Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Field Trips

In my experience the position of Columbia Association President and CEO is for special occasions only. That is to say, an ordinary resident of Columbia is not likely to meet or even simply see the CA President in the flesh except at ribbon cuttings or Columbia-centric celebrations. They are like the inherited silver or the good china. You know they are there but they are far too good for everyday use, if you get my analogy. Yes, one might see them regularly at CA Board meetings but for most of us those are special occasions, too: you have to make plans to attend and it’s usually for a very specific reason.

Last week I had an opportunity to meet the new president of CA, Lakey Boyd, and I suspect she may go about her tenure here a bit differently. As we spoke it became apparent that she is putting a high priority on getting out of her office and into the community. Ms. Boyd commented that she wants to put such “field trips” into her calendar so that she is committed from the outset to making time for them. 

I think that’s a good idea. It’s a lot easier to look at the Columbia Association as some kind of distant monolith when we don’t feel its leaders are truly engaged in the community. If the only times we see the high-ranking employees of CA are when they are carrying out ceremonial functions, we lack the opportunity to learn about them as fellow humans. Furthermore, they lose the opportunity to learn about us, too.

We talked for a while about the importance of making connections and I got the sense that Ms. Boyd places a high priority on activities and initiatives aimed at building community. When I asked about how she approaches learning about a new place, she spoke not only about those frequent field trips but also about asking around to learn who the people are who are doing interesting things. Who is engaged? Who is committed to trying new things, to service, to making their community a better place?

CA President and CEO Lakey Boyd speaks at this year’s Fourth of July festivities at the Lakefront. 

I wasn’t surprised that Ms. Boyd brought up her background in change management. She described having worked with organizations that had become disconnected from the people they serve. Right now, the Columbia Association is at a crossroads as they come out of the pandemic and assess where they want to focus their efforts and resources. This looks like the sort of challenge for which Ms. Boyd is is well prepared.

Something Ms. Boyd said struck me. She said that she had come to view change as an opportunity for her circumstances to improve. As someone who grips the steering wheel and white-knuckles it through change in my own life, I found this to be quite a concept. Of course it’s an opportunity, not a guarantee, but the hopefulness of that mindset may prove to be a helpful guiding force as CA moves forward under Ms.Boyd’s direction.

Of course Ms. Boyd brings with her an admirable educational background and employment history. That is to be expected. I will be far more impressed if her intentions to get out of the office and interact with people truly translates into a meaningful part of her leadership style and a change in how CA interacts in the community.

What if we came to believe that the head of CA was one of “us” and not one of “them”? I know this may have been true in Columbia’s distant past but not in recent memory as far as I can tell. That’s the kind of change that I would see as a significant opportunity to improve our circumstances. 

It’s a big challenge. I wish Ms. Boyd well as she begins her time with us. 

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