I believe this is a great philosophy for everyone to adopt.
One of the other sessions I enjoyed was presented by the one and only, Erin Gaken. First of all, her baby bump was absolutely adorable! Her presentation was “Men can Cry, Women Don’t Have To”, which was focused on gender stereotypes in the workplace. Typically, women are stereotyped as being emotionally driven, where as men are expected to be manly and less emotional. While Erin spoke, I realized how often I’ve accepted these stereotypes. But even so, I am an emotional woman and I enjoy men who can express emotion. At first glance, this doesn’t seem like it would relate to leadership, but on a deeper level, leaders must be accepting, understanding, and thoughtful. If we as leaders refuse to accept each individual for their character and personality, whether it be emotional or unemotional, weak or strong, feminine or manly, we cannot be effective. I found this to be most benefitial to me because I realized a stereotype I’ve been accepting and hope to adjust my mindset to accommodate all individuals as I am a leader of today.
To be honest, I didn’t anticipate making many strong bonds with anyone other than my cohort at Connections. But to my surprise, I met a man named Jack. To this day we talk on a daily basis and get lunch together or go to SAC together often. I really value Jack as a person, and I think he makes me a better person. Out of the whole weekend he is definitely my favorite part (yes, even over the water park), because I believe we will be long time friends. I think we were meant to meet each other to challenge each other, which is what the LI and the Connections Conference intended for us to experience.