Staff Leaders Conference

by United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region

Posted on behalf of Rick Chambers

 I want to share my perspective on the recent United Way Worldwide Staff Leadership Conference in Indianapolis. And I’ll start by pointing to the stars.

There’s an incredible episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine titled “The Visitor”—don’t watch it without tissues nearby; you’ve been warned! The main character, Ben Sisko, counsels his aspiring-writer son, Jake, to find a balance between his writing and reality:

“I’m no writer, but if I were, it seems to me I’d want to poke my head up every once in awhile and take a look around, see what’s going on. It’s life, Jake! You can miss it if you don’t open your eyes.”

That quote neatly sums up the value of the Staff Leadership Conference. It was an opportunity to poke our heads up from the day-to-day work of United Way—as valuable as that work is!—and consider the greater impact of our collective efforts:

Children learning to read and reading to learn.

Families achieving financial stability.

Communities with access to quality health care.

And on and on….

True, SLC spent plenty of time on the details of fundraising, relationship building and broad-based partnerships. But it was the stories that stood out, whether it was the familiar tale of Verona Elementary (adroitly delivered by Jennifer Nottingham) or the advances in collective impact happening in places like Salt Lake City and Kansas City.

For me, that was the takeaway. The work that each of you does every day goes far beyond the work itself. You are writing a powerful story! You are changing lives!

Attending SLC with the singular goal of learning new ways to work is a bit like reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes just to find out how the Brits spell words. There’s some value in that, but it misses a much bigger and meaningful picture.

During one of the general sessions, Principal Salome Thomas-El, author of I Choose To Stay, quoted Maya Angelou: “People don’t remember what you do. People don’t remember what you say. But people will remember how you made them feel.” What sets United Way apart is that it covers all three of those metrics—and leaves our community forever remembering how you changed the story.

And that really is life!