The timing of Governance Conference 2022 was perfect for reconnecting the pooling community — COVID-19 infection rates were down and mask restrictions in New Orleans lifted the day before we arrived.
After two years without major in-person events, I anticipated strong attendance numbers and the hallways to be filled with conversations. I was prepared for attendees to be happy to see their colleagues and friends again (other than through Zoom).
But I did not expect the overwhelming sense of pure joy. I witnessed it in smiles, laughter and hugs. I felt it, too. Being together last week felt simultaneously familiar and altogether new — like the first time as an adult you hop on a swing, pump your legs and re-experience that sense of flying you so enjoyed as a six-year-old.
That joyfulness led me to ponder what makes someone happy at work. How important is attending a conference and seeing your pooling colleagues?
Online resources from Harvard Business Review (see “To Be Happier at Work, Invest More in Your Relationships” and “Why You Should Stop Trying to Be Happy at Work”), Positive Psychology and even Monster.com suggest relationships are actually more important than deliverables in generating job satisfaction — and that challenges are only a problem if they aren’t met with equal amounts of positive reinforcement from your relationship network. Having such a network is critical to employee engagement and happiness, so it’s something we should curate for ourselves and encourage in others.
With that in mind, of course conferences are important! Conferences build one-on-one relationships and a broader sense of community. They allow us to meet people who perform similar roles but are not accountable to exactly the same organization. And they create a space for interpersonal, interorganizational collaboration that persists long after the event concludes.
Conferences also provide two important intellectual stimulations in perfect harmony. First, they are a place to gather innovative ideas. We know challenges and learning about new ideas are important for long-term job satisfaction. Second, they’re a place to hear positive affirmations. Think about a time you walked away from a learning session and thought, “We’ve already implemented that idea at my pool.” Sometimes it’s enough to know our priorities are aligned with the work of others we know and respect.
I’ve been to a lot of industry events and conferences in the 25 years I’ve been part of pooling, but I’ve never before experienced an event as joyful as last week’s Governance Conference. It reminded me about the value of relationships and the importance of community. Thank you for sharing and spreading your joy. I can’t wait to do it again.
Ann Gergen is AGRiP’s executive director and a former pool administrator. She has worked closely with and for pools, public entities, reinsurers and related service providers throughout her career.
Published March 14, 2021.