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My Rules for Being a (Insert Specialty Here) Professional

March 7, 2012

I was asked to speak at the Arts Institute of Vancouver, first on a panel and then leading a workshop on sustainable events. The panel was asked to talk about what you didn’t learn in school…and that got me thinking.  Most of what I have learned, I didn’t learn in school.  That in itself is remarkable, since I am currently working on my fourth — yup, count ’em, four — university degrees, which means I have been in school for, well, pretty much forever.

Bridget Jones Diary author Helen Fielding wrote another book, Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination…The main character, Olivia Joules, had rules for living that I thought were kind of cool…so here are my rules for being a sustainable event professional that you won’t learn in school.  They aren’t the only things, but they are the ones I am planning on sharing tonight on the panel.

My Rules for Being a (Insert Specialty Here) Professional

  1. Use improv rules.  In improvisational theatre, you never leave your fellow actors hanging.  You always build on what they’ve done by saying Yes! And… this makes everyone successful.  In sustainability, this means using existing tools and information and adding the perspective of how can we make this better for people?  For the planet?
  2. Best practices aren’t always what they are cracked up to be.  Technology changes, people change, context differs.  Don’t be afraid to experiment to achieve what you and your organization need to achieve.  In sustainability, this means always looking for how things fit together to increase efficiency, reduce our impact on the planet, and improve the way people live.
  3. Sometimes, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.  Sometimes you have to take risks.  They won’t always be successful.  But to find out, sometimes you just have to go ahead and do it.
  4. Take one for the team.  You might be right, your way might be better.  Like, waaaaay better.  It doesn’t matter.  Sometimes you’ve got to suck it up and take one for the team.  Everyone learns from experience.
  5. Be a magnet, not a snow blower. No person, project or event is an island.  Build your collaborative capacity through strong personal and professional networks.  This is incredibly valuable, maybe even priceless.  This is important for sustainability practitioners to give you a solid base of supporters, because often what you do means asking people to do things differently.
  6. Never stop learning.  Education gives you a solid grounding in facts but it also teaches you how to think and apply processes effectively so you can adapt to what is happening around you.  Education makes you flexible. Executing greener meetings means that you need to be flexible to the context, the specific situation, that you are working in.
  7. Execution matters.  Knowing stuff is different from applying stuff.  Experience matters, even if you don’t have the slip of paper that says you studied it.  Knowledge without good execution is not useful. So get in there and get your hands dirty.  Just like other events, sustainable events means that you have to put in a lot of effort – before, during and after the event.
  8. Protect your brand.  Because you ARE a brand – if you don’t show integrity, respect and  professionalism, people will discount you.  Knowing what your values are helps.  What is important to you?  What is important that people know about you?  If sustainability is a value, it helps if you walk the talk.
  9. You need to look at the whole picture, not just its parts.  Everything links to everything else.  That is why sustainability makes so much sense…it is the interaction among people, planet and prosperity. No person, and no event, is an island.  See Rule #5.
  10. Sometimes you have to be the leader.  People are just like you – looking for direction.  If you have the ability to lead, sometimes you have to step up.  Leaders aren’t leaders just because they are the loudest person in the room or have the title.  They are leaders because people respect what they do, what they stand for and how they get things done.  This is an important quality in a sustainability leader, because often they are breaking new ground.
One Comment leave one →
  1. Judy Kucharuk permalink
    March 7, 2012 1:16 pm

    I love the phrase, “Be an Island, not a snow blower”. It is very true and so much more so when your job is to encourage individuals to think a little differently, do things a little differently. I really enjoyed this article Elizabeth 🙂

    Judy Kucharuk
    Footprint Management Systems Inc.

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