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President's Message

May 2021

From the Business Perspective Newsletter

Lessons Learned

Recently I facilitated what could have been titled “Superintendents Unplugged” for this year’s class of Leadership Overland Park. Two hours with Blue Valley’s Dr. Tonya Merrigan and Shawnee Mission’s Dr. Michael Fulton flew by as we discussed topics from the perennial school finance to DEI, employer engagement, student performance and of course, COVID-19. Of the latter, Drs. Merrigan and Fulton noted some “lessons learned” from the pandemic which are worth sharing:

  • Teamwork matters. Perhaps more than ever we depended on each other – our staff teams, our peer professionals, and new teams throughout the community (such as the Johnson County Health Department for some of us).
  • Collaborate with others. COVID-19 opened many new opportunities for collaboration, and also created polarizing issues. Some solutions aren’t always an obvious win/win, but this doesn’t negate the necessity to communicate and collaborate.
  • Know your community. Constituencies and audiences may be different for you than for your peers in the same business, so your action plan needs to be tailored for your unique community or customers.
  • Stay the course. Know your goals but be prepared to adjust as new information is available.

We’re well past the one-year mark of when the pandemic really began impacting us locally. As we reflected on the lessons, our superintendents started a great list of the lessons we should “keep from COVID-19”:

  • Collaboration is easier through technology. Much as I can’t wait for my calendar to have more in-person meetings than virtual ones, technology enabled us to stay connected when the pandemic required us to physically distance. The superintendents utilized technology in the same way chamber professionals did, collaborating with peers locally and nationally about best practices, logistics, resources, policy and providing emotional support. Technology made our tent bigger, bringing together voices that might not have been heard and introducing people that now are treasured connections.
  • Technology has enhanced learning. For our schools, new tools quickly emerged that leveraged opportunities to add to the student experience. Technology not only provided safe ways to convene for parent/teacher conferences during Covid but also yielded higher attendance and will provide an efficient option for traveling and working parents to meet with educators in the future. Learning was also enhanced for businesses; it may be possible to access a relevant webinar every hour of the day as professional development options have proliferated rapidly. Our challenge now is to incorporate the best of in-person and tech methods to keep learning engaging, inclusive and accessible.
  • During Covid things happened faster. I think this was true for all of us – from the school districts to government to business and our personal lives. At the Chamber we had been talking for a long time about providing virtual training but just hadn’t done it when suddenly the world changed and we had to figure out overnight how to keep our team and our businesses connected. The evening we sent our team home to work remotely I stayed late to figure out our first subscription with our member Zoom. Now Zooming is practically second nature.

I’m reminded of that Robert Fulghum essay, “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten”. “When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.” For the past year, despite much of the rancor over masking, shut-downs, etc., for the most part I’ve observed  a community that is proverbially holding hands and sticking together in support of front-line workers, health-care professionals and first-responders and each other. The challenges aren’t over. We still must watch for traffic and stick together as we move toward full economic recovery. I’m interested in hearing about the lessons you’ve learned this year and how we can use those to do just that. Send me your thoughts at #lessonslearned


Continue Reading the May 2021 Newsletter

Tracey Osborne Oltjen

written by

Tracey Osborne Oltjen, CCE, IOM

President & CEO