By Linda Conlin, Pro to Pro Managing Editor

At the Opticians Association of America’s 2023 Leadership conference, opticianry leaders and partners gathered from across the country for practical learning, personal challenges, timely updates, and networking opportunities. As always, the conference offered a full agenda for opticians at every level with sessions on Personal Growth, State Societies, Leadership in the Workplace, and Students to Leadership. It’s fun meeting with opticians from around the country, when the first question after introducing yourself is, “Where are you from?” and sharing some home state pride. I especially enjoy seeing the students and those attending for the first time. They are amazed at the information and resources OAA Leadership has to offer. 

A particularly ‘eye opening’ experience for me was Brooke Carrasco’s Intro to DISC and DISC Workshop. DISC is a personality assessment designed to increase the understanding of an individual’s talents, the driving forces of our actions, the causes of conflict, and using that knowledge to develop strategies to meet the demands of our environment. The personality categories are Dominant, Influencer, Steady, and Compliant. The DISC model provides a common language people can use to better understand themselves and those they interact with.

Before arriving at Leadership, attendees were asked to complete an online DISC assessment. Brooke compiled the responses. At the presentation, we were assigned to sit in certain groups. At first, we didn’t know that each group was from the same DISC personality category. After the introduction, all groups were given the same assignment, to draw an illustration of their ideal work environment, and were observed as to how they approached the task. It was interesting to see that within each group they approached the task the same way, although differently from other groups. 

I won’t reveal my group’s category, but we were in complete agreement about the ideal work environment: organized, quiet, ability to be thorough, task oriented with access to factual resources. As each of us noted our preferences, it was validating and funny to hear, “Yeah, me too!” with examples from the others. (We were considered to be ‘textbook’ for our category, although we have some redeeming qualities such as being open-minded and diplomatic.) The most interesting part was viewing the artwork from each group and listening to the way they approached the assignment. Every group completed the assignment, but each path and approach was different. Finally, we learned to understand different driving forces in others, and how our own forces interact with others to build more effective relationships, uncover ways to improve teamwork, and make conflict more productive.

It’s difficult to summarize three days packed with information, resources, and camaraderie there for the taking. You have to experience it. Look for the next OAA Leadership conference and make a plan to attend!