Lessons from Leaders

Over the past week, our family has been vacationing in San Francisco.  We are here not just as an end-of-summer last hurrah, but as part of an awards trip/conference called “Leaders” my husband earned from his company, MassMutual.

We have been to many Leaders Conferences.  There are always terrific speakers (yes, I am an obsessive interloper at these events and always join Marc to hear the phenomenal speakers!); this year was no exception.  And, as if the meeting planners could read my mind, they chose “Making Connections” as the theme of this conference.  As such, I found Monday’s talks especially moving and extremely relevant for the Coffee Lunch Coffee movement.

First up was Roger Crandall, CEO of MassMutual.  In his remarks about Making Connections, he referenced starting points, crossings and destinations.  Specifically, he took a decidedly San Francisco approach and talked about building bridges and reminded the crowd that when the idea for the ~1.8 mile long Golden Gate Bridge was first conceived in the early 1900s, the naysayers said it couldn’t be done.  Residents from six surrounding counties begged to differ.  They came together in the spirit of collaboration and innovation and not only raised the unimaginable sum of $30 million via bonds in 1930, but they built the bridge in just over four years and came in under budget.  Today, that bridge that couldn’t be built remains a symbol of determination and connection.  As Roger Crandall put it, “Together, all of us build bridges.  It’s about making new friends and reconnecting with old ones.”  Indeed.

Artwork by Erik Wahl created at MassMutual Leaders Conference 2014

Next up was the mind-blowing Erik Wahl, performance/graffiti artist and motivational speaker.  Erik walked onto the stage to the tune of U2’s “Beautiful Day.”  He grabbed a plain black canvas, set it on an easel, started dancing and, by the time the song ended, had created a super-cool graffiti style painting of Bono.  Later, he ensured there was not a dry eye in the house when he played videos of combat soldiers returning home to their families while he created a gorgeous image of the Statue of Liberty.

The combination of music, video, imagery and discussion helped to drive home the key message Erik very effectively sought to convey:  Accidental, spontaneous emotion enables breakthrough connections.  Yes!  He went on to suggest in this metrics driven society, trust is the new value currency.  He said, “Forget ROI [return on investment].  ROR, that is, return on relationship, is where it’s at today.”  Couldn’t agree more.

What a gift this week has been for Marc, Ian and myself as we have (re)connected with each other, with new friends and long-time relations.  It is with pleasure I share these messages with you.

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