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You Can Do Hard Things: If You're Not Uncomfortable, You're Not Growing

September 23, 2022

Season 3, Episode 9

Guest: Amanda Armstrong, Senior Vice President, Brand and Community Engagement, Encore

How can you continue to evolve and grow as an impactful leader? Amanda Armstrong, senior vice president of brand and community engagement at Encore, shares her perspective on leading vulnerably, making tough decisions and surrounding yourself with a strong support network.

Want to hear more from Courtney and her incredible guests? Find all Dare to Interrupt episodes here.

 

[Listen to the previous Dare to Interrupt podcast: Being a Buffalo: Walking Through the Storm of Loss]

Meet Our Guest:

Amanda Armstrong photo.
Amanda Armstrong
 

Amanda Armstrong was named in the top five Women of Influence by MeetingsNet one of the 50 Most Influential Meeting Professionals by MPI. She is the senior vice president of brand and community engagement and she supports the stellar team members of industry relations, communications, social media and brand for Encore. Amanda is responsible for the strategic development and management of Encore’s brand story and increasing our presence and impact in the events industry.

She currently serves on the Event Industry Council’s APEX Critical Response Task Force and chairs the Event Leaders 100 think tank. Amanda served as the 2018 Chair of the International Board of Directors for MPI and was the vice chair of finance in 2016. She started her volunteer leadership path on the St. Louis Board of Directors and co-chaired MPI’s WEC in St Louis in 2011.

Passionate about improving the industry, she was an advisory board member for Hyatt Hotels, the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission and Elite Meetings. She graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and received her CMP designation in 2007.

Outside the office, she heads off into nature to ski, hike, camp or surf. She enjoys traveling and sailing with her husband, Jon, who loves to plan adventures in the great outdoors. If you ask her where she cut her teeth, it was at the tech table, calling the show on comms with audiovisual professionals who make it all happen.

Amanda Armstrong bungee jumping in New Zealand.
Amanda Armstrong bungee jumping in New Zealand
 

Connect with Amanda:
LinkedIn
Instagram: @a_strong
Twitter: @acarmstrong

Facebook
Website

More About Our Host:

Photo of Courtney Stanley sitting.Courtney believes that transforming past experiences into impactful conversations through raw, authentic storytelling challenges the status quo, connects people from all walks of life and results in great change for the world.

  • Courtney is the youngest member to have ever been elected to Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI) International Board of Directors
  • She is the recipient of Smart Meetings’ Entrepreneur Award, MeetingsNet’s Changemaker Award, the Association for Women in Events (AWE) Disruptor Award, the MPI Chairman’s Award and MPI RISE Award.
  • Named Collaborate and Connect Magazine’s 40 under 40 and a Meetings Today Trendsetter.
  • Recognized as one of the event industry’s most impactful change-makers.
  • Serves on the Events Industry Sexual Harassment Task Force, AWE’s Board of Directors, MPI’s Women’s Advisory Board, is a Meetings Mean Business Ambassador and is the co-founder of the award-winning movement, #MeetingsToo.
  • Named as a 2020 Meetings Trendsetter by Meetings Today

Connect with Courtney:

Transcript: 

Courtney Stanley  
Hello, everybody. This is Courtney Stanley and welcome to another exciting episode of dare to interrupt a listening experience where you have the opportunity to sit in on honest, unfiltered conversations with women who are considered to be the most influential, inspiring and innovative leaders in the world of events, hospitality, business and beyond. Throughout their careers, these leaders have dared to interrupt conversations, their own comfort zones, and sometimes even societal norms to hustle toward their greatest levels of success. I am thrilled to introduce you to today's guest, who is a good friend of mine and an outstanding leader in the events industry. Here with us, we have Amanda Armstrong, senior vice president brand and community engagement at Encore. Amanda, it's so great to have you here. How are you my friend?

Amanda Armstrong  
I am thrilled to be on your podcast. I am a longtime listener, first-time guest, and of course a huge fan of what you're doing in the industry and of you personally. So yeah, this is this is a great day.

Courtney Stanley  
Yeah, I would agree. And likewise, I have been very excited to have you on the show. And I think as we chatted little bit about before we hopped on here, I think the timing is perfect for a lot of reasons. But before we get started, I want to give the audience an opportunity to get to know you a little bit better. Would you give us a brief summary of where you started in your career and what you're up to now?

Amanda Armstrong  
Absolutely. So I don't know if it'll be brief--it is storied, for sure. It's got chapters. But I guess my first big job came out of college when I moved from Boulder, Colorado, to Santiago, Chile. And it was on a whim; I wanted to be a ski instructor that didn't really work out. I ended up working for a newspaper. But it was really kind of the first exposure I had to working abroad and, like, big travel. And that really started my journey on how can I do more of this? Like discovering the world and experiencing different cultures.

So, I ended up getting a job in St. Louis, and it was for a company called Intrav and Clipper Cruise Lines, and I did all operations and logistics. It was kind of like, you know, we call ourselves a travel director--it was a TD--and they sent us all around the world. So after about four years, I've been in 55 countries, and then they station me...my territory was the Middle East and Africa. And so I did operations there, which was culturally, as a woman, was a really great learning experience. And then I thought, well, traveling 250, 275 days out of the year was not sustainable.

So, what can I do that still incorporated travel and meeting and experiencing new things, and it became corporate events, and so transitioned into that. It's still in St. Louis, and I ended up working for Enterprise Rent-a-Car National and Alamo, running their meeting management department, and then eventually taking on global transient travel for them. That was a great chapter where I was able to do more of the events that we know in our industry, less incentive travel, which was the previous job.

And then yeah, after over a decade, I landed at Encore, and I've been at Encore, which is of course, as you know, an audiovisual and production company kind--largest in the world--and I've been there nine months. So that's what I've been up to; drinking, like furiously from the firehose, as they say.

Courtney Stanley  
You've had such a fascinating career path where you've zigzagged in a few different areas, which I love, because I can definitely relate to that. And it just makes me want to dig into the different stories that you have to share, especially in living in such interesting places around the world and the lessons that you've learned.

If you could take a look back at that journey, what do you feel like were some of the really interesting moments in your professional journey, or even moments that you don't think the average person would have that are just really different and really fascinating?

Amanda Armstrong  
Well, to give the listeners a bit of a treat, there was some really exciting stories where you're definitely the hero and helping someone you know, that's traveling abroad that's going through a family emergency. I was actually on a nuclear-powered icebreaker on the way to the North Pole, and a couple had a family emergency and they had to get off the ship and we were in the middle of like an ice field. And so I think that really kind of solidified that I love problem solving.

I love problem solving. And I also love being of service to others. And so for me, figuring out a way in Russian through a translator to negotiate with a very strong Russian captain on how we could somehow change our itinerary to enable this couple to get off the ship involves some really creative problem solving, and also some logistics.

So, I think that one definitely stands out, and then you know--for anyone that's in the industry that's had a guest speaker experience...we've had a lot of really close calls where we've had guest speakers that are...you know, it's five minutes to show, it's three minutes to show and we have not had seen them. And I remember helping actually one guest actually get dressed; he had some difficulty with his caregiver. And so he needed help dressing and we were running late.

And so there were all kinds of these moments of truth where you stay calm and you problem solve, and you just keep it all in perspective. And I think those times were when I felt like I really added value, and I think that's when you feel good in your job...when you're like, "Hey, I made a difference here or I made something happen." I mean, it's not for everybody--events and meetings--and being in that pivotal position of...it's kind of like a do or die moment.

But for me, I'm a bit of adventurous and a thrill seeker, and so I think I kind of like it. And I definitely feel good after it, having the impact that I've had.

Courtney Stanley  
You just can't make this stuff up. No. I'm like...just trying to imagine you on a ship in the Arctic, talking to this, like big Russian man. It's like this stuff you just absolutely cannot make up.

But that's what's so interesting about having the ability to travel for a living. And I think that's one of the most beautiful parts of our industry, is being able to experience these really odd circumstances that turn into these great memories, life lessons, you know, whatever it ends up being, but you just cannot make this stuff up. 

Amanda Armstrong  
Courtney you can't, because you don't actually go into a job thinking, "Oh, I hope this happens to me. I hope I have this kind of the physically challenged person that I really want to have on stage, but then they have this, , you know, basically a [unintelligible] crisis, like five minutes before. You don't want that.

But I think that when you go through something like that, you think about trusting yourself. And you know, whenever you're in an uncomfortable position, or maybe you're a little, I like to say, over your skis--because I'm a big skier--you just remember that you've been in tougher times. You've been in crisis moments before and it turned out...okay, not probably perfect, but you made it through personally. And also, you know, without your contributions, it would have been worse.

So, I think those are always good moments of reflection to look back on of, like, "Hey, I can do this, or I did that." And I think that's important for anybody to remember, whenever they have a little self doubt creeping in. I think that always helps with the confidence.

Courtney Stanley  
Yeah, and I think that's a great reminder daily, you know? I mean, of course, our industry has gone through a really difficult time over these past few years. But even outside of the pandemic, and everything that we've gone through, I mean, we're all facing stuff every single day, every week, every month--new things pop up.

So, I think it's always a really good reminder of the strength that each of us has individually and being able to look back and say, "If I could get through that, I can get through this, and come out on the other side." Okay, totally. I want to talk a little bit about what you're up to at Encore these days. So if you could share a little bit about your specific role and what really excites you about the work that you're doing, I think that would be great to hear.

Amanda Armstrong
Of course. Yeah. No, I'm thrilled about it. So, it's all about community. So, my title is brand and community engagement. But like, if we really break that down, what does it mean? Well, I'm over--and I get to work--but I have the privilege of working with some really amazing leaders. And I think that that was what attracted me to this job. I had that experience at Enterprise. And I was so lucky to be the beneficiary of great leadership and a great organization. And I saw the same thing at Encore.

So, I'm definitely supporting and over internal comms, external comms, social media, brand and industry relations. And so, what do all those things have in common? Well, they are a community, whether it's internal or external, whether it's industry relations--that's, you know, IMEX and MPIs, WEC and PCMA's Convening Leaders--we show up at all these large industry events, and how we show up really matters to Encore. And I think we view it as an opportunity not only to support the industry that we're in which--gosh, over the two years, I mean, we really needed it, because of all the changes that have happened, you know, pre/post pandemic--but to show up there in different ways and really to embody how powerful events can be. And it's easy to say, it's tough to do.

And so, I think with this new job opportunity, it was connecting all those things of not only brand activations or experiences on the industry, but then also thought leadership, like, what are we saying? What do we stand for? What's the content that we're putting out there to help our customers and not just our planner customers, but also our venue partners, their customers, too?

And so, understanding insights in the industry and publishing articles and white papers and putting out, you know, educational content? I think it makes us all smarter, and especially unites us on what are the things that we want to move forward, and it's outside of maybe just like production and tech, but it's also big things like sustainability and diversity and larger issues that I think we want the industry to maybe tackle or at least make better.

So, that's kind of why I was excited about this job. And tying all of these different functions under one title really helps you keep those initiatives, and an us using our end-to-end solutions at Encore to help other people do just that, have really powerful and impactful meetings that deliver on ROI, whatever the size, or the type, or the location.

Courtney Stanley  
Well, I love the Encore team. And I know that's no secret between you and I. I think every single person that I've had the opportunity to get to know over this past, you know, six months, nine months, has been incredible. So warm, so smart. So kind--like, everybody is fantastic. And I know I mean, Encore had a fantastic activation at WEC--Be the Change--and there was a really cool headshots station and it wasn't like the normal headshot station, which is great.

But it was like this really trendy elevated experience, and with a message that I think is really great. And Encore's done such a wonderful job this year, and really connecting with the community. And I know that you all are up to something exciting at IMEX coming up soon. Can you share a little bit more? Can you spill any tea about what's going on? 

Amanda Armstrong  
Oh my gosh, I love to coordinate--you're such a good interviewer. Of course, I just like want to tell you everything right now. But I would totally be strung up if I did. They would just be--they'd have my head! But what I can tell you is that, I mentioned, you know, loving travel. And I mentioned how travel is about growth. And so to me, this activation that we're doing, or this experience is what I should call it, is quite personal. Because I always felt that, you know, when you have the opportunity and the resources to do something for 1,000s of people, there's a lot of responsibility in that.

And so, when I experience, personally, transformational change, like through travel or through changing jobs or, you know, anybody has--through the pandemic. I just thought, you know, it is really a neat experience to go in on one side with a set of ideas or problems or behavior and then come out on the other side with something else.

And so that's what we're trying to create at IMEX. And I think the beauty of partnering with IMEX is because they, like us, are kind of champions of change, especially in the industry. And they're always kind of raising the bar and wanting to talk about bigger issues. And so I think we came together and had this great brainstorm of how can we do that for the attendee experience? And so, yeah, we want to activate an out-of-the-box immersive experience that promotes just that--behavioral change.

And it's going to talk about a lot of things that I think plague us, whether it's sustainability or diversity/inclusion, as I mentioned, or maybe even industry issues like engagement; like, how do you keep your attendees engaged and how do you earn their attendance at an in-person meeting versus just a digital meeting. You know, all of those things I think we're struggling with, and so I think we want to take the attendees on a journey and I hope that they experience this kind of empowerment and also be inspired when they get through it. We're calling it Break Free.

So, if you are having to go to IMEX, please follow us on social--any channel--look for Break Free, because we'd love to see you there and there'll be lots of information as we slowly start to unfold the Break Free activation, and yes, I hope it's going to be amazing.

Courtney Stanley  
Well, I have to spill my own tea with the audience and let them know that I will definitely be at this activation, probably all day, every day, the show. First of all, I can't not think of the song Break Free by Ariana Grande, so if you see me rocking a high pony during the show, that's why.

I do wonder if you could have attendees saying one thing after they go through this experience, this activation during IMEX, what do you want them to come out on the other side saying?

Amanda Armstrong  
It's a couple of things--probably one, I mean, just to be honest--I want them to say, "That was really cool." So, you know, to be part to doing something unexpected. I want them to be surprised.

So, I want that reaction. But I also want in the middle of the experience for them to be inspired that they are at the center of being the change or breaking free of stereotypes, or even just personal challenges, that they are in the driver's seat. And especially if they are a customer or a planner or a venue--they play such a pivotal role in us breaking free of some of these social issues that we want to tackle.

I think the events community has said it before you know when we meet, we change the world is MPIs tagline. And I think so many people feel that way. And so when they get done with this experience, I want them to feel like they are in the driver's seat to impact change, and that they can do it, and whatever it is that was on their list going in there.

I want to see this done differently, that when they get through the experience, they're connected to two things. One, resources that give them actual tools to go and do what they want to do. And also a community of people that are equally inspired, that want things to be different, and that want to challenge the norm and want to raise the bar. If you're going through this, you're going to be with like-minded professionals that want to see something different in the future. And so do we at Encore.

Courtney Stanley  
I'm curious. So I love the expression break free. And I think it could mean so many things to so many people. For you personally outside of Encore, what does break free mean for you?

Amanda Armstrong
I think it's breaking free of what's holding you back. And if that's, you know, a fear of failure, or if it is a fear of the unknown, but I think it's just a reminder that you should be breaking free of anything that you feel like is holding you down. And so for me personally, I feel pretty inspired right now being in a new job and having a lot of new opportunities.

But I think socially, you know, there still are a lot of things out there that, especially with women's empowerment and equal wage, and still discrimination that's faced by so many people, I still feel that that's something that we need to break free of, and that we need to help each other break free of those stereotypes or support each other when we see somebody that's maybe in a situation where they need help breaking free, they need an ally, they need an advocate.

So, I think it's two things: it's a personal thing, and then probably like a larger human thing, when I think about break free.

Courtney Stanley  
So I want to dig in a little bit more into your story, which I know has so many different nooks and crannies that we could dive into. But I'm curious, what has been the greatest challenge that you have overcome? Or maybe you're currently dealing with? Whether that's professionally or personally?

Amanda Armstrong  
You know, that's a great question. You know, and I was just mentioning that it's probably, I mean, the first thing that comes to mind is just my new job. And I think that it's a great opportunity for growth. But there are so many people out there right now that are in a new position.

We've seen a lot of turnover, especially in our industry, of people changing roles, leaving the industry, coming back to the industry, new people to our industry. And so I just think you are not alone out there. I definitely kind of feel the pain, but also the joy of it.

So, I think right now, if I would say, what's one thing that keeps me up at night in good and bad ways, it is my new career at Encore. And I think that, you know, I just have to be reminded, you know that it is good to do hard things, it's good to be outside of your comfort zone. And so, and I think when going back to what we talked about before, which was remember all the hard spots that you've been in, and you know, and channel those experiences when you have those moments of doubt. I think that I've been doing that lately because I am doing so many new things.

I mean, at Enterprise, I lead global travel and our meetings management department. At Encore, I'm in the marketing department. And so there's all sorts of new things, new terminology, new methodology, you know, new insights that I'm exposed to, and so I'm drinking it all in and it's the learning experience that I wanted, which I think is why we all accept a new challenge. But I think that there are moments where you're just like, oh my gosh, you know, I'm a bit overwhelmed.

And, so I think it's what are your personal best practices to keep focused and positive and remembering that you have a community around you that will support you. And it's okay to be vulnerable and say you don't know the answer to that. So, just reminding me all of the things that we've read in articles and blogs, and just channeling those things, because I do think changing professions or changing jobs is heavy, and it does impact you.

And I think that's okay, just, you know, keep it in perspective, that it is a big change that you're going through as an individual and you're going to see a little bit of repercussions in your life because you chose this change. And, but you know, if you're not uncomfortable, you're probably not growing.

Courtney Stanley  
Hmm...yeah, preach. I completely agree with that. And something you said earlier about, I'll paraphrase I'm actually just going to quote Glennon Doyle, We Can Do Hard Things. Oh, yeah, just I love that. I feel like I have to say that to myself. And I like saying that to myself every time I feel overwhelmed, or I just feel nervous about doing something. And it's like, okay, we can do hard things, we can do this. But I know especially right now, there are a lot of people who have been in their positions for a while, and they don't feel like it's the best environment for them, whether they don't feel supported by leadership, they don't feel like their wellness is prioritized.

There are a lot of people right now who've been in our industry for a long time that are feeling like they would benefit from making a change and being a part of an environment that could potentially be better for them. But they're afraid to leave, they're scared to take the leap. What advice would you share with them? Have you ever been in a situation like that, where maybe you just know that it's time to move on? It's time to do something different? How would you advise that they move forward?

Amanda Armstrong  
You know, I would say, and this is something that I know you and I have talked about, is I would bring together your personal board of directors and have them be your sounding board...to validate. Are you leaving for the right reasons, which would be growth or work-life balance? And are you looking at the pros and cons of that decision?

I think it's really important to have those people around you. And because they will be really a truth teller to say, "Hey, remember five years ago when you were feeling this, and remember, you did XYZ and it fixed it, have you tried that?" They can maybe give you a little bit of your own medicine, or just, you know, remind you of things that you've done in the past or, you know, encourage you to say you've been talking about being a writer for 10 years, it's time to jump off, it's time to do that.

So, I just I would say, surround yourself by a community of people that you trust. But one thing, and I really want to emphasize this, make sure it's diverse. It's a diverse group of people. Because I think and we've all read about this, is that sometimes we surround ourselves with like minded people just because it is convenient, and it's who you hang with. But I think really in your personal board of directors you are looking for very different experiences, different age groups, different demographics, because they will bring a different point of view. Because if you have everybody in that group, all nodding their head, be like, "Yeah, be a writer, be a writer..."

You know, you might want to have somebody that's like, "Hey, you know, what about your 401k? Like, how's that going to work?" You know what I mean? You just need somebody that is going to bring a different point of view. And I would just encourage anybody who's thinking about that, to use your community and use your friends and that group to be your sounding board to validate it, because it might be the time for you to make a change.

You know, it was difficult for me to leave my last position because of relationships and just a great culture, but I wanted to grow in a different area. And this new position is affording me that and that was important to me; that was priority one. And so I go back to what is driving you. And as long as that trade off is there and not a promise but a reality, then I think that you know that can guide your decision."

Courtney Stanley  
That's great advice. And I couldn't agree more that I think the people who have served as mentors, as peers, as really great friends, especially in the professional world, they have influenced my decisions greatly. And I'm an over analyzer, like I will pros and cons until the end of time and still feel stuck in the middle. And it's always so helpful to have that sounding board or to be able to say, "Have you thought about this, or even just a push in a direction that you knew you wanted to go, but maybe weren't ready to make that jump without a little bit of encouragement? Yep.

And there's nothing wrong with that. I think so many times, especially for people who are really independent and successfully independent, I think it's really difficult sometimes to ask for help. And to say, "I'm stuck, I don't have the answer, or I'm overwhelmed by thinking about this way too much. Can you just hear me out and give me your perspective, for better or for worse, whatever that is?" I think that it's so helpful to be able to practice that vulnerability and just say, "I don't know what I'm doing. Can you help me out?" 

Amanda Armstrong  
I agree. One of two comments to add on to that one. Yes, we need [to] be comfortable being uncomfortable. Also, be comfortable not knowing the answer. I think there was so much that came out in the pandemic around leadership and saying, you know, it is okay for leaders to say, "Hey, we've never been through a global pandemic before. I don't know what's going to happen in Q4."

More leaders, I think, started to say that than we've ever heard before. And wasn't it refreshing to hear someone have a position of authority and power and know-how saying, "I don't know." I'm like, "Oh, this is great. You're human. Okay, I can actually relate to you." So I kind of just took that as, as a leader that when I heard my leaders say that I didn't think less of them, I actually thought more of them because they were relatable. And they weren't trying to spin it. They were just saying, This is a tough spot. And we're doing the best we can. And we're going to try to support you and keep the feedback coming. And we will keep you up to date.

And so I think from a leadership perspective, I try to lead that way is, "Hey, this is where we are. It's not good. It's not bad. It's just the reality check. And I'm not quite sure the next step--what do you guys think?" And so I think that's okay to do that. And we all need to practice that, too. It's to not know the answers is human.

Courtney Stanley  
Yeah, and I think it just creates trust. I think it really builds trust. And it also empowers people to be part of the process, the decision making the troubleshooting, the brainstorming. It's such a great engagement strategy, to just level with your team and say, "I'm looking for input," or "Absolutely, here's where we are, where do you think we should go next?"

I think great authenticity is the way to lead. And I think that the people who miss those opportunities also missed an opportunity to retain really great talent or to relate with really great people that were on their team. And I think people are really looking for that type of leadership today, especially as things have changed so much the past few years. They want to know that the person that they are working with or working for understands them on a human level, and that they'll show up, be honest, be transparent, be vulnerable, and just be human.

Amanda Armstrong  
Oh my gosh, that's so true. And when we talk about diversity and inclusion, and a sense of belonging, is that authenticity. I mean, we want to be able to be our full selves at work. And that is a shift that's happening now. And I think leaders need to be really paying attention to that. Because it's really important not only to learn new things, but also to unlearn old ways.

And, you know, there's a generation of "you don't talk about XYZ at work," or you don't engage on these certain levels. That is shifting right now. And I think it's a good thing, you know, as long as you're involved with some leadership training and some HR coaching, so that you kind of know the guardrails. But that is an expectation. I think of employees now that it is "I want you to know me and accept me and I want to belong here."

And that means that we're going to share maybe a little bit more than we have in the past. But we want it to be appropriate, of course, and productive. But it is a shift in culture with employee retention and recruitment and wellness. And I'm excited about it. It's a little scary, because you never know if you're saying the right or wrong thing sometimes, but then that's okay to say that, too, to be vulnerable there, because I think we're learning new leadership techniques.

Courtney Stanley  
I think it's fascinating, and I think it's so appropriate that you use the word guardrails, because it's like, you don't want to get sued. You don't want to get canceled, like, let's make sure we're staying in a lane that's professional and appropriate, but also how can we lead in a way that is effective? That's authentic and that just feels real and feels relatable?

Amanda Armstrong  
Absolutely. It's so true. And the other thing I was gonna say is when you were talking about that you analyze and you pro/con, this might help you because my husband is in the same thing. He likes to do pro/con sheets and I listened to this, I think was a podcast and it was about someone from behavioral sciences who was actually analyzing decision making. And they said, if you have a decision that's very close, and you just keep going back and forth, and you've led a reasonably successful life where you've made pretty good decisions, you definitely would say, for the most part, I'm on a path to success, then either of those two decisions will be good ones, because they never would have made it to the final two; they never would have made it through, the very edge of all the different obstacles of, like, what about this, they got to the two.

So maybe one's taking a job on the West Coast and one's the East Coast seems really different. But if they've met all of the job requirements, and the lifestyle requirements and been through your metrics, and they're still pretty equal, you just have to decide because both of them will be a good decision. And then once you decide, make it the good decision, don't look back, so I chose West Coast. And I knew that there were a couple of negatives with it, but I'm going to make this the best decision. And I'm going to live it that way. And so, anyway, I thought that was really empowering to our household. So that we wouldn't get into analysis paralysis, or always be looking backwards to be like, "Oh, man--with every parking ticket that we get, it's like, oh, I shouldn't have moved to that other place." It's like, just decide that you made the best decision and stick with it.

Courtney Stanley  
Do you know how badly I needed that advice. Like two weeks ago, I just moved to a new city. I'm currently living in Detroit. I was so paralyzed by overthinking, over-analyzing, seeing a million places to live in the city. Even choosing what nightstand to put in my bedroom has been a nightmare.

So, I'm going to use this advice moving forward as I continue to build this new home for myself, but I think that's great advice, and I'm so sick of pro and con spreadsheets. So let's be done with it, absolutely, decisions forward.

Amanda Armstrong  
If it makes it to your final two, it's a good decision. I mean, the nice thing, whether it's white, or...

Courtney Stanley  
...if it's white or brown, that's what I've been sitting with. 

Amanda Armstrong  
They're both great, you're gonna love them both. You're gonna put your little water on there at the end of the evening, and you're gonna plug in your phone in your table.

Courtney Stanley  
And I'll be like, "Thank you, Amanda, for helping me choose this white table. I'm going with the white one now."

Amanda Armstrong  
Okay, good. That's decided. All right, what's next?

Courtney Stanley  
So, I want to dig into your the really key highlights that you've had in your career journey as well. What do you feel has been the greatest success or the proudest moment that you've experienced so far?

Amanda Armstrong  
You know, I've actually spoken about this on stage before. And it actually brought me to tears which is funny, because I don't usually get that emotional, but my mom was in the audience, and I'll tell you what, that's gonna do it.

But it kind of goes back to some family values. And volunteer service was really big in our household, and it was on the holidays, you know, Thanksgiving. We're delivering meals in the morning or Christmas, we're helping out the soup kitchen. And we would always just kind of be doing volunteer service. It was a really big, important thing.

So, and getting involved in my career, I think serving on a volunteer, in a volunteer capacity, was always really important to me. And it just seemed to like kill two birds with one stone, because our industry is great, you can learn a lot, you can get a lot out of it, as far as leadership experience or new skills and capabilities. As a volunteer, I like to say that, you know, you can't really be fired as a volunteer. So it's a great place to learn. And you can really grow.

And so I did that with Meeting Professionals International, and then just kind of kept, you know, raising my hand for other opportunities and ended up finding myself on the board of directors with you. And I think the proudest moment was when I was elected chair by my peers on that board and also members, general members of the MPI community, were on this governance Task Force to select the next chair.

And currently, you know, the list of leaders on that. I mean, they're such accomplished people, and I  kind of just threw my name in the hat, because somebody gave me a kick in the pants and said, "You should go for this," which is always what good mentors and advocates do. They frame you, they make you see the capabilities that you have, you might not be seeing, and so I did it. And I got it. And I just I think that whole year that I was the chair, I was so humbled to be representing not only the board of directors, but also, you know, the 18,000 members of that community. I just felt just, yeah, so humbled and so honored and when I got up on stage and kind of told why I think volunteer service is so important not only for the community at large, and humanity, but also for you as a person to grow and learn.

Yeah, my mom was in the audience and so I got a little choked up. But it was great. And I still think that that is my proudest moment, is that whole year of service and some of the tough issues that we tackled that year, that did require real leadership skills and collaboration and things that I had never done before. And so I'm proud of that.

Courtney Stanley  
Well, I'm proud of you, too, and you did a fantastic job leading our community. And I think you probably will go down as one of the most beloved chairs that MPI has ever had. People to this day, I mentioned earlier to someone today that I was hopping on this interview with you and they were like, "Oh, my gosh, I love Amanda Armstrong. She's fantastic."

And I hear it all the time. And it's true. And I think you were able to lead in a way that was very authentic, that was very relatable, but it was also very strategic. And you did take on some hard topics, and I think you did a great job navigating those.

Amanda Armstrong  
Thank you. It was, and when I when I say that that personal board of directors is important. That year was the beginning of #MeToo. So there was a lot of things going on, not only in the world, but in our industry that were really serious and impacting the health and wellness of women and organizations, and it just couldn't have been a more important time to be paying attention, to be listening and to leverage our industry to actually do something about it. And so it was a moment of truth.

But you know, it was scary. Because when you are trying to have a positive impact like that, you do need to collaborate and you do need buy-in and you need to move quickly. And because you want to impact people that are hurting or negatively impacted as quickly as possible. So anyway, it was it was a really pivotal year. But it's nice to hear that, you know, that there are good things being said, because I think in the moment you don't think about that.

You just think about the next step, and what's the right thing to do. And as a leader, you are able to make things better. And every day are you doing that? Is your impact for the good. And being able to go to sleep at night, be like, yeah, it was as hard as it is or as many challenges we're facing, like, we're doing something that matters. And you know, I think you look at yourself in the mirror every day and you try to say that as a leader. And I think that that's important, to hold yourself accountable when you're in a position of power.

Courtney Stanley  
I think so, too. And this has been such a great conversation. I know that our audience will be fully invested in getting to know you better, even beyond this podcast. But I want to ask you one final question. And I ask every guest this question. It's kind of just like an exclamation point on the end of our conversation, or maybe a dot-dot-dot for something for people to think about as they go on with their day.

If you could share one piece of advice with other women in our industry, or even in business at large, what would you want them to hear?

Amanda Armstrong  
Gosh, that's a good question. I would say that you're not alone. That would be the biggest thing. And I think that I've found success as a woman leader by realizing I shouldn't be trying to do it alone. Or that that is a very, you know, it's a way that will isolate you as a leader. And also I think as a human being when you try to approach things, if I can do it by myself, you know, I want to have something to prove. I certainly think you need to hone your skills and have capabilities and a strong network and all the things that you need to do to be successful.

But I think remembering that it really does take a village and that you should consult the village, that personal board of directors, to find out if you're on the right path, or if you're making the right decisions. Because I do think that we are better when we collaborate. And it's why I'm in this industry, because I do think when we come together, whether it's online or in person or just you with each other, that that's when great things happen.

It's when innovation happens. It's when support happens. It's when you can be empowered and inspired by each other. So yeah, I would say, my big piece of advice is you're not alone. Make sure that you're looking to your trusted group of folks to advise you and seize the day to really make an impact wherever you are. If it's a micro community. Or if it's within a small team.

You don't have to be a leader to make an impact. You know, you can be an empathetic listener, and that could make the difference in somebody's day or their year. So think about the micro environments that you're in as well as the macro environments, and yeah, like we said, be the change that you want to see.

Courtney Stanley  
Well, I want to thank you so much, Amanda, for sharing your stories and your insight and your experiences with us today. And the audience, of course, I want to thank you all for listening. Don't forget if you are going to IMEX America in Las Vegas to swing by the Encore booth. You can say hi to me, you can say hi to Amanda and you can definitely go through a really, really cool experience.

And of course, share what you learned from this episode with me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram by following at Meetings Today and me at Courtney on Stage, and be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing to Dare to Interrupt on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google podcasts and more.

Be bold, keep growing, and of course keep daring to interrupt, my friends. Until next time.

 

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About the author
Courtney Stanley

Courtney is a keynote speaker, writer, podcaster and career success coach with a background in experience design, community engagement and leadership development. Courtney is the host of Meetings Today’s “Dare to Interrupt,” a podcast that provides a platform for the event, hospitality and tourism industry’s most influential and successful women to share their stories of adversity and success, unfiltered.