I was a member of the Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) for 14 years and served as president in 1988 - the same year I completed my dissertation. I attended several national conferences and made a presentation in Atlanta in 1987. I also was a reviewer for the organization's magazine, Training and Development, for 10 years and had three articles published.
The year prior to my presidency at national headquarters, 11 other president-elects and I had a picture taken together. This picture was reproduced on a huge bigger than life banner and displayed at several succeeding conferences. It was also a double-page spread in Training and Development for five or six years.
While working for BorgWarner Chemicals at what was then called the Woodmar plant, I attended the ASTD conference in St. Louis in May of 1986.
Jeff Barnes, a good friend of mine and Human Resource Manager at BorgWarner's Illinois plant (Linmar), attended with me. The conference gave us contemporary insights on organizational development but our best times were exploring the compact city at night.
The last day of the conference ASTD rented Busch Stadium. Big name bands played to a crowd of thousands all afternoon and Art Fleming, former host of the game show "Jeopardy," was hired to announce the events and various planned games.
At one point, Jeff suggested we run the bases since it might be the only chance in our lives to do so. I agreed and we took off on a flight of fantasy. It was a thrill to look into the stands partially filled with people and imagine us in a real game.
After our trip around the bases, I walked toward Art who was standing on home plate in between events. I introduced myself and told him that I had attended the taping of a couple of "Jeopardy" shows in 1971 during my senior trip. He looked at me as though trying to concentrate, nodded his head, and said, "Yes, I think I remember you." I thought that quite funny but didn't say so. Later as Jeff and I were leaving, Art walked out alone and got into a well-used car. He seemed sad. I was struck by the thought of a man, once a hero of mine, who had seen fame but in later life had been all but forgotten.
Life is full of excitement, learning, and sad and exhilarating memories. I enjoyed the St. Louis ASTD conference. I know I learned valuable techniques and lessons there because I did at each conference. However, my strongest memories that week were of the social time getting to know Jeff better and of the afternoon at Busch Stadium. I also remember feeling sad for Art Fleming. Of course I didn't know Art's situation but I told myself a melancholy story about him.
According to Wikipedia, Art played football at Colgate and Cornell, was a World War II bomber pilot, and appeared in 5,000 television shows and 48 motion pictures. Indeed, he was an accomplished man. The story I told myself about Art was probably not right but it informed my opinion about him until he died in 1995. We tend to tell ourselves stories about the people we meet and the evidence we see or hear. Good leaders keep their minds open and realize the story they are telling themselves is only one version of the truth. Therefore, they choose to gather more data for a more complete, valid story.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.