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ANC: A Shared Experience—Part II

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It’s Kelly Renard again, and earlier this week, I shared the epiphany I had when I realized that I could never recreate the experience of ANC with staff back home. They had to be a part of it themselves. And this epiphany hit me at a terrific time: the upcoming ANC was going to be held in our home state of Pennsylvania.

Realizing how important it was that staff experience ANC firsthand, I began laying the groundwork. I talked about it—a lot. I told my staff about the educational sessions, the show floor, the blow-you-away keynote presentations, the parties and the food. I talked non-stop about the experience and how much fun it was.

From many of my team members, the response I received was a look as though I had dyed my hair lime green. I persevered. Ten months before ANC, I told them to mark their calendars; it was plenty of time to arrange schedules, plan for care of kids and prep the spouse for a few days’ absence. I rode the train myself, mapping out exactly what would be involved for those who had never traveled outside of the county.

Seven months in advance of ANC was the deadline for staff to let me know who was interested in going. There was not one taker—just a single “maybe.” This was so frustrating to me! I knew that it was largely because they just didn’t know what they were missing—but I wasn’t going to let them use that as an excuse. I made ANC attendance mandatory.

I assigned roommates, scheduled trains, made itineraries, arranged for tickets to events and created a packing list. In response, I got a few sighs of relief, possibly because I had made the decision and relieved any “guilty” feelings related to causing family inconveniences. But I also got grumbles, and I knew that some were angry with my action.

The # 1 question: “Are we being paid?” Yes—I budgeted to pay them for all the educational time, but not for parties or time spent sleeping! I saw this as simply the next step in a training program I had started earlier, in which I took staff offsite for a full day of paid training. Obviously, a multi-day trip to ANC was more expensive, but it was an investment in the business of my school nutrition operation that I felt was worth it. I thought the “bonding” time away from the school was important. And they needed to learn some lessons that I couldn’t teach:

  • It’s a big world out there—and like it or not, they are part of it. They ‘midisaswell’ see some of it.
  • They are not alone. School nutrition professionals in districts all over this country have similar problems with parents, kids, foods, personnel, etc… Misery loves company—and I thought they could use some healing in ANC’s fertile group therapy.
  • They are doing a GREAT job! By going to sessions, hearing about practices that are very familiar to them and finding out that others are just learning these—well, that gives them a little boost. When a question is raised in the crowd, they can offer a solution. The trip to ANC would be a unique confidence builder that I simply couldn’t replicate at home. 

Sharing ANC together was a huge investment in my team—it was something I couldn’t shy away from, so I made it work. I made the case to my boss, who has been very supportive of me and my association work. We had a go.

Well, if you have been to any ANC, then you will know that my bringing my team to ANC in Philadelphia was a complete success! My staff had a fantastic time and finally understood what I have been trying to explain and recreate to them about my experiences.

How about you? Have you always flown “solo” at ANC? Thinking about what it might entail to bring key staffers—or your whole team—along with you? While it’s not too late to register for ANC in Las Vegas at the end of June, you probably should be looking ahead to next year’s ANC in Dallas (July 11-14, 2010) or the 2011 ANC in Opryland, Nashville (July 9-13, 2011).

One great strategy for bringing your team to ANC is to establish a “scholarship fund” and conduct fundraisers to support it. That way, staff members still have the opportunity, even if you cannot budget for it. We use this scholarship fund for a variety of different training events and opportunities. Be sure your team is active in planning.

I am also taking advantage of SNA’s new School District Owned Membership option. I want everyone on my team to see the value that I place in their abilities. Sure, there will always be a bad, “brown” apple in one’s employee basket of nice red, green and yellow ones. But going through a process like the steps required to bring everyone to ANC helps to identify the real vibrant stars on your team who are worth your professional development energies!


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