Engineering a Conversation: The Blueprint

We wrote previously about our collaboration with MSU to bring in a guest speaker, notable retired 4-star general Stanley McChrystal. Our thought was to create a public engagement that benefited everyone. No, you need not be a member of the military or an engineer for General McChrystal’s words to inspire.

The topic? Leadership. That one word, as simple as it is to say, brings with it a myriad of philosophies and arguments about what it is, how best to do it, and how to impart the wisdom to do it. General McChrystal was excellent but getting him on that stage at MSU was no easy task itself.

Knowledge Inspires More Knowledge

We are a team of go-getters, so once we landed the idea of sponsoring a speaking engagement on leadership, we got the ball rolling. Melinda Winchester, Grants Coordinator/Historic Preservation Specialist  took the first steps.

“My past work experience as the Main Street Director for Paducah involved coordination of many different kinds of events. Mark asked me to take the lead on coordinating the General McChrystal speaking engagement on leadership because of this past experience.

Also, he knows I enjoy the challenging art of coordination, balancing multiple spinning plates, if you will.  It took a team to pull the event off and so many of our employees were part of that team as well as critical partners at Murray State University.”

Lance Allison, Director of Business Development, chimes in to let us know how much work it took to pull off an event with a nationally recognized speaker like General McChrystal. “This all began with determining the speaker we wanted to bring in. We could have planned on anyone, but we decided to go big. When you are dealing with a national speaker at the level that General McChrystal is, it takes a lot of coordination with his people, the venue, and mobilizing all of the volunteers.  We began planning months in advance and Melinda Winchester did a stellar job in managing all of the moving parts.”

Leadership by Design, Not by Accident

Mark Workman, Executive Vice President, has always had a keen interest in all things leadership. He understands that great leadership happens by design—much like great engineering. “Leadership comes in many forms. The philosophy of leadership that is important to us centers on servant leadership, emphasizing empathy, collaboration, and a commitment to the growth and well-being of the team. These are things that keep me up at night—the things I think about constantly and always will myself to improve upon. I wanted our Leadership by Design series to impart that wisdom to the community.”

We asked Mark who could benefit from hearing someone like McChrystal speak.

“Literally anyone.” He answers. “That’s precisely the motivation for why we launched this series and made it accessible to the public. Understanding how to lead and why good leaders do what they do is important for everyone to understand because leadership principles can be applied in various aspects of life, not just in professional settings, and they contribute to personal growth and effective collaboration. Mentors and leaders are the keystones that support a healthy and sturdy community.”

Mark was surprised by how much he was inspired by the engagement. “I’m fresh off of reading most of General McChrystal’s books on leadership. Yet, the Team of Teams book has provided me with a fresh perspective on leadership, emphasizing the value of empathy and active listening along with removing “silos” for more effective transfer of knowledge. I do plan to apply these lessons learned at home and my work life to foster better relationships and collaboration.”

In a Few Words, “Inspiring” “Enlightening” “Transformative”

Mark is happy with our first foray into our Leadership by Design series. He’s received good feedback. “Inspiring, enlightening, and transformative were common sentiments expressed by participants who have found the series highly valuable for personal and professional growth.”

Will there be more? That’s a resounding yes from all who were involved in the planning.

​“We celebrate a long relationship with MSU,” explains Lance. “They were one of our first engineering clients and have been fantastic to work with on projects over the years. This was fun in that we were working with them on an event that wasn’t engineering but was just as challenging.

Dr. Bob Jackson, President of Murray State, has been incredibly supportive of our firm and was very helpful in putting this together as well as many other staff members. This event was for a mixture of our clients and staff as well as faculty, staff, and students at MSU. One of our values is community and this really showcased how we interact with both our clients and community. It was neat seeing such a diverse crowd.”

Melinda, ever the coordinator, is hard at work on the next one. “We are already working on next year’s event. Lovett Auditorium was an excellent venue, and their team was amazing to work with for the event, so we have set a date with them for September 26, 2024.  Let the Planning Begin.”