Conway Daily Sun March 23, 2011
Ok, this week I admit, I’m intentionally being provocative in my title! However, we’re going to cover all three topics and learn something in the process. The world has changed almost immeasurably in the last month. Between Japan and the middle east, I wouldn’t know where to begin. The great teacher Dr. Stephen Covey suggest we put all these things that concern us into our “circle of concern” and put everything we have some influence over into a smaller “circle of influence”. The more we focus our energy on our circle of influence, the larger it grows and the more effective we will be.
In our local circle of influence during March, we had the school budget, our response (if any), to Charlie Sheen, and the annual Chilly Chili Cook-off in N. Conway Village. All three have lessons and observations worth considering.
Last year, I spoke at the Annual Business Expo and talked about four major challenges facing business today and what to do about them – they were Execution Failure, a Lack of Trust, Doing More with Less and Dealing with Fear. Well hello future! Here we are experiencing exactly these challenges in business, government and local boards.
The school budget seems to be on everyone’s lips these days. I’m sorry I missed it; it’s just not the same watching a recorded version and hearing the analysis of others. I’m pleased to see so many people caring enough to turn out and express themselves. I’m also grateful for the few who volunteer to serve on these boards for what must be the most thank-less job ever.
What have we learned from the big meeting? We’ve learned that angry mobs win in Conway, not so much in Wisconsin. We’ve learned that bullying is a problem in schools and sometimes it even involves students. We’ve learned that most people want their own needs satisfied first before they will listen to the position of others. This last one is at the route of most stalemates and is most unfortunate. If it were a different day, at a different meeting, say on taxes, the same people who wanted to lynch the budget committee would have elected them to the legislature – I think they might have been called tea-partiers, who won a lot of elections with generalized anti-tax talk that pleases people until the people discover they were the ones to be cut.
None of this is easy, but it is pretty simple. We as a community, like any business or organization, need to decide on our priorities. Is it low taxes or better education or some combination? To do this, we need to be able to communicate intelligently and with good data and without fear or intimidation. A good time to do this would be at the many, many meetings that happen all year long; not just to complain after the hard work is completed by others. Then we need leadership to focus on what the organization (community, in this case) wants, regardless of their personal feelings or agenda. Priorities, focus and communication are paramount during these turbulent times. Building trust has to take place before we can expect real negotiations with employees or unions or taxpayers or parents. Taking full advantage of every available resource is critical – that means getting these good and caring people off the bleachers and onto the committees and attending meetings year-round to give their valuable input and creativity. This also means appreciating the talent we have in our teachers, most of whom give more than they get. We also need to appreciate and respect the taxpayer and look for efficiencies wherever they might be found.
Thank goodness Charlie Sheen wasn’t on our budget committee, and that’s all I have to say on that subject!
The annual Chilly Chili Stroll was a fantastic example of how well our community works together when there is vision, leadership, trust and communication. Forty three (yes, 43) different chili chefs, thirteen separate venues throughout N. Conway Village, and numerous volunteers to deal with traffic, parking, setup, take down, clean up, promotions, supplies, judging, etc. One seemingly simple event (they’re never simple), brilliantly executed, delivered enjoyment to hundreds of visitors and locals alike, while driving foot traffic to our local stores and restaurants while building friendships and community. Yes, it was easier than running a school district, but harder than running some small businesses. My point is, it’s a great example of how well we can work together one little project at a time. I can hardly wait to be amazed once again by Valley Pride day on May 7th and Kindness Weekend May 28th. We’re lucky to live where we do and to enjoy seemingly endless opportunities to be happy and to constantly be getting better at anything we decide to make better. We just need to decide.
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website, www.klineseminars.com, or e-mail, email@example.com.