On Tuesday, March 5 the PCMA New England Chapter hosted a special Fireside Chat featuring Martha Sheridan, President & CEO of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau (GBCVB), and Joyce Leveston, General Manager of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA). Moderated by Carrie Campbell, Senior VP of Fenway Park Events, Boston Red Sox, the event took place at Boston’s iconic Hampshire House and celebrated inspirational examples set by women in the travel and hospitality industry.
While the conversation was wide-ranging, recurring topics included perseverance, empowerment of employees, and professional growth. Campbell noted that both Sheridan and Leveston have a reputation of “getting it done,” and asked both women to share HOW they get it done. The answers aligned, as both panelists emphasized the importance of delegation and that leaders must trust the talent around them in order to grow that talent and improve the overall efficacy of the organization. Leveston underscored that leaders cannot be above the process, but must be part of a process in which everyone works towards accomplishing shared goals.
Campbell asked Sheridan and Leveston to reflect on the role of mentors and good advice they have received, as well as hardships and moments of struggle they’ve endured. Sheridan alluded to her female counterparts in destinations such as Irving, Texas and Monterey, California, who have been supportive of her and helped her to overcome challenges, as she has for them. She said their relationship is based in “advice, guidance, wine and laughs,” and encouraged all in the audience to forge bonds that thrive on reciprocal respect and support.
Leveston referenced the seminal role that Carol Wallace, former President & CEO of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation, played in her development. She said that Wallace recognized her potential, as well as her smile and positive attitude, and invested in her professional growth. Both women pointed out that mentorship must be a two-way street, that learning should never cease, and that the ultimate objective is a “sharing of knowledge.”
When asked to share advice, and examples of hard lessons learned, Sheridan and Leveston urged authenticity. Leveston implored attendees to embrace their voice – “you have a voice, use it, be authentic.” Sheridan cautioned against burning bridges – “you will be defined by how you treat people, someday you might need that bridge.” The panelists shared with the audience specific examples of humbling, and even unfair, treatment at the hands of others, and the life lessons learned: not everything is personal, if you get angry you concede power, temperance and perspective always trump feelings of anger.
At an event attended by many young mothers and millennials, Campbell appropriately asked Leveston and Sheridan to address work-life balance. Both are skeptical of the term as it’s commonly employed today, pointing out that workplace dynamics differ, work and life can never be mutually exclusive, and that each employee needs to develop her own paradigm for getting the job done while maintaining all kinds of balances in life. Leveston and Sheridan recognized, though, that generational shifts challenge office place norms, and as Baby Boomers they have a certain engrained sense of traditional work ethic that is being disrupted by new trends; they accept this disruption so long as employees “get it done.”
As the event closed, another paradigm shift was addressed. Under Leveston and Sheridan’s leadership a new day has dawned in Boston, with closer collaboration and a more concerted effort by the GBCVB and MCCA to promote Boston and its neighborhoods together. Boston still has a perception problem, especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and Leveston and Sheridan want to take on this problem together, with a unified voice, to showcase all that Boston has to offer the world.