It has been a year of change, navigating a global pandemic and learning to work from home, and while some people turned to sourdough bread for solace, I found myself searching instead for motivation.

I read books, listened to podcasts, attended webinars, and sought out virtual conversations with people who inspired me and kept my curiosity alive.

I have never felt so thankful for my IABC membership.

As networking moved online, I found myself surrounded by a global community of peers, people whose interest in the nuances of language, the importance of storytelling, and the desire for strategic solutions matched my own.

Instead of feeling lost in my first year leading a volunteer organization as the vice-president of IABC Manitoba, in a year where none of the normal events and activities that kept our chapter vibrant were possible, I felt empowered. Our chapter didn’t let the pandemic stop us from enjoying online professional development and networking and we were having fun doing it.

If there is one thing IABC is good at, it is making sure that chapter leaders have the right tools and knowledge to lead. IABC President Jackie De Pape Hornick told me that when she convinced me, over coffee and a cinnamon bun (pre-pandemic), to step into a leadership role, and she didn’t lead me astray.

Leadership Institute 2021

In mid-February, I had an opportunity to join a global network of communications experts for IABC’s annual Leadership Institute conference. The event, which was held virtually this year, could not have come at a better time.

After months of my gym being closed due to pandemic restrictions, and a long stretch of winter weather that went below -40 and kept me homebound, even my desire for motivation was flailing. I was walking around with a big grey cloud hanging over my head.

A sliver of sunshine emerged when I was contacted by IABC Canada West Region director Roland Pajares. As part of their commitment to leadership development they had funds available to support our chapter in sending leaders to the virtual conference.

I asked Director of Career Development Antonietta Versace, and Co-Director of Membership and Networking Jill Harris if they wanted to join me. They jumped at the chance.

While we attended different sessions throughout the week, we all agreed that the opening keynote with Catherine Ducharme and the closing keynote with Smita Tharoor were conference highlights that reframed our thinking.

Strategies to be dynamic in a pandemic

Smita Tharoor is a motivational keynote speaker and thought leader on the unconscious bias and how it influences all of us. She is co-founder of Culturelytics, a company that uses artificial intelligence to understand culture in an organization.

I had recently listened to PodCatalyst Episode 3: Uncovering Unconscious Biases which featured her so I knew I’d leave her session on Strategies to be dynamic in a pandemic feeling empowered. She did not disappoint. Her presentation, and the thoughtful conversation in the breakout rooms left me with a better understanding of what it takes to stay dynamic, even while ducking the curveballs being thrown our way.

She reminded me of the strength that comes from embracing change and not giving up, and the importance of living with an abundance mentality which she mapped out in five easy-to-remember steps that lead into one another:

  1. Choose your attitude.
  2. Anchor positive feelings.
  3. Challenge negative self-talk.
  4. Have a positive mental attitude.
  5. Live life with abundance.

Much of her advice echoed what I learned from Catherine Ducharme at the beginning of the week.

The new language of leadership

Ducharme is a certified leadership coach, career communicator, entrepreneur, and speaker with 25+ years communications and leadership experience. Her insights into the changing role of leadership and the importance of building a coaching mindset challenged and inspired me.

“We are called upon to be resilient, adaptable, and brave like never before,” she said.

She explained how a coaching mindset builds the kind of resilience needed for times like these, helping people grow and learn through powerful questions that inspire individuals to find their own answers and solutions. For Ducharme, a good leader is not the person that steps in and takes over, it is the person who asks themselves what it means to hold another person capable and then cheers them on with each new win.

I had just finished reading Simon Sinek’s Find your Why the week before, so when Ducharme asked the group to think about why we show up as IABC volunteers in the midst of already busy schedules, my answer came quickly. I wrote it down:

“Because I want to continue growing and learning and this is a place where I can find others reaching for the same thing, because I want to be better at what I do, because I am looking to the future and potential changes as I move upward into new roles and want to have all the tools to be successful.”

As I networked, shared ideas, and discovered learning resources that I previously didn’t know existed, I began feeling more confident in my role as a leader. Attending IABC Leadership Institute confirmed that this community is the place to turn when I need motivation and tools to succeed.

Written byJennifer Cox, IABC Manitoba Vice President