I recently attended the annual conference of the National Association for Court Management.  The convention center was filled with about 600 court manager, executives, and aspiring leaders seeking to improve our judicial systems.  At dinner one night, someone asked about ways someone could improve their leadership skills if they couldn’t attend a conference for one reason or another – babysitting concerns, time off work, someone to do your work or run the office while you are gone, etc.

The financial support and the time are significant obstacles for many people.  If you don’t have someone else to foot the bill or pick up the slack, a typical conference investment (it’s not an expense, remember?) is about $3000.  The registration fee is around $500-700, depending on early birds and other eligibility considerations; hotel is about $200/night with taxes, so 5 or 6 nights will cost $1000-1200; food for meals not included runs about $30-40/day, so there’s another $200; airline ticket and ground transportation (parking, taxi or shuttle) is probably going to cost $700-800. Then there are tips, coffee, and souvenirs.  If you do have an employer paying those bills, be sure to thank them for their support and give them some return on their investment.

If you don’t have the option of attending a conference, there are still plenty of ways to expand your horizons.  Yesterday I went to a local luncheon for women in business.  The cost was the price of my lunch and the gas to get to the restaurant. Not only was there a speaker for 20 minutes on doing business with the state, there were incredible networking opportunities. It might not be obvious how you – a court management expert – can develop your skills when you are sitting with someone who teaches self-defense, one who sells jewelry, one who is a policy analyst, one who is a Zumba instructor, and one who recommends planners and journals as a way to curate a first-class lifestyle.

Tracey Wiley, Dir of SBSD of Virginia, at eWomen Network lunch
Tracey Wiley, Dir of SBSD of Virginia, at eWomen Network lunch


Their stories are amazing.  They all are passionate about what they do.  They are all having similar issues with prioritizing and organizing their time.  They are sounding boards, idea generators, supporters, and encouragers. Their diverse backgrounds provided differing perspectives for me to consider on issues we all shared. What a great way to expand my skills, by getting outside my little world and removing the filters I commonly applied because of who I am usually surrounded by.

The next time you want to explore an idea, or take a mental break, or deliberately change your thinking, consider going to lunch with differently-minded people.  Or read a book (one of my favorites to take me on a journey was Julia Child about her time in France…but I digress). Or yes, go to a workshop or conference, or hire a coach, or shadow someone else, or … you get the idea. There are many ways you can stretch your skills, and going to lunch is just one of them.

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