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By Brad Harbison

NPMA and emerging leaders within the pest control industry gathered in early July at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, in Scottsdale, Ariz., for NPMA Academy 2017, an event lead-sponsored by Dow AgroSciences. During the course of three days, attendees heard from leading business professionals, participated in team-building and learning activities and networked with their peers.

NPMA Chief Executive Officer Dominique Stumpf, who has attended all 22 NPMA Academies since the event’s inception, kicked off this year’s Academy with her observation that the original emerging leaders have become captains of our industry “and the more recent Academy alumni are already making a difference, whether it is through their engagement with NPMA, the influence they have on their business, or the impact they make within their own communities.”

The theme of this year’s Academy was “Innovate, Collaborate, Motivate,” and NPMA’s Leadership Development Group (LDG) put together a program with speakers and topics that addressed challenges emerging industry leaders encounter on a daily basis. Included at this year’s Academy were BASF-sponsored learning labs in which attendees could dive deeper into management topics of interest and learn from their peers.

Some of the highlights from this year’s event included:

NAVIGATING CHANGE. Ariane de Bonvoisin — who left a high-paying, high-profile job in corporate America to become an inspirational speaker, author and consultant — interviewed 1,000 people from all walks of life to develop a list of 9 principles for successfully navigating change. She shared these principles with Academy attendees.

Principle 1: Positive beliefs. People who successfully navigate change have an optimistic outlook that comes from, and is developed by, their “tribes” (family, school, friends, work, etc.). Surround one’s self with optimists; those who don’t fear change but rather embrace it.

Principle 2: The change guarantee. It’s tempting to say, “What good can come from this change?” — especially when the change is something that initially seems grim — but be of the mindset that “Something good will come from this change.”

Principle 3: The change muscle. All people have it within themselves to change, by controlling what de Bonvoisin calls the “change muscle.” You can strengthen this change muscle by reminding yourself of the end goal (e.g., a woman who loses weight in order to fit into her wedding dress).

Principle 4: Manage the change demons. People inherently have “change demons” such as fear, doubt, guilt and impatience. For each of these change demons there is an antidote. For example, the antidote of fear is faith.

Principle 5: Acceptance. Things happen, accept it. The quicker we accept them, the less of a hardship they are. “When we argue with reality, we lose,” de Bonvoisin said.

Principle 6: Watch the stories, language and questions you use with others. Don’t hold others back by relating old stories and using outdated lingo. Re-examine what you are saying and how you are saying it.

Principle 7: Rely on your spiritual side. Whether it is religion or meditation or volunteer work, make time for your “inner life.” She said, “The more you do for other people the easier life is.”

Principle 8: You have a change support team. Sometimes these are not necessarily your best friends, but people who know you well and can be honest with you. “It’s often been said that the five people you spend the most time with can best define you,” she said.

Principle 9: Principle of action. This can come in any number of actions, but de Bonvoisin recommended a good place for people to start is taking care of one’s physical health. A good, simple way to start is evaluating and making simple changes in four areas she outlined in the acronym SEED (Sleep; Eating well; Exercise; and Drinking water).

CANCELING OUT DISTRACTIONS. Curt Steinhorst, a business owner, entrepreneur, and founder of FocusWise gave a thought-provoking session that dealt with canceling out distractions. Steinhorst noted, “We have more technology than ever before, and yet it is never harder to work than it is today.” As proof, he cited a study that found “60 percent of online purchases are made during work hours.”

One of the challenges facing owners and executives is that many workplaces have evolved to have too much of an open-door policy. While leaders must be visible and available, allowing for too much access stifles the very thing that gives owners/executives their competitive advantage: the ability to think, strategize, process and prioritize.

Steinhorst suggested leaders carve out 30 minutes per day for themselves when they put their phones in their desk.

Another trap that workers fall into is making a “To Do” list and knocking off the easy items first so they can feel like they have made progress.

One of the ways Steinhorst and his team successfully prioritize is by having weekly goal-setting meetings. From these meetings each person develops 2 to 4 daily “diamond” goals: action items — tasks that will dictate whether or not the day has been a success; and dollar items — the long list of tasks that individually are marginally important but have a cumulative value.

BECOMING ‘THE’ LEADER. NPMA Academy attendees heard from Ryan Avery, who at age 25 became the youngest World Champion of Public Speaking. Avery noted that it is the little things that make a big difference and separate “A” leader from “The” leader. For example, Avery provided the following advice that company leaders can use to help them make that all-important first impression on others.

  • Always have four stories to tell (two professional stories and two personal stories) about successes and failures. “Never tell a story that does not provide value.”
  • Always have three facts about your industry to share.
  • Always have two good quotes to share that will leave a memorable impression and raise your visibility.

Much of Avery’s presentation focused on the theme that “a” leader has confidence, while “the” leader demonstrates confidence. Relating this back to his message of “little things making a big difference,” Avery reminded attendees of the importance of effective speakers’ body language. For example, speakers who move backwards show signs of weakness and uncertainty, while speakers who step forward demonstrate strength and confidence. “How your body moves dictates how your message is received,” Avery said. He also recommended eliminating words like “just” and “only” (e.g., an email that begins “I just wanted to follow up with you…”).

The benefits of confident leadership have a ripple effect within a company, Avery said. “Confidence is the by-product of you being courageous. When you display confidence, you are you giving your staff courage.”

TEAM-BUILDING. In addition to these presentations, NPMA Academy provided attendees with many opportunities for professional and business development, including team-building exercises and the annual Academy Olympics. NPMA Academy was lead-sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, with additional sponsorships from BASF, AMVAC, Douglas Products, Bayer and Control Solutions Inc.

The author is Internet editor and managing editor of PCT magazine and can be contacted via email at